Lasso! My picture prompt du jour. Photo by “Red Ridin'” Robin Dale.

Most times it’s easy for me to come up with a weekly blog topic. Today is not “most times.” So many different things are going on right now I can’t settle down to one idea and really dig in. Enter: the picture prompt.

Writing prompts are a means of stimulating creativity. A prompt can be a word, phrase, picture, etc. The first time I remember using a writing prompt was in sophomore English at Port Townsend High School. Our English teacher, Jim Mitsui, asked us to select a piece of art from a book and write a description of it. Mine was Jan Van Eyck’s Arnolfini “Wedding” Portrait (see it at The journal entry is dated December 13, 1974. Here’s the opening:

“The thing that caught my eye as I was flipping over the pages of the reproductions was a brilliant green dress. It was worn by the bride of Giovanni, who apparently has no identity of her own.”

Okay, so I deviated from pure description and got into feminist commentary by the second sentence. After three pages of penciled cursive (the bride’s sleeves made enough of an impression to rate an entire paragraph) I concluded with “A still moment in a dark age.”

I was smarter then, possibly because Mr. Mitsui was providing ideas to respond to so I didn’t have to come up with them on my own. Now that I’m a big girl I have my own supply of prompts. Today’s selection was taken in 2009 by cowgirl poet and photographer Robin Dale. In the My Pictures folder on my computer the composition is titled “Lasso.”

First a disclaimer: my husband is not fond of this photo. I guess it’s not as fun to be the lasso-ee as it is to be the lasso-er. Personally, I think this picture is a dandy, and it made its way into the liner notes of our 2010 western music release, Westerners.

It was autumn, November, I think. We were somewhere in Walla Walla County, standing on a hillside of tall, dry grass, decked out in our “show” clothes. Robin, being a real-life horse woman with all the necessary gear, provided the lasso as well as the artistry behind the camera.

Let’s face it, a woman lassoing a man is more fun than the other way around. This type of role reversal is why Sadie Hawkins of Li’l Abner fame remains in our cultural vocabulary to this day. But this is social commentary. What about the description, aside from the grass?

A man and a woman, both long-limbed and trim. High quality cowboy hats, his a Stetson Silverbelly, hers a custom-made soft Montana peak. The man’s expression suggests he was trying to sneak off and was caught unawares. The woman’s expression, a shade sadistic, evokes the western slang Yee-Haw!

Note the matching scarves. These two people are somehow related, aside from their present circumstances. A cowboy music duo, perhaps. His shirt is a yellow George Strait, hers a Scully with classic pearl snaps and smile pockets. Two black belts with silver accents and two pairs of newish blue jeans, Wrangler for him and Levi’s 501s for her. The lasso is medium-gauge and strong, the texture rough in bare hands that are calloused on the fingertips from a decade of playing bass. Using only our eyes, the man and woman may or may not have feet.

Nevada Slim and Cimarron Sue. We stopped performing at the end of 2014, three full years and change. Some day we might make a different picture, one with music but without the western trappings. Maybe next time I’ll be outfitted like Giovanni’s bride, complete with the marvelous sleeves: “But those sleeves! A wide double-band of ermine extends from shoulder to hip, and below that rich puffs and puckers of smocked velvet. Fantastic.”

See? I told you I was smarter back then.

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