Lee Pitts is an independent columnist for The Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press; you can email them at leepitts@leepittsbooks.com

He’d read too many Louis L’Amour books and seen one too many John Wayne movies. Now the kid from Newark wanted to be a cowboy.

The Jersey Kid rode into the sleepy west Texas town in his Mustang, swung wide the doors of the Spanish History Museum/Thrift Shop, and inquired as to where he might find wrangling work.

Due to his vast experience at the McDonalds in Newark, the Jersey Kid’s first job was assistant to the camp cookie for a West Texas rawhide outfit. When he served chicken pate and weak coffee for the first meal, the cowboys told him politely to “Go West Young Man” in no uncertain terms.

So he moseyed on up to Nebraska, where he shot first and asked questions later. After having vaccinated two loads of steers with pour-on, he was invited to leave. Next, he was hired on by a Kansas feedlot to ride sick pens, and sure enough, the Drugstore Cowboy got sick the very first day. So the Jersey Kid sashayed on over to Wyoming, where two ranchers were fighting over his services. It was there that The Jersey Kid discovered he hated horses. And the feeling was mutual.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles

The Kid mounted the snortin’ bronc looking the part in his designer jeans, Chaps cologne, a colorful kerchief round his neck, and a wide-brimmed hat with a feather in it. It was shaped square in front with a straight low crown and creased in three places… at least his head was after getting bucked off. The foreman made the comment that the Kid was “dumber than a barrel of hair.” To which the Kid replied in his Jersey accent, “Smile when you say that, mister.”… but the foreman already was.

In search of the cowboy life, the kid from Newark rode the Missouri River in a pick-up truck and let a roll of barbed wire tumble down the Rockies. The last words out of Bozeman were…”And don’t let the door hit you in your #@! on the way out.”

When he showed up in Ritzville, Washington, to work cattle, Jake, the cow boss, said it was like losing three good men. Not wanting to get on another horse, the Jersey Kid became part of the ground crew. One of the real cowboys roped a single leg, and Jake told the Jersey Kid to go put another foot in the loop. The Kid looked a little stupid standing there with his right leg in the loop.

In Adel, Oregon, he asked the Buckaroo boss what he was paying. “We’ll pay you what you’re worth,” he said.

The Kid wouldn’t work for that, so he rode off into the sunset as one of the Buckaroos asked, “Who was that idiot?”

The Jersey Kid rode long and hard for months, searching for that cowboy kind of life he had seen on television. He came close in California, as a consultant to a lawyer who was crossing Ayrshires and Shorthorns. He called them “Airhorns.” He lost that job when they changed the tax laws.

Finally, when the Jersey Kid had gone about as far west as he could go without swimming, he found a place where the cows were gentle, the whiskey smooth, the boots were ostrich, the women were fast, and the horses pretty. And the sign on the hill overlooking the town said HOLLYWOOD.