For the last few years, every Wednesday has been “old lady day” for two of my cronies and I: best friend Cheryl True Blood Phelps, once married to an Oglala guy, father of her children and her 75-year-old “Auntie Mimi”, once married to an ornery rancher on the Crow reservation, neither situation working out too well.
Mimi is my kind of girl – tough, resourceful, always kind to others and she knows about horses, once co-owner of a champion racehorse. After each race, she personally cleaned his stall, fed him, gave him a bath, and then put him on the hot walker, benefiting by getting herself into fine shape. That is what cowgirl is about, even though we eventually succumb to “blond, red or black hair dye” after outgrowing our 28” waist wranglers, obvious signs of aging.
Wednesdays are fertile ground for older people in Sheridan, WY. On that day, we get a ten percent senior discount at Ridley’s grocery store; fifteen free dollars at Wyoming Downs, a local casino and it is also ‘meat” day at the Salvation Army Food Pantry, usually generating about three sacks of grub and then we also hit the dollar store. I usually get the hot dogs, though don’t eat them. But Spit-fire, Mimi’s little white dog likes them. They know us at all those places.
And then, on Thursdays, Barbara, wonderful 84-year-old social butterfly, game organizer for the older set and “Sister Karen” (retired nun, age 76 who served on the Crow Reservation for about three decades) drag me to pinocle or cribbage games. You would think they would be tired of me beating them by now, but not yet.
Knowing that I am moving on soon, abandoning them for new adventure, this past Wednesday, Cheryl and Mimi asked. “Why have you never written about us? You forever author stories about your old friends which we listen to and read, causing laughing or crying. Why don’t we count?”
Cannot ignore that demand, so here we go: Cheryl is a white girl, first met in Soldotna, Alaska (cold interior part of the Northern Lights State). I did not like her at first because she was blonde, sassy, and extremely full of herself, a remarkably successful manager and thought herself tuff as me. She actually was, having survived a wounded Vietnam Vet, but there is no need to include those horrid details in this column.
After we went for a cocktail or too, acknowledging similar “sass,” not really meaning to disagree, we became friends. And then, ironically, years later, we both wound up in Sheridan, Wyoming, soul-sisters ‘meant to be’ as she says, not even knowing she thinks ‘Indian.’
That has gone on for several years and since she likes to cook and I like to eat, it is a complimentary association. A good baker, whenever we have a feast, I oversee the home-made bread and pies, specializing in apple. She and Mimi manage the main courses, highly seasoned fancy stuff, properly presented. The stuffed peppers, home-made chicken soup with thick noodles and white chili with chilpoti are exceptionally good. To say nothing about the regular rib eyes. When lazy, we order pizza.
We play cribbage and ‘visit,’ telling funny unreasonable stories about when we were young and invincible. Sometimes I get another “notch” in my belt for card game wins and thus might have to get a bigger one to accommodate that. Ha Ha to you Cheryl! That is enjoyable time.
On Wednesdays, we sometimes viciously gossip about our other friends, as they surely do us – a ‘girl’ thing. “Can you believe, she actually said or did that? we sometimes wonder about somebody else. She must be as crazy as us!”
Most often, sisters are born to one another, genetically. But, sometimes, ‘Indian-way,’ we can choose one another, a stronger more sacred bond. Maheo’o seems to be sending me girlfriends, right and left, good women befriending me – too many to list, but some are worth mention, such as my boss-lady Alice this summer; another cook, Tammy and I who were together for a short, but wonderful time; a fat, happy crazy co-cook, Lou who taught high-schoolers for 37 years, a tough job, but not quite as demanding as Dutch-oven cooking in the mountains and a special guest, Lisa, actually of all things retired woman professional football player and firefighter who lept to help us with heavy work in the kitchen when we were very short-handed. Those are just a few of the new ones the Creator has blessed me with this year. Otherwise, my older friends know who they are. I must, however, name two who have put up with me for decades, helping me “get through it all”: my sister-cousin Diane, Northern Cheyenne and Chris, a white girl married to one of my Northern Cheyenne brothers.
So, my sisters, hope you like this read, meant to send my highest regards and love. Go walking in the sunshine, put a smile upon your face and happiness into your hearts. You deserve that.
Henahane (In Cheyenne, that means “That is all I have to say about that. I am done talking now.)
(Clara “Clem’ Caufield can be reached at email@example.com)