She’s gone country

“She’s gone country, Look at ‘dem boots  She’s gone country, Back to her roots  She’s gone country, A new kinda suit  She’s gone country, Here she comes.” — Alan Jackson

Having grown up where I did and how I did, the world that existed in country songs was as foreign to me as Mars; it was also a place I had no interest in visiting. The tales in those mournful tunes had nothing to do with me. I didn’t drive a truck.

My mom was a Southerner so I did know sweet tea, grits, and y’all.

I believed, as most people in my East Coast, well-mannered world did, that “country” meant uneducated hillbillies.

Western movies were for rough-around- the-edges men who wanted to fantasize about the Wild Wild West and shooting Indians. Cowboy boots on women were for themed events; on men they were just silly.

“Real” horsemen and women rode over jumps designed to look like English countryside stone walls in foxhunting blazers with nary a smile on their faces. Anyone stupid enough to get on a Bucking Bronco just reinforced the uneducated hillbilly theory.

So now here I sit, 21 years of Montezuma County under my belt, trying to decide if I am going to hit up Fiesta Days today to watch one of my sons’ friends ride saddle bronc.

Right? I know a rodeo-er! How cool is that?

I have known this young man since he picked a fight with my son in kindergarten because he didn’t approve of E’s purple socks. These days he sits on my patio, drinks Coors Light (uneducated hillbilly?) and entertains me with stories about living the rodeo dream.

Beer, Broncs, Barrel Racers. I laugh so hard I almost pee my pants, and yet there is an undercurrent of awe running through me. I’ve been to the Rodeo – I’ve seen that to ride a giant beast that’s doing it’s best to launch you across the ring, hopefully breaking some bones in the process, takes a courage beyond that of an equestrian fox hunter – and that’s hot.

Not the teenage boy – rodeo life in general. Don’t even get me going about Barrel Racers.

Suddenly I realize it has happened, irrevocably; I am now more west than east. I’ve lived in Montezuma County longer than any other place in my life.

I own red boots.

I am now a Country Girl who is the expert on all things rural.

(Obviously this all needs to be taken with a giant grain of salt because no matter how hard I try to hide it, I’m still a Jersey Girl who played tennis at The Club growing up.)

I live on “land” as in “Do you have land??”

We raise chickens and pigs.

My kids fish for crawdads in the middle of the night with rotten bologna and cheesecloth.

I travel with a hoe in the back of my truck.

My first cowboy boots were purchased at a bizarre thrift store that existed for a brief time in an old motel lobby in Cortez. I bought them but was too afraid to wear them.

I thought it was pretentious of me.

And then I wore them to death – they had holes and tears and one of the heels fell off. When it was time to replace them I decided that I would splurge and buy a new pair, so off to Boot Barn I galloped.

I looked at every women’s boot and some men’s’ too. I tried on more shoes than I could count – until my feet actually got sore from all of the yanking on and yanking off.

My wandering eye was repeatedly drawn to the red embroidered ones.

“No Suzanne, you need something practical – something that goes with everything…

“You can not be the gal who moved west from New Jersey and bought red cowgirl boots to wear with all your trendy outdoor gear from Patagonia.”

“Sure you can,” said the saleswoman.

I studied the ultra-pointy toes and thought – “I can’t pull those off – only real country girls can.”

And then out I strutted in my new red kicks.

Then one day while wandering the aisles at Big R, I spontaneously grabbed a pair of sparkle jeans and paid for them before I could chicken out.

Took months for me to get up the guts to wear rhinestones on my ass but I so badly wanted to be able to pull them off that I forced myself out the door shimmering away.

And that was pretty much it – you know – “Clothes make the man” – I had the clothes so…

I’ve gone country.

When I am shaking my sparkling booty all over the county, I worry about looking like a poser. I study gals who are the real deal and internally criticize all of the places where I missed the beat. I wonder if there is any way that I could pull off one of those huge turquoise and rhinestone cross necklaces that seem to be the emblem of authenticity.

I don’t think I can, but I never thought that I’d wear red boots either.

We went out in the rest of the world this week and it gave me the immensely satisfying opportunity to call “poser” on everyone around me, leaving me to feel superior and singing Alan Jackson.

Dolly Parton.

Dolly Parton at Red Rocks.

Hell, Yeah.

It takes all kinds to make an audience at a Dolly Parton concert. Apparently gay men love her; they made up 60 percent of the crowd. Then there were the old folks who’d loved Dolly from the beginning making all of the young whippersnappers look like amateurs.

There were the Boulder cowgirls who all wore the short-dress-jean-jacket-straw-hat- and-boots-semi-formal-of-the-West uniform.

I had come so close but decided on jeans at the very last moment. If I hadn’t, if I had worn the uniform, I couldn’t have been nearly as self-righteous and condescending as I was able to be.

My closest neighbors at the show were the totally hammered middle aged housewives screaming “Dolly Dolly Dolly” while pumping their fists in the air until one of their troop fell headfirst into the crowd, thankfully shutting her up.

Then there was me – fabulous and more real in my mere existence. I didn’t cruise down from my million-dollar home in the foothills to play country for the night hoping that Ms. Parton would sing 9 to 5 because that’s the only song of hers that I know.

I drove 8 hours from the actual country to see my gal who I listen to every day because she’s a part of my life.

This Jersey Girl is the real deal.

She’s also an insecure, pompous, hag who has one foot on the golf course and one in the pigpen who can only worry about how she’s dressed and being cool.

Suzanne Strazza is an award-winning writer in Mancos, Colo.

From Suzanne Strazza.