Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dude, 1956

In 1956, Dad spent the summer between his Sophomore and Junior years at Yale working at The Block S Ranch outside Jackson Hole Wyoming. He wrote letters back home to his mother and John O'Hara.

It took us three days to get out here driving 750-800 miles a day for fourteen hours. But we're here under the towering Tetons etc. It really is very pretty out here and we're isolated from the rest of the world.

So far my job has been chauffeur, car-washer, guide, horse breaker--a pony hadn't been ridden since it had been put out for winter. It farted and bucked until our teeth rattled BUT I STUCK ON and the foreman doesn't think I'm such a dude now. He had me "oiling" cabins today. And I was just as much in the dark as to how one oiled a building as you are. It consists of
brushing linseed oil onto the outside wood--makes it look real rustic. Most boring job.

-June 13

Ike took us on a ride through the mountains today and although it was a beautiful trip I never was so glad to get back to the ranch for a beer in my life. I was so dry I had three in about fifteen minutes and it hit me like a brick. I just went off to bed.

My job for the last day has been building "Bryan Park". It is a 50 yd by 25 yd picnic area. Clear safe, trees, build benches and fireplaces and garbage pits. This will kill you: I am also building a privy! "What did you do this summer?" Well I drove 2000 miles to Wyoming and made privies, thanks. What did you do?"

I've been doing some shooting out here. I don't think I wrote you that I bought a gun. It's a Marlin 39A, lever-action .2 cal "Pioneer". It is the gun I've always wanted and it was probably foolish of me to get it but it is a beauty. Actually with practice I've gotten to be a pretty damn good shot
-June 28

The Fourth passed bangingly in more ways than one. Lost my temper for the first time in years and pasted a Dude. Didn't remember it until someone told me this morning ( Beer party in the bunkhouse, Dude was feeling up a girl who didn't want to be felt- I hope) Ran into the Dude again this morning. He was wearing black around the eye. I said "Hello" he said "Hello-shit" Conversation ended there.

I play the guitar out here for the picnics and it's really commercial but it's part of the job. A new cowboy at the Triangle X sings with me and he has a beautiful voice. He sang "The Cattle Call" the other night--the one with the falsetto theme and came to the chorus of "He's brown as a berry from riding the prairie" and muffed it, result: "Brown as a fairy" I fell off the log I got to laughing so hard. The poor guy was scarlet.
-July 6

The dudes are pouring in and with them comes more and more work. I supposedly quit at five o'clock and from them on I become a dude wrangler and keep them entertained. The last weeks have been spent in what I call Death Valley which is a stretch of aspen and pine trees which I disappear into and reappear hours later. I just chop down the dead trees, chop them up, and tote them out. Boring as hell.

Also I have acquired a pet which is now asleep in my wastepaper basket-it's about a six month old squirrel known as "squeeks" and it really is wonderful. She romps across my bed and desk and raises havoc with my papers. She's licking her tail now. Ah, well. When I put on my tweed coat she does wild. Runs up one sleeve across my back and down the other then dives into a pocket. It really is a funny animal.
-July 23

On weekends Dad would visit Jackson.

My friends are the cowboys. They all go around in levis faded white and dirty broad-brimmed stetsons. Nobody knows anyone's last name, and none of the cowboys are called Slim or Shorty or Luke. They have names like Frank, Jim and Charlie. They're tough as hell all tall and thin and wear their hair long over their eyes in a Will Rogers manner. Only one rolls his cigarettes the rest smoke Luckies and L&M's or Marlboroughs

The other night Frank ( age 60) and I bought cap pistols and went into one of the bars and pretended to be in a long argument. The places was filled with Dudes and friends of ours who had been tipped off. We'd even tipped off the bouncers and sheriff's deputies. Suddenly in the middle of the argument we whipped out our guns ( he beat me to the draw) and fired away. But his caps didn't go off and I plugged him. He fell to the floor and I got laughing so hard I joined him. By the time the place got under control again we'd gone. It's the same place where the band plays the Whiffenpoof song when I come in.

They shut down the gambling for a few days so that the Governor and Attorney General of Wyoming could cruise through , see nothing and go back to report that "there is no gambling in Wyoming." Gambling had gone underground. This is an underground room where the roulette, crap and 21 tables operate beneath maze of pipes and bouncers. You go around to the back of the bar and walk down to it--only if you are passed up above by one of the spotters.

As for getting home I leave here the 27th by car and put-put across the country for three to four days.

My pet squirrel is crawling on my legs now, I'm sure she thinks I'm a tree. I'm going to set her free before I come home. She's a red squirrel but since she's very young she still has a grey coloring.

That's all from the West except that I'm going around with a very suave 21 year old girl from Pittsburgh. She has all kinds of ideas.
-August 20

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