In my youth, a popular comic strip drawn by Stan Lynde called Rick O’Shay ran in the Billings Gazette. Oh, didn’t we chuckle at the exploits of that sheriff and the ragbag crew that staggered across the panels of his life. Lawsy, but we chortled at the antics of O’Shay’s preciously-monikered friends and colleagues in the Western town of Conniption: “Hipshot Percussion,” “Basil Metabolism,” “Quyat Burp,” and, of course, the Native-American “Crazy Quilt. ”
We could hardly wait for the 4:00 a.m. thump on the front porch that signaled the paper boy had delivered our daily dose of cowboy cartooning. Up we shot from our waterbeds, hurtling the Etch-A-Sketch, leaping the Clue gameboard, somersaulting the Lincoln Logs in our quest to be the first to scan that day’s strip. Would Crazy Quilt win the affections Chief Crazy Neck’s daughter Moonglow? Would Stan Lynde have managed to showcase the word “howsomever” in an entirely new way?
This was big stuff for us small fry.
Thus, you can imagine our excitement when a local Rick O’Shay contest was announced. Children from across our arid burg were invited to dress up as their favorite characters from the strip and submit to judging. The winner would win a plaque-ish thing and an interview on the local news. Because Sheriff Rick O’Shay admired nothing more than plaques and news, we knew our participation would please him.
Of course, when one is four years old, as I was at the time, one’s “favorite character” often amounts to “what Mom wants to dress her kid in.” Turns out, Mom had a feather and swimsuit that were itching for an outing, and in this fashion, my character was chosen.
Clearly, my heroic brother, who once held up both hands to stop oncoming traffic on a busy street so that I might cross safely, would be
My five-year-old sister, with her love of shimmying to the tunes of Donny Osmond and organizing girls into teams for popsicle-eating contests, was a natural for the owner of the town’s dancehall:
Gaye Abandon, or, more precisely,
“Madame” Gaye Abandon
For me? Well, Mom had the swimsuit. She had the feather. She understood there was a strip involved. Somehow sensing my future love of pouring shots and sitting on laps, she decked me out as
Despite my innate sense of modesty, I’ll have you know, friends, that the town of Billings had a Conniption over me. They melted at the sight of a four-year-old streetwalker, so full of promise, with her whole career in front of her. Particularly when my convincing whoreishness was contextualized during the judging, I was a standout: so fresh compared to those hardened 12-year-olds…so Brooke Shields in Pretty Baby…so able to rock the look of garter and heels and locket, the look of a girl who means to communicate “You can have me for ten minutes for twenty dollars; the back seat’s fine. And do you have any Barbies or an Easy-Bake oven?”