The last time I attended a Cowboys ‘n’ Indians fancy dress party I was wrestled to the ground by a smelly six year-old in a poncho while queuing for jelly and a lucky bag. When an invitation to the adult re-run of this harrowing experience somersaulted into my in-tray, naturally I was more than a little anxious. Should I go, and if so, as what? An Indian, outnumbered by hostile cowboys? Or a cowboy, overrun by whooping Indians? It’s make-or-break, life-or-death decisions like these that can ruin a future at the drop of a hat, and since ten gallon titfers were clearly going to be involved at some stage I figured it might be the biggest decision of my life. Fortunately, everything was resolved for me at the costume shop. They had plenty of bows and arrows — but no cattle.
The venue for the Yee Haar Pow-wow could only have been more Western-themed if Clint Eastwood had unicycled in on a Two Mules For Sister Sarah film reel, bumbling the essence of his legend away before a shockingly full empty chair. On one side of the garden stood the Indian reservation, complete with teepee, sacred animal paraphernalia and buffalo skin rugs, while at t’other end there loomed a ranch house and saloon, their painted cardboard walls throbbing to the beat of John Wayne Sings Purest Country. Everywhere I looked, men in ridiculous hats rubbed shoulders with women in ridiculous chamois leathers, chatting the chat of Custery Geronimotronics. The only thing grounding me in 2012 was a single bottle of ketchup by the barbecue (and even that got swigged early on during a sacrifice to Awonowilona).
Just as the burgers were served, one or two of the Indian lads started playing around with their choppers, demonstrating to the gathered cowboy posse just what spectacular tossers they were. To a chorus of whoops, a stray tomahawk arced over the fence into a neighbour’s garden. For a scary throbblitude of heartbeats we wondered if the fun was over, strung from the gallows of a broken window or horrifically split family pet. But no. A cheery voice cried out, “thanks, mate. Just what I need to crack open the wife’s chastity belt!”
A quick peep over the fence revealed a dozen or so vicars and a similar number of tarts gathered round a papal figure in Dunelm Mill Shop vestments. He stood with tomahawk raised above a prone hussy, his eyes trained on a padlock chained to her groin.
“I’ll hire the costumes next time,” he said. “Leaving the key in the shop is the stoooopidest thing you’ve ever done.”
His wife grinned meekly and threw us a look. “Without your axe I’d be sunk. ASDA want me in early tomorrow and I can hardly serve customers with a padlock swinging from my fanjo.”
“Come and join us when you’re done,” said the Indian Chief. He tugged hard at the fence slats to make a temporary doorway, and before we knew it, the reservation-cum ranch was a-buzz with holy rawhide slapper rain dancin’ kind of action.
I made my way next door, keen to explore the mdf ‘n’ net curtain brothel/cathedral. Like the cowboys and indians, the vicars and tarts had really gone to town on the decorations, and the sausages on sticks were a sight to behold.
“How did you get the plums to stay on the end?” I enquired of a scrubber.
“Home made marmalade,” she said. “It’s like bloody superglue.”
I made to ask about the phallic looking white chocolate fountain, but my words were stolen from my lips by the crash of a huge sack through the laurel hedge — a huge sack bearing the inscription SWAG. Plastic silverware tumbled from a torn corner. Whistles blew and sirens wailed. Then a helmeted head poked from the leaves. “Sorry, mate. The robbers are pissed as twats.”
Another portal opened. Beyond lay a boxwood jailhouse and a selection of wheeled bathtubs painted blue. Through the throng of masked and truncheoned revellers I saw a nurse being bundled over the wall to the next house in the street by a group of white-coated lads with stethoscopes slung from their ears.
“There’s a lot of parties tonight,” I remarked to the desk sergeant.
He proffered me a telescope decorated with parrot feathers. “Take a look all the way down the street. The pirates have been and gone but the Alis and Tysons are still rocking.”
I climbed onto the roof of the Sweeney gazebo, training the telescope lens from fence to hedge to wall to crenellated turret. Superheroes and supervillains sank G&Ts with farmers, sheep and giraffes, and in the garden next to the paper shop, every Disney character bar Jiminy Cricket was represented, in a show of crepe paper to threaten the existence of trees worldwide. There were knights and dragons, Unionists and Confederates, Wogans and Nortons — and more, all intermingling in a massed fancy dress melange on a sunny summer’s night to die for.
I thought of the smelly six year-old and his poncho. For half a lifetime his prods and pokes in the queue for the jelly and lucky bags had put me off slapping on a bit of warpaint. Now, it seemed, that harrowing aspect of my past had been avenged. As I supped lemonade from a mermaid’s shell I beheld a costumed future — more Saturday nights spent alongside the masked, the caped, and the armoured, watching themed burgers spit from bizarre grills.
Maybe he was there, that kid, dressed as an astronaut or the rear end of a dinosaur.
But who cares? It’s done now.
Thanks to Big Mike & Jill for a splendidly silly Boot Hill