THE NUN AND THE COWBOY
By Bernie Suttle
Boys and girls, I’m leaving the room for a short time and while I’m gone you are to stay at your desks and practice printing your letters or put your head down and close your eyes.” Sister Jean continued to my first grade class, “I’ll be back in just a few minutes and then we’ll go to recess.”
I thought, “This is something new, but if Sister Jean’s going to be gone for a little while, we’ll be OK.” She left and soon I began to think about last Saturday’s matinee, Gene Autry in South of the Border.
I don’t remember ever seeing Gene Autry turn his head or take his hat off. If he was addressing someone on either side, he turned or twisted his whole upper torso, and hence his head and his hat, in that direction. That was OK because not only did he get the bad guys up to no good, but also, he usually had at least one pretty girl, in each of his movies. I thought he was the King of the Cowboys. Roy Rogers was OK, but he was not The King.
My desk was at the front of the first row on the left side of the room (the place for the shortest boy in the class). I began to look around for something of interest. In the second row, just to my right, was my former, kindergarten classmate, Marceline Thereon. Marceline was a pretty girl. She had soft, round, black eyes and long, silky hair. As I look back on my early years, whenever I turned around, Marceline was always there.
In last Saturday’s matinee, Gene Autry was in pursuit of bad guys in Mexico and there he met this pretty girl. He turned his whole body so that their eyes could meet. Although there was none of that kissing stuff, it was clear they were meant for each other. But alas, because Gene had taken care of the bad guys, he soon had to move on to continue his tireless fight against evil.
Near the end of the movie, Gene rode his great horse, Champion, back to where he had met the pretty girl. He saw her from a distance, through a gossamer lens, wearing a long white dress and a white mantilla. She was kneeling in front of a shrine. While he was away, making everyone safe from the bad guys, she had become a nun!
With this scene in mind, I twisted to my right and, although hatless and horseless, I began to sing as loud as I could to Marceline (and the whole class) the song that Gene Autry sang at the end of the movie…
“South of the border, I rode back one day, there in a veil of white in candle light, she knelt to pray. The mission bells told me I mustn’t stay south of the border of the border, down Mexico way.”
Marceline demurely kept her eyes cast downward but I saw a slight smile at the corners of her mouth. When I finished my sincere performance, I looked to my left and—there was Sister Jean Frances. God knows how long she had witnessed this exposure of my heart, so I looked up at her, smiled, and folded my hands on the top of my desk. I don’t recall her making any comment, but I do remember that she had a pleasant look on her pretty face. Perhaps she had seen the movie or… perhaps, earlier in her life, while in Mexico, before she was a nun, she had met…The King of the Cowboys!