Cowboys and Indians: a Story of Childhood by Dorothea Nordstrand

  • By Dorothea Nordstrand
  • Posted 6/23/2004
  • Essay 4308

Dorothea (Pfister) Nordstrand (1916-2011) wrote this reminiscence about childhood play in Seattle in 1921. The Pfister family homesteaded near Tiger, in Pend Oreille County, before moving to Seattle in 1919. In the story, the Dad is Joseph A. Pfister (1883-1947). Bunny is Berniece Leppla, Arthur is Arthur Delfel, and Stanley is Stanley Bowen. In 2009 Dorothea Nordstrand was awarded AKCHO's (Association of King County Historical Organizations) Willard Jue Memorial Award for a Volunteer, in part for contributing these vivid reminiscences to's People's History library.

Cowboys and Indians

One day when our small band of playmates was gathered out on the corner, an incident occurred that has stayed with me all my life.

There were only four of us there at the time, as it was a school day, and we were too young for school. Stanley and I were five and Arthur and Bunny were just a few months younger. Those months seemed to make a difference, making Stanley and me the “boss” about what games we played and when.

Today, we had decided on Cowboys and Indians. Our way of playing that was for the Indians (whom we decreed would be Arthur and Bunny) to run around quietly on their “moccasins,” while we cowboys chased them around on our horses (signified by the noise made by crushing empty milk cans across their middles by stamping on them so they would cling to our shoes)

Our family used lots of canned milk and Mom kept the “empties” in a grocery sack, as we used them in several games we played.

Today, we had mutiny! Arthur didn’t want to be a sneaky, quiet Indian. He wanted to make horse noises, too. I was in the middle of my telling him he couldn’t because he was an Indian, when I heard my Dad call me from in our yard, “You come here, Miss!” Since that was what he called me when he was not pleased with me, I wasted no time minding him.

“Do you remember me telling you about my favorite horse, Dandy, from when we were on the homestead?”

“Yes.” Daddy was always telling about Dandy, so I knew he was smart.

“Well, Dandy was a Cayuse Indian pony, and the cleverest horse I ever saw. I think Arthur and Bunny should be on Indian ponies, today.”

I knew better than to argue, so brought out the sack of cans and Daddy helped get us all shod. Then, he said quietly to me, “And you, Miss, had better learn not to be so bossy!”

We racketed around the neighborhood and Arthur and Bunny had a wonderful time being Indian ponies. Some of the shine had gone off being cowboys. Stanley and I were green with envy of those Cayuses.

The next time we played, we were, by mutual agreement, a band of Cayuse Indians riding through the forest looking for a new place to put up our “pretend” tepees.

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