Recalling Their Names
Debra Coppinger Hill
Mother gave me the box several years ago having decided since I was over fifty years old and it was mine anyway, that I should finally take it home. I put it on a table in the garage and started taking off the tape that sealed it. I remembered the birthday my Daddy built it for me, this wooden box to hold the new doll I had received as a gift. He let me help nail it together, put in the shelves, drawer and a clothing rod (a piece from a broken fishing rod), and he gave me a mirror from his own overnight kit to mount on the door over a little dressing table he made. We painted it blue and red, and when we were done he put an old glass handle on top so I could carry it. My new Tammy doll was right at home and I was one happy little girl.
As the years went by, I stopped playing with dolls but the box still held my treasures. As I opened it my whole life was catalogued. A small pair of skates and the key, Tammy of course, misc. pieces of jewelry, my POW bracelet that went in when my soldier came home in 1972. A book of poetry, several pieces of paper with poems I had scribbled myself, a program from my graduation and a mood ring. And there, in the back of the drawer in the bottom I found her; my little Indian doll.
She is missing her arms; the rubber band that held them on long ago broken, but she still wears her tiny leather dress, a big smile and her head-band is intact. I do not remember the exact day I received her, but I remember the place with its soda fountain, leather chairs and buffalo head on the wall. I also remember the two little old men who gave her to me. Holding her in the palm of my hand I go to the phone and call Mother. Telling her what I have found and what I remember about the givers I ask her "Who were they Mother? What were their names?"
After a few moments of contemplation she begins her story. "You were three and a half years old then. Your Daddy was working for the Soil Conservation Service and we lived in an old hotel in Guthrie. I would take you down to the lobby and we would eat at the lunch counter. On cold, wet days we couldn't go out to the park or for a walk and you would play in the lobby. They would sit there and watch you and laugh while you told them long stories. They got you a little red cowboy hat and a stick-horse and later that doll. You loved seeing them and always looked for them when we went downstairs. Their favorite game with you was to send you around to the other side of the wall to see where the rest of the buffalo was. You'd run look and come back and throw your hands in the air and tell them "It gone!" They both wore khaki pants, those tall heeled cowboy boots and Cowboy hats. One had a big white bushy mustache. I wish I did, but I sure don't recall their names."
We talked about some of the other things in the box and we laughed at what I had deemed worthy of saving over the years. We both teared-up when I read the note my Dad had written on the bottom of the drawer: "Made by Sham H. Coppinger for his daughter Debra Lynn for her eighth birthday. May you always remember whose child you are and always live your life in a way that brings you great joy." I must say that I have done exactly that.
Suddenly Mother said "Wait! I remember something else. They were both World War I Veterans and they both had worked on ranches in Texas and Oklahoma. And they both called you ‘My little Cowgirl'. Maybe that's why you have always loved old Cowboys and old Soldiers so much. You have always been an old Geezer magnet." I laughed because I have a friend who calls me that very thing.
"Oh! OH! John and Bill. Their names were John and Bill. And they were Cowboys."
And that, was all I needed to know.
I remember now that one of them took off his hat and the doll was inside. The other told me her name was Little Bird. They were both smiling from ear to ear. And at this moment, with her in my hand I remember also that their joy in giving her to me was one of those great moments of joy my Dad would always talk about. Even now, with her in my hand and childhood memories flooding my heart, I am over-whelmed with joy.
I do not put her back in the box. I put her instead in the glass cupboard where I can look at her each day and remember them. Is Find joy really that simple? Yes. Yes, it is.
*For more about Debra go to the Cowboy Poetry section at AlwaysCowboy.com.