|"There stood a little old lady with a golden pistol still smoking in her hand."
Lowell & Manning.
Once upon a time, in the Wild West, there was a rancher, “who married for his second wife the orneriest woman west of the Mississippi. She was meaner than a rattlesnake, and she had two daughters who were the spitting image of her.” The rancher’s own daughter was a meek and gentle girl named Cindy Ellen. She “was so good she made her stepsisters look bad.” They made her do the worst of the chores, and shouted orders at sweet Cindy Ellen: “ Mend those fences! Tend those cows! “ her stepmother yelled every morning. Cindy Ellen even had to shovel out the corral. “When her chores were done, the poor girl used to sit down and rest among the ashes and cinders at the edge of the fireplace, so her older stepsister called her “Cinderbottom.” The younger sister called her “Sanderella”. But underneath her dirty old clothes, Cindy Ellen was as pretty as a peach.” It happened that one day, “the biggest cattle king for miles around invited all his neighbors to a two-day celebration.” It was going to be a “wild and wooly rodeo, and then a square dance.” Well, Cindy Ellen knew a thing or two about riding. Her stepsisters knew nothing at all. That’s why she was so surprised to hear them declare that they were going to enter! And how they laughed when Cindy Ellen wondered aloud if she might try. Then they went off and left her there, crying. That’s when she heard a strange noise, “It wasn’t BANG-BANG! It was more like BING!BING! And there stood a little old lady with a golden pistol still smoking in her hand. ‘Who are you?’gasped Cindy Ellen. ‘Say hello to your fairy godmother, sugarfoot.” the old lady said. She twirled the pistol, slapped it back into its holster, and took a good hard look at Cindy. ‘What’s the matter with you, honey? You’re as down and dirty as a flop-eared hound dog. Stand up straight! Dust yourself off!’. And Cindy Ellen wiped her nose and told her about the rodeo. “Can you help?” she asked.”Maybe sí, maybe no,’ said her fairy godmother. ‘Magic is plumb worthless without gumption. What you need first, gal, is some gravel in your gizzard. Grit! Guts! Stop that tomfool blubbering, and let’s get busy. Time’s a wastin’.” And then Fairy Godmother fired her golden pistol straight up into the air. “Glittery sparkles floated down from the sky and sprinkled Cindy all over with fairy dust. Instantly, her heart was filled with strength and happiness, and her rags turned into the finest riding clothes west of the East. A creamy white Stetson hat crowned her shining hair, golden buckskin chaps encircled her legs, and a pretty little pair of cowboy boots hugged her feet like gloves.” They had huge spurs on them, and the spurs “ shot out rays of fiery light.” Then it was time for Cindy’s horse to experience a little magic. Granny fired her pistol once again and the horse turned from gray to silver with hooves that “glittered as he pawed the ground. ‘Hit the trail, honey!’ the old lady said.” And then she gave her some important advice: “ There ain’t no horse that can’t be rode, and thee ain’t no man that can’t be throwed! And one more thing. Get home by midnight gal, or you’ll be sorr-ee!” With that, Cindy Ellen galloped off to the rodeo. When she got there, she saw her older stepsister trying to ride a bucking bronco. “She bit the dust” as the crowd looked on. Then it was time for the younger sister to have her turn, but “she couldn’t ride a rail fence in a stiff breeze, and pretty soon she was eating gravel just like her sister.” Now Cindy Ellen remembered her “godmother’s gift of gumption” and rode out with a “daredevil grin” on her face. She mounted the horse and and clicked her diamond-studded spurs gently against him. At first he “ tried to cow-hop, and then he catbacked, and he sunfished,a nd he windmilled, and he jacknifed” but he could not shake that girl. The people all yelled, “Ride ‘em, Cowgirl!” and Cindy glowed with pride. The next competition was the trick roping, and Cindy Ellen did “ a figure eight, a butterfly, and a wedding ring.” Finally, she hopped back on her silver horse and raced around the track, far ahead of the other riders. She won first place! Joe Prince, the rich rancher’s son, danced with her all night. But suddenly, she realized what time