When Cowbells Were Sexy

August 20, 2015 — 72 Comments


Once upon a time, there was a young girl who left home at 16. She claimed it was to attend school, but she chose the school based solely on how far away she could get.

She put hundreds of miles between her and where she never wanted to be again, and still they weren’t enough. She wanted to rid herself of that oppressive atmosphere, the pain and violence, the loneliness and sadness.

She carried with her the burden of her virginity, a gift she had been unable to give away.

It no longer felt like a gift; it was a yoke around her neck, binding her to what she knew would soon be the old version of herself. It suffocated her, like a coat of armor that made it impossible for her to dance gracefully through the world.

She had tried to unbind herself of this before, and others had tried with her, but none were succesful. She waited like a princess in a tower but no princes could manage to rescue her.

She was too young and small and strange and smart, and much, much too eager. And they joined her in this eagerness, falling upon her delicate frame, fumbling with clumsy hands.

While she stayed tethered. Turning every prince back into a frog.

And there were always brothers around, violent and shrewd. There were so many of them one was always somewhere she was. Guarding her.

They tried to tell her she couldn’t go away; they insisted she stay home to go to school, but she laughed in their faces. Their home had always been total anarchy and she left to her own devices. They would not tell her what to do now.

She left, and never returned.


It was a magical town at a magical time and she turned 17 there. It was a beautiful place with fields and waterfalls and lakes and woods and there she reinvented herself. Here she turned herself from a strange and skinny ugly duckling to a beautiful swan.

But still, there was the matter of her innocence. It was a shackle that dug into the tenderest parts of her soul.

Here, she waited. Because here there was magic.

Here, the weather got warm and she walked around the tiny town in her bare feet, putting out her thumb to get a ride from cars passing by. Driven by strangers who were always just friends she hadn’t yet met.

And in this clean air, she could finally. Breathe.

There was a boy who liked her. He wrote songs for her, which he played for her on guitar while they sat on a blanket by the waterfall and had picnics.

One day he filled her room with hundreds of wild flowers he picked in the woods. “White for purity,” he said, and she laughed and pressed them to her nose.

But this boy would not be The One.



And one early summer evening she stood on a porch and saw a man who saw her, seeing him.

And she knew he would be The One.

He was 21 and had one year left to her three. He was tall and strong and his eyes were green; the color of the moss next to the waterfall where that other boy had declared his love for her.

They stood on the crowded porch and the laughter of partygoers swirled all around them. But now there was no long any need to be there; in each other, they saw the reason they were both there. They left together as if it had already been decided.

Which it had.


And that night the walls of his room shimmered in different shades of gold. On the next night and every night thereafter they were just brown, but that first night she remembered them as gold.

And later she would remember his smile and his moss-green eyes and his strong gentle hands. And his patience.


There was wine and music and candles and the walls glowed in prisms of gold.


♪♫  Whatever colors you have in your mind,
       I’ll show them to you and you’ll see them shine ♪♫


Their rhythms were not in sync and her heart was beating too fast. So he moved very slowly.

And in the morning, as the sun rose over a pastoral country dawn, her face smeared with fatigue and want and need; finally, finally this man took from this girl what she had wanted so badly to give.

Finally, finally.

And she lay next to him, grateful and glad. And brought his hands to her mouth and kissed them.

She looked out the window and saw all the colors of the world opening to her at once.

There was nothing left of who she had been.

Finally, finally.

And she was Free.



The End


(But really, the Beginning)



Did you ever realize the clip-clopping sound in the beginning of “Lay Lady Lay” was cowbells? What songs remind you of the most incredible moments of your life?
Talk to me. I’m listening. 

72 responses to When Cowbells Were Sexy


    Beautiful. And really, how it should be 🙂


    Lovely. Pretty much the exact opposite of my experience, all but the “she left home at 16” part (I was 15).


