Jewish Cowboys

            October 2013    
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Yiddle Joe
From Vest of Ft. Lauderdale, Oye!

By William Rabinowitz


The one word reply from Sheila meant I needed to try a different angle.


"Sheila," I started. The one word rebuttal again was emphasized. I knew it was time to stop.

"William," she who must be obeyed called out.

"William, why don't you take Mendel?"

Not a bad idea I thought. I called Mendel, my Hassidish friend. We made a date to go to the rodeo the following Sunday. Mendel generally is up for most things.

Sunday morning, I picked Mendel up at his home. We were going to the rodeo.

"Good morning William" Mendel greeted me. "The world is new to us every morning - this is God's gift and every man should believe he is reborn each day. Baal Shem Tov"

"Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.
- Maria Robinson" I shot back.

"Cowboy boots William?" Mendel looked at my new shinny, pointy boots.

"Yup," I said. "Boots, Hats and Cowboys. Nothing else matters", American Proverb.

Mendel grinned at me and tugged on his right Payyah as was his way. "Don't squat with your spurs on. - Anonymous", he said.

We both laughed.

Bronco Billy

"Mendel" I said. "Bet you never knew that the first American Cowboy Movie Film star was Bronco Billy Anderson. He was the very first star of the shoot-em-ups that graced the silent silver screen. He was the first cowboy hero to the American public. Bronco Billy was from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, only there his name was Maxwell Henry Aronson. Bronco Billy was part of the Tribe."

"I love Westerns" Mendel said excitedly.

"And William", Mendel picked up; "God took a handful of southerly wind, blew his breath over it and created the horse."

"We are going to see some real horsemanship today Mendel", I said. And we did.

A few weeks later I told Sheila, I was joining with the alta cockers cowboys. I want to be a member of the Gold Coast Gunslingers Single Action Shooting Society. Sometimes Sheila really surprises me. I expected, well, what I expected, I don't know what I expected. Let me put it in cowboy terms.

"A stubborn horse walks behind you, an impatient horse walks in front of you, but a noble companion walks beside you".

"William if that is something you want to do then do it right - that is the cowboy way. There is a little cowboy in all of us, you know. Louis L'amour said that."

I was astonished. Where did that come from? We began talking about monikers that was when she said "not Yiddle Jim but Yiddle Joe". I became Yiddle Joe.

She even went with me when I had to get my rig. She helped me pick out my cowboy hat, my shirt, and pants. She even approved of my boots. But the big test was coming. I told her about the guns.

To be a cowboy action shooter you had to have two six shooters - single action revolvers. You need a gun belt with two holsters and a shotgun belt. I need a coach style double barreled shotgun and a lever action period rifle.

Sheila confessed to me that as a young girl in Jewish summer camp they would target shoot with 22's. "I rather liked the sport" she said. "It's very politically out of step today."

With every word she said, my eyes grew wider about this woman I had lived with all these years and really did not seem to know.

Sometimes Sheila would come to a Gold Coast Gunslinger shoot at Markham. She never got into the sport. On occasion Mendel would come along. He would sit happily in his long black Hassidic coat, with the white shirt collar open reading from a book on Jewish thought. His hand unconsciously turning his Keepah when he hit upon a particular bit of wisdom that he relished. He always knew when to look up, smile and give me the thumbs up salute, when it was my turn to shoot.

My first awkward social concerns about Cowboy Action shooting, was way off. In time, Jeremiah Long Knife introduced me to the Hebrew Kid and Jewish Lightning, shooters from other clubs. Though my cowboy action name was Yiddle Joe, the guys just called me Yiddle. It was easier for them and it was no offence to me.

Mendel had an important thought to share with me after he came to the first shoot. I told him that the guys called me Yiddle.

"William," Mendel said, "It is not so much what you call yourself, it is what you call others".

You are right Mendel, I said. "And judge a man by what he does not by what he wears. It is the code of the West."

The years have passed and something in America has fundamentally been transformed from when I was a kid. Sheila and I talked about it one night. We both had been fans of the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Cowboy Western TV Show. I was a member of the Roy Rogers Rangers - fan club. To be a member in good standing I had to recite the ten commandments of the Rangers.

1. Be neat and clean.
2. Be courteous and polite.
3. Always obey your parents.
4. Protect the weak and help them.
5. Be brave but never take chances.
6. Study hard and learn all you can.
7. Be kind to animals and take care of them.
8. Eat all your food and never waste any.
9. Love God and go to Sunday school regularly.
10. Always respect our flag and our country.

Roy is politically incorrect today.

Roy Rogers and his wife, Dale Evans closed each show with a song.

Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we're together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you, 'till we meet again.

Some trails are happy ones,
Others are blue.
It's the way you ride the trail that counts,
Here's a happy one for you.

Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we're together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.

Happy trails to you, 'till we meet again.

"Sheila", I said as we lay in bed awake at three in the morning talking. "I wonder if we can get those days of innocence back? Everything is so politically incorrect."

"William you have always been politically incorrect", she gently pinched my arm. "Out West they have a sayin. Once you know where your a goin', just climb in the saddle and stay on the trail 'til you get there."

"God", I thought, "this woman does amaze me sometimes."

William Rabinowitz lives in Boynton Beach, Florida with his wife Sheila and their little dog Norman.

He can be reached at:


from the October 2013 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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