it was. She was late! She fled, and by the time she got home, “ her duds had shriveled into sorry rags again, but she still had plenty of gumption.” Her sisters came in soon. “Ha, ha, you missed the champion cowgirl!” the oldest sneered. Then they told her that Joe Prince had fallen in love with that roping, riding girl on the silver horse. The next night, her stepsisters left her alone again. The next night, her fairy god-granny came again. Cindy saw what “looked like a cross between a comet and a dust storm”, and as Granny landed it “sounded like silver bells mixed with dynamite. ‘Let’s get crackin’, Sweet Pea!” shouted the fairy, and sent Cindy to fetch “ the biggest, dustiest, lumpiest squash” she could find. Then, “quick as a wink, she turned six cactus mice into six dappled horses, a fat pack rat into a stagecoach driver, and a rough, tough horned toad into a stagecoach guard, riding shotgun beside the driver.” When Cindy asked about her dress, the old woman jiggled her wand and there was a dress “ that shone like the sun, the moon, and the stars together. The skirt floated over petticoats as soft and puffy as summer clouds. A rainbow of pearls glowed around” her neck. “Pretty is as pretty does. Magic can backfire. Midnight or bust!” warned the glittering granny. But once she got to the square dance she got so caught up doing “the daisy chain, the whirlaway, the curilcue,a nd the grand sashay” that she clean forgot what time it was. When she heard the clock begin to strike the midnight hour, “she high-tailed it out of there lickety-split! ‘Whoa!’ yelled, Joe, on her heels, but he couldn’t catch her. One of the diamond spurs fell off Cindy’s boot as she ran,though, and Joe picked it up carefully out of the dust. Meanwhile, back at the ranch,” Cindy Ellen was in her old clothes again, listening to her stepsisters brag about the cowgirl dancing with Joe Prince. Next day, they heard a rumor that Prince was seeking the girl who could wear the diamond spur, And the day after that, Joe Prince himself came to try it on them. “Go shovel out the stable.’ hissed the stepmother, and Cindy reluctantly obeyed. “First Joe tried the diamond spur on the younger stepsister, but no matter how he stretched the straps, her hoof was too big.” The elder had crammed her feet into a pair of boots two sizes too small, and right when the prince tried the spur on, “ her boot split open, her toes popped out like puppies from a basket, and Joe headed for the door.” That’s when Cindy said, “My turn.’ in a voice that stopped him in his tracks.” He turned and slid the spur onto her foot, and she drew the other from her pocket. With a “WHINGO-WHANGO-KAZING!” the fairy godmother arrived. “Let ‘er rip!” she shouted and fired. “Glistening sparks of fairy dust were already sprinkling down everywhere. They turned Cindy’s clothes from cotton to satin, and the put quite a twinkle in Joe’s eye. And Cindy’s horse begant to sparkle. ‘Yee haw!’ yelled the fairy godmother. So Cindy Ellen and Joe Prince got hitched, and lived happily ever after in a ranch house full of love and rodeo trophies...And Cindy’s little horse kept his sparkling coat and glittering hoof to the end of his days."
Notes: The author is Lowell, S. The book is illustrated by Manning, J. This is a little slice of Americana. The cactus, the cowgirl boots, the spurs and the rootin' tootin' fairy godmother are all funny...because they're true! The author notes in the Western Lore section included that there are many female rodeo athletes riding the circuits. But, she adds, most 21st century cowgirls dance to country and western bands, not so much square dancing anymore.
Montessori Connection 6-12: History/American History/ Western States/Cowgirls, Biographies.
1. Read Cindy Ellen and look for clues that tell you which one of the United States it might be in.
2. Learn about modern cowgirls. Cowgirl Legends: From the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, or Cowgirls: Stories of Trick Riders, Sharp Shooters, and Untamed Women.
3. Learn about Annie Oakley, who the author describes as, "one of the earliest Wild West stars" and "a world famous sharp shooter." See Annie Oakley: Young Markswoman (Childhood of Famous Americans) or Annie Oakley: Wild West Sharpshooter (Primary Sources of Famous People in American History).