    Fantastic piece! Plus, I did NOT realize that was cowbells in the beginning of Lay Lady Lay. (And I’m a huge Dylan fan) Mind blown! 🙂


    Wow! Incredible and powerful! And you’re right, it was a beginning! A touching story beautifully told!


    Everything you write keeps me holding my breath until I see where it goes. The happy ending made the exhaling a little easier.


    Very nicely done as usual (but with more sweetness than usual). 😉
    I used to sing this as “Lay lady lay, lay your big black ass ‘cross my bed.” No, haters, NOT as anything against, or for, a particular race, but simply because the words “lay across my big brass bed” lent themselves quite naturally to that twisted interpretation. Yeah, I’m vulgar and juvenile and cheap like that (or used to be anyway). If you hear a song enough you just want to change it around, I guess. (Feel free to delete this paragraph if you wish–I think it’s silly fun and that people will laugh, but others may take offense.)
    Never knew that about the recording of this song. One of the few Dylan songs where you don’t have to say to yourself: “Great song, horrible voice.”
    More cowbell!


      I’m not going to delete one thing you comment. No censorship here, unless you’re being deliberately hurtful to someone. Which you are not.

      I don’t know where this sweetness came from. This is the anniversary of the story. I suppose that’s it.



        That’s kind of you. I’m with you about getting away from home. It was for opposite reasons for me–very nice home life, but too vanilla. When I got accepted to a liberal arts college 8 hours away, our banker (also our farm’s landlord and my mom’s employer) told my mom that he was afraid I’d “go astray” or something. Well, no shit, Bob! I didn’t want to live at home and go to the local “Moo U” (agriculture/engineering state U); wanted to learn how to party. I didn’t “give it up” till the summer after I graduated. Not sure what song was on, but it was, of course, in a mobile home.
        Oh, hell, it had to have been Linda Ronstadt’s “Simple Dreams”–that was the soundtrack for that summer: “What if I fall in love with you, just like normal people do..”


        I don’t know that song, at least not by name.

        Excuse me while I go listen to it right this second!


        Sort of a lame album, but I was into “anything Linda” back then. I don’t know; maybe we did it to “(I Ride an) Old Paint” from the same album. 😉


    Wait – this is a good one: my first time I cut school and went to this senior’s house and we smoked pot out of a pipe he made from tin foil. Of all songs, Howard Jones’s “No One is to Blame” played in the background. Dude turned out to be a bit of a cad.


    As always when you write something that has a bit of gravitas your sincerity shines through. You have managed to create an atmosphere of contemplation that made smile.


    Who is this story about?

    For a long, long, long time, I thought “Lay, Lady, Lay” was sung by Mac Davis.

    Just kidding about the first statement. Heh. But not the second one.


      P.S. 17 seems kind of young to me but I’m the opposite end of the spectrum. I didn’t lose it until I was 19. About two months shy of 20, in fact. In retrospect, I can see that there were opportunities but I was too stupid to realize it.


        Well, I was almost in my sophomore year of college. Age is relative.

        I was a couple years younger than my classmates since childhood. Remember how they would “skip” kids, back in the day?
        Now parents do the opposite to make sure their kids are athletically and academically superior.
        Don’t get me started…


      Mac Davis? That can’t be true. This is arguably Dylan’s most beautiful love ballad, and unequivocally the song in which his voice sounds the best it ever did!!

      This is just a faerie tale that spilled out of my head.


        Gimme a break. I was just a kid when it came out and never much of a Dylan fan. Maybe that’s why I mistook him for Mac Davis. He actually tried to sing for once.



        I’m into so much music that came out way before my time. That’s the power of older, musically obsessed siblings.

        What was Mac Davis’s big hit? Did he have one?


        Mac Davis had a soft rock hit in 1972–a terrible song called Baby, Don’t Get Hooked on Me. It’s a typical male fantasy where he tells a girl, “First, I’m gonna fuck you and then I’m gonna LEAVE you.”

