Fiddlin' AroundNancy Buchan

Fiddlin’ Around – December 2018

Fiddlin'Around headerSan Jose topeWelcome to all you travelers who have shown the good judgement and the necessary spirit of adventure to visit this beautiful and diverse part of the world! December, and the holiday season in general, is a fine time to be here. The rains will have subsided, everything is still green and lush, and the local musicians are waking up from their long naps and tuning up. If we can all manage to remember what Christmas is supposed to be about, maybe, just maybe, we can remember to be kind to each other! And laugh and sing together!

Last month my article was about music and horses being sources of emotional and physical therapy. For the un-initiated, there are horse gatherings and parades and exhibitions that go on all over Costa Rica this time of year, so if you hear about a Cabalgata or Tope happening somewhere, go see it! It is an amazing thing to witness dozens—sometimes hundreds—of magnificent animals and their riders all spiffed up and showing off their skills. There are excellent horsemen and women here, and often they are riding pretty spectacular looking South American and Spanish bred animals. It’s big fun to watch or participate in for everyone from Gramps to little kids, and they prepare for these events and look forward to them all year long. The granddaddy of them all is the Tope in San Jose during Christmas—literally hundreds of entrants parading through the streets. They broadcast it all day long on the TV, and it is big fun to watch or participate in, even if horses ain’t your thang…

There must be well-known and beloved songs in Spanish about the cowboy life and the out-of-doors and the love of horses. Well, I’m gonna have to do a lot more research and dust off the dictionary before I can pull off writing about that, so I’ll just babble about my favorite horse songs. Sure, many of them fall into the country and western swing genre, but the best ones are more about the freedom and sense of being part of nature and a disappearing lifestyle. Real story-telling and poetry, more than just songs about your pick-up truck or drinking beer with your buddies.

I’ll start with my candidate for dumbest and most annoying song EVER that mentions the word horse. I’m talking about the band America’s stupid, repetitive, chock full of bad English and way too many la la las song ‘Horse With No Name’. I won’t waste time repeating the lyrics – google ‘em yourself if you really want to be in pain. But here’s the last excruciating line—“In the desert you can remember your name, ‘cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain la la la la barf la”…

Woody Guthrie, that brilliant yet simple folksinger from Oklahoma who was a keen observer of the world around him wrote a great song called ‘I Ride an Old Paint’.

I ride an old Paint, I’m leading old Dan. I’m going to Montana just to throw the houlihan. They feed in the coulees, they water in the draw, their tails are all matted and their backs are all raw. When I die, take my saddle from the wall and put it on my pony and lead him from his stall. Tie my bones to his back, turn our faces to the west, and we’ll ride the prairies that we love the best.

I totally get that song, except that until I looked it up I had no idea what a houlihan is. Turns out it is a method of throwing the rope where it kinda folds over and is mostly used to catch horses. It was also a technique used in steer wrestling where the cowboy throws himself over the horns instead of twisting them to bring the steer down—it has been outlawed in most rodeo competitions nowadays, for pretty obvious and painful reasons. Oddly enough, it is used as a verb in England to describe having managed to hook up with someone—as in “I houlihaned that cute guy from the bar last night…” Go figure.

A horse called music coverGene Autry wrote a wistful song about returning to the freedom of the range—his horse, his gun and the stars above. “I’m back in the saddle again—out where a friend is a friend. When the longhorn cattle feed on the lowly gypsum weed—whoopee-ty-aye-yay—I’m back in the saddle again.” A lonesome yet somehow comforting kind of song.

And then there is my personal hero, Willie Nelson, who clearly understands the lifestyle of a maverick cowboy—his song ‘A Horse Called Music’ is an eloquent description of the loneliness and beauty of the demise of the cowboy way.

High on a mountain in Western Montana—a silhouette moves ‘cross a cinnamon sky. Riding alone on a horse he called Music, with a song on his lips and a tear in his eye. Now all that’s left is a time worn old cowboy. With nothin’ more than the sweet by and by. And trailing along, is a horse with no rider—a horse he called Memories, that she used to ride.

Garth Brooks wrote a true modern cowboy song about the lure of open trails and the rodeo circuit and the draw of that lifestyle, called ‘Wild Horses’. While he’s breaking his bones and searching for the big payday, his woman at home is losing patience with his broken promises and the reality of the cowboy lifestyle. Dan Seals (brother of Jim Seals of Seals and Croft fame), not only wrote the song ‘God Must be a Cowboy’, but he penned a song about his woman running off with the rodeo in search of her cowgirl dreams that just diminishes me to a blubbering mess. Maybe because my favorite horse in this lifetime was a gaudy, loyal and wonderful red and white appaloosa named Red Cloud, or maybe because I harbored those rodeo dreams myself and understand the tough choices she made. Kind of unusual for the woman to be the one riding off into the sunset while her husband watches the kids.

But oh sometimes I think about you and the way you used to ride out—in your rhinestones and your sequins with the sunlight in your hair. And the crowd will always love you, but as for me I’ve come to know—everything that glitters is not gold. Well old Red he’s getting older and last Saturday he stumbled. But you know I just can’t bear to let him go…

Clearly I relate to and love that song—I love a lot of cowboy songs that talk about the connection between us and the horses we love and the freedom they represent. Ticos, gringos, city kids and country folk—we all can appreciate their beauty and their willingness to be part of our lives. And whoever said diamonds are a girls’ best friend, definitely never owned a horse.

Well, back to reality. New Orleans country singer and songwriter Kim Carson will be playing with me most Monday nights around sunset at Tortilla Flats in Dominical during December and January. I will be playing Christmas songs at the cool brew pub Fuegos in Dominical on Christmas Eve—kid friendly and great food! The folks at Fuegos are planning a great New Years’ Eve celebration with a Cirque du Solei type ensemble to start things off, followed by The Tropi-Cowgirls and finishing with the wonderful and innovative Tico band Santos and Zurdo. It will be big fun, so come on down south to Dominical and be part of our local silliness and celebration! The excellent band The G-string Cowboys will be playing around town, so check them out, and look for country artist Ralph Simms and rocker Ben Jammin’ at local venues here. We have some great professional musicians in our neighborhood and clubs that support us, and you never know who might show up and help us entertain you! We are bringing in a couple of ringers from New Orleans to spice things up, so stay tuned!

Roy Rogers and Dale EvansSo—as Roy Roger and Dale Evans said,

Happy trails to you, until we meet again. Happy trails to you, keep smiling until then. Who cares about the clouds when we’re together? Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather. Happy trails to you, ‘til we meet again. Some trails are happy ones, others are blue. It’s the way you ride the trail that counts—here’s a happy one for you!

My heroes have always been cowboys! And just like it is with people, there is no bad color for a good horse. Peace and love to you all and Happy Holidays!