The Strawberry Cowboy

The Strawberry Cowboy
by Mary Naylor

I was riding my horse, Oasis, around about sunrise with my cat, Strawberry, perched on my
shoulder. I knew it was going to be a hot one. I could already feel the heat in the air and the
sun was just rising That golden bowl in the sky would be pouring down heat like syrup over
pancakes in an hour or so.

My friends tell me I should stop trying to be a cowboy and become a clown instead. They say
I’m really, really funny and I don’t even try to be funny. But I like being a cowboy. I’ve gotten
some bit parts in western movies; and I can rustle cattle, too. I can steal 5 or 6 steer with
no trouble, My dad says I can do it as long as I bring them back well-fed and watered
(it’s his cattle ranch.) Skills like that really help when your trying to break into western movies.

My friends had given me Strawberry as a kitten, because his fur was just about the same
color as my hair. From then on they called me, The Strawberry Cowboy. Well, we were riding
quietly along, when suddenly Strawberry dug his claws into my shirt, and just as fast jumped
to the ground and ran into the desert! I took off after him shouting his name. With that orange
fur, he was easy to follow. He’d stopped and seemed to be standing over another cat. Not
wanting to frighten them, I got off Oasis and tied him loosely to a tall cactus. I walked
toward them. I could hear Strawberry giving his high pitched howl that he used
just before he attacked. Then I saw it – not far from the cats was a coiled rattlesnake!
My heart jumped when I heard his rattle. It sounded like tiny pebbles cascading over a rock.

I tried to get the cats to run away, but they wouldn’t budge. It was then I noticed the
other cat was trying to shelter a litter of newborn kittens. I pulled out my gun, but my hand was
shaking so much I didn’t dare fire it. I was thinking of throwing the gun at the snake when
without warning something shoved me from behind. I fell so hard I set a large rock rolling.
It hit the snake, which took off for parts unknown. I heard a sound behind me, and there stood
Oasis. He had evidently decided to follow me. He had that “can we go home now” look
in his eye. He must have nudged me to try to get me to go home and that was what
made me fall. I took out my red bandana and wiped my forehead in relief. Thanks to
Oasis, The Strawberry Cowboy would ride again.

Strawberry pushed against me. I knew he was thirsty, so I took off my ten gallon hat
and poured some water into it from one of my canteens. He slurped it up noisily.
Afterwards I gave Oasis a drink. Then I poured more water in the hat and offered it to the mother
cat. She drank it thirstily. I wondered what to do. I didn’t want to leave the cat and her
babies in the desert. They would surely die or be killed. The desert isn’t known for merciful
treatment of the vulnerable. Absentmindedly, I put my hat on my head, and leftover water
streamed over my face. The animals looked at me curiously as I took my bandana out to dry
my face. Leave it to The Strawberry Cowboy, I thought. But then I had an idea. Instead of
drying my face, I lined my hat with the bandana. I took another one out of my pocket so it
made a dry bed. Then gently and slowly, I lifted the baby kittens into my hat, all the while
unsure if the mother cat would let me do it. She did, and in fact she jumped in after
them, curled up to them, and began to give them a bath.

Carefully, I mounted Oasis and sat the hat in front of me and we headed for home.
Strawberry jumped on my shoulder. The sunrise was painting the desert with shades of
glory as yours truly, The Strawberry Cowboy, and friends headed for home.