It was the Wheatland Tiny (now self-designated Tiny-1) who’d thought it would be a nifty idea to locate all the large cowboys (literal cowboys as well as cowboys-at-heart) nicknamed “Tiny” not just in Wyoming, but all across the West, and invite them to his Wheatland ranch for a celebration. A celebration of what, you ask? Hell, cowboys don’t need a reason to celebrate; but as Tiny-1 explained to each of the eight cowboys he contacted, it’s to celebrate ourselves for being so big that people want to nickname us the opposite of what we are, and get a good laugh out of it. High time we inject some sorely needed good-natured American humor—cowboy style—into the world.
A few days later, the eight Tinies met at Tiny-1’s ranch for a planning session.
“Folks don’t care much about cowboys anymore, Tiny,” groused Tiny-2, a fellow cattle rancher from nearby Torrington. “Certainly not cow-hulks like us.”
“Folks care about cowboys out in these parts,” said Tiny-3 from Billings, Montana. Tiny-4 added, “That also goes for all the Western and Southwestern states, plus the Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas. Not counting Californey of course, with all them degenerates in La-La Land.”
“There’s lotsa cowboys in Northern Cal, and the Central Valley, Tiny; you won’t find no degenerates in Redding, I can tell you.”
“Lemmee tell you somethin’ about us cow-hulks,” interjected Tiny-5 from Ogden, Utah. “The bigger we are, the better. Folks cain’t overlook us when we take up more space’n’ a pregnant sow.”
Tiny-1 stood up. “Let’s talk about grub for the gathering—and beer!”
“I’ll supply the beer kegs,” said Tiny-6, a rodeo manager from Casper.
“Maybe we can each share stories about what it was like growing up bear-sized!” suggested Tiny-7, a veterinarian and former cowboy from Dwyer.
“We should make that the highlight of the gathering, said Tiny-8, a cowboy poet and former trucker who now taught a course in Western folklore at UW Laramie. “It would let the world know that we’re not just a bunch of oversized shit-kicking rednecks.”
“Hey, I’m proud of being a shit-kicking redneck.” Tiny-4 said.
The eight Tinies decided to hold their Great Western Tiny Shindig in mid-May. Tiny-6 would prepare publicity releases; Tiny-7 would create poster art depicting Tinies circumscribing the Wyoming State logo of a rodeo rider, one hand on his saddle, the other waving his hat.
Two weeks later . . .
“I still cain’t figure out what in perdition is the point of such a foolhardy gathering,” Tiny-2 wanted to know. “Is it to stereotype us even more than we’ve already been?”
“Yeah,” agreed Tiny-3. “They all like to think of us as backwoods bruisers, all brawn, no brains.”
“My brawn is my brains,” proclaimed Tiny-6 proffering his beer bottle.
To which Tiny-8 replied: “The point is, we don’t have to be accountable to nobody. Anyone who don’t approve of us, well, you know where they can shove their heads.”
As it turned out on that fine Saturday afternoon in early May, close to a hundred Tinies (not all of them “tiny” in the original eight Tinies’ sense of the word, but that was not held against them) showed up at Tiny-1’s Wheatland ranch—many of them from other states who’d gotten word of the strange request: cowboy farmers from Idaho, Montana, Texas, and Oklahoma; cowboy business execs from Utah, cowboy casino workers from Nevada—huge men, young and old—and several voluptuous cow gals! The press had gotten word of the event and showed up with their TV equipment.
Did the hundred Tinies merely lounge around swilling beer and gnawing on beef jerky? No. Did they hold tractor-pulling contests? No. Did they arm-wrestle? Well, some did. But mostly they spun campfire-style yarns and recited poetry. In fact, quite a few of them were bona fide cowboy poets! Some of the poems they turned into songs and sang through the evening, the aroma of barbecued venison wafting over the ranch. What did they sing about? Why, songs about herding cattle and riding bucking broncos; songs about wind-swept mesas; songs of saddling up at dawn; songs celebrating the American frontier that still lived on in their oversized cowboy hearts.
Fred D.White is a professor of English, emeritus, at Santa Clara University in northern California. His fiction, humor, and essays have appeared most recently in Praxis, Wilderness House Literary Review, Southwest Review, Clockwise Cat, Brilliant Flash Fiction, and Fiction Southeast. His books include The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus, Where Do You Get Your Ideas?, Writing Flash, and Approaching Emily Dickinson. One of Fred’s jobs as an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota in the ‘60s was working in the book department at Donaldson’s Department Store (now defunct) in Minneapolis. His duties included familiarizing himself with the premises of newly released titles and working them into sales pitches. Although he quickly discovered that he was not cut out to be a salesman, being so immersed in books brought out the writer in him and turned him into a bibliophile. Over the years he assembled fine collections by and about favorite authors, especially Emily Dickinson—the latter collection proving to be immensely useful when he wrote his bibliographic study of Dickinson scholarship, Approaching Emily Dickinson: Currents and Crosscurrents since 1960.