Apparently my mention of  cowboys and rodeos last month, tweaked some interest on the part of my much appreciated readers.

Mine too.

I really did enjoy the time I spent all dressed up in a bright blue, beautifully embroidered (what I considered) western shirt and  riding pants and boots with slanted heels.  We knew the attire was authentic  because we all bought it from Rodeo Ben…Philadelphia’s version of “dresser to the star cowboys.”

I didn’t arrive at the rodeo bronco ready.  I also didn’t leave the rodeo bronco ready.  At least I was too smart to try that.  But the rest of the stuff I really loved.

It happened like this.

My father, Jack Steck, was kind of Mr. Philadelphia Show Business for a long, long time, and one of the many stops along the way was a Country Western RADIO show which he hosted every Friday night for about three years in the Town Hall in Philadelphia.  Father dubbed it Hayloft Hoedown.

There was a cast of – well, not thousands – but definitely 45 –  singers, dancers, comedians and relatives.  We relatives just sort of lolled around the stage, sat on bales of straw and looked authentic.  We also laughed loudly at the comedians – funny or not – and applauded frantically for the singers and dancers.  I had fun, but I did feel a mite underappreciated.  I even practiced a yodel but no one ever asked me to use that particular talent..

When my big shot at stardom happened, I was – well –  ill prepared is way understated.

You see, I never mastered the one basic talent I needed most.  That ability to admit I didn’t know something.  So, when the leader of the square dancers asked me if I could square dance I said “Sure.  Why?”

I should have asked that question first.  Turns out one of the ladies was pregnant and couldn’t dance that night…or for the foreseeable future.  So would I like to sub?

All right.  I can and could at the time do almost any kind of dance.  And since these fellows had been dancing for many years, I figured I could follow them anywhere.

I was wrong.  Dancing on stage?  Yes…but when I found out that the question included on doing the same dance on horse back…well, I should had said something like “Are you out of your mind?


But, of course, what I said was “Sure,”

Which explains why, for the next week, I spent a whole lot of hours racing through the woods of New Jersey, learning to control a dancing horse.  After all, one can’t make one’s debut as a rodeo rider until she at least knows which end of the Sleepy Hollow Ranch arena is marked off for her entrance.

I must explain here that I was not a total novice at riding.  After all, I was a graduate of Notre Dame High School in Moylan, PA, and one of our options was learning to ride a horse.  English style, of course.  As I remember it, the western saddle was treated with scorn and condescension, and I admit that riding one was a great deal like sitting in a rocking chair.  However, I stopped acting haughty about the skill involved when I learned that my insistence on saying “Yes, I Can!” was going to take me down some long and winding roads…like the one with the barrels at either end of the arena where we would dash madly one way, switch horses without touching the ground and race madly back to where we came from.

Do we need to discuss the number of spills I took learning how to do that?

No we do not.

We also don’t need to discuss the relay races or flag twirling.  We could mention that at any given moment, some part of my body was bluer than that shirt I told you about.

The fact is, that with all that practice and all the racing around,  I probably got more strange looks and requests for photographs when I was walking the Brahma Bull down to the lake for water.

That was my off-stage job at Sleepy Hollow.   Everyone took turns at the various behind the scenes duties, and this just happened to be mine.  The thing is, the lake we headed for was off the Ranch grounds and unsuspecting motorists who suddenly came upon a girl in a cowboy outfit and a bull apparently out for a stroll, were understandably shaken.

He was a good natured animal as bulls go I guess, but the thing you had to learn was that a Brahma Bull WILL NOT BE HURRIED.  To say that we strolled was like speed warp.  If we’d traveled any more slowly we would have been backing up.

On the program the bull was called something really provocative – like Devil’s Horn or something…But in private we referred to him as Pansy.  He was a sweet heart.  Just slow.  I think the fact that he tied up whoever had the job of walking him was what kept people from volunteering for other competitions.  On the other hand, as far as I was concerned, it kept other people from volunteering me for any other events.





I used the words “in camera” recently and someone in the group challenged me as to its authenticity.  It’s really a rather  lovely phrase meaning in a chamber or in private – secretly.

I realize it is not used frequently but it shouldn’t be unknown.  There are so many wonderful words out there just going to waste as we hurl ourselves into the slippery habit of using the shortest, and frequently the ugliest, words we can come up with at a given moment.

Remember, the more words you know, the more effective you can be whether you are being loving or scathingly insulting…the choices are almost endless…you just have to know what’s available to you.