        Baby, baby, don’t get hooked on me
        Baby, baby, don’t get hooked on me
        ‘Cause I’ll just use you then I’ll set you free
        Baby, baby, don’t get hooked on me

        This lacks any dignity or respect towards women. Right down there in the mud with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Freebird, another terrible “I’m gonna fuck you and then I’m gonna LEAVE you” song, although Lynyrd Skynyrd never had the nerve to write lines like:

        Girl, you’re a hot-blooded woman-child
        And it’s warm where you’re touchin’ me

        Can you believe this shit was a hit? At a RISD commencement speech, John Waters told the graduates, “If you go home with someone and they don’t have any books, don’t fuck them.” That’s excellent advice that I plan on passing on to my daughters. I’m also going to add: “Don’t sleep with any man who likes the song FREEBIRD.


        Oh, come on! You’re going to tell your daughters, “Don’t sleep with any man.”
        Period. End of story.

        Are there really people who don’t own ANY books?
        I’m such a nerd, that’s an appalling thought.


        That’s right. They can sleep with a girl, but NO MEN. Men are scum.

        There were no books in the house I grew up in (unless you count the TV guide).


        No books? And your house is the complete opposite! And your daughters are reading machines.
        Isn’t it great the way we get a “do over” with our kids? They’re having a completely different childhood than we did.


        Someone had to break the cycle.


    It’s nice to see a soft side now and then. 🙂


    I “lost my innocence” to Orgy’s Candyass album. Good fucking times. 🙂


    This is simply lovely. I think it’s wonderful to see you share this part of yourself, As always, incredible.


    Love this!!!!


    I loved this story. I was rather promiscuous in my youth, so I had an opposite experience. However, two of my adult daughters (ages 25 and 31) are still virgins. I often wonder if virginity becomes a bigger and bigger deal the longer they stay a virgin – and if the reason they aren’t in a relationship is because sex (or the prospect of having sex) then becomes an issue. I’ve always been amazed that my kids remained virgins for so long — since I came from a background where I was shamed for being sexually active, I made it a point to be very open in answering questions and offering birth control if needed. My kids are the poster children for negating the whole “if you talk to kids about sex or make sure they have birth control, they’ll then have sex” argument.


      25 and 31? Wow.

      I thought holding onto it until college was waiting a long time! I was the only virgin I knew in high school.
      Not that I wanted to be. It just never came together the right way. So that could be true of your daughters, too. Timing is everything.


    It’s a beautiful fairy tale, Samara. I wouldn’t tell it to my kids till they’re 16 maybe, but a beautiful story nevertheless 🙂
    As for the songs that remind of the good times – if there are any, all of or most of them are my own.


    You are a great writer. Down to earth style. If you ever write a book, I will be the first in line to buy it.


    Bobby had the future you in mind when he wrote that song, Samara, such a beautiful mesh of magic. Must have, poet man of generations in the woodsy fields amid upstate mountains and fledgling woman of discovery a’twixt the gorgeous gorges. Lovely essay, my friend. So very.


      This comment is like poetry.

      I don’t know how I missed a couple of your comments, but I’m seeing them now. This one in particular is so beautiful.
      I wonder if you write poetry?


        I seldom write poetry in the manner of I’m gonna sit my ass down and write a friggin’ poem, Samara. I have dabbled in several BloggyVille challenges, however. And your post here drew a poetic comment from me because, well, it was a beautiful and inspiring tale of my friend’s past. xoxoxo Thank you for your so kind compliment in return.


        The combination of Bob Dylan and beautiful upstate New York inspired you as well.

        I still think of my college town as a magical mystical place. It’s changed quite a bit in 25 years. But it’s still quite magical.

        This past June was my 25th college reunion. I couldn’t attend, unfortunately. But I can hardly believe it’s been 25 years. And I’m still best friends with my freshman year roommate.
        And – last Christmas I had dinner with the man in this story and his wife and family. It was wonderful.


        Your connections are lasting, Samara. Not surprising.

        Here’s a coinky-dink for you. I drove to your college town last week for an interview. It’s still gorgeous.

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