Welcome Home, Cowboy Bob

When I was four years old, I asked everyone to call me “Cowboy Bob.” I can hear myself pausing indignantly and growling, “Don’t call me Lucy. Call me Cowboy Bob.” I cannot recall how long this phase lasted, what prompted it to start nor what caused it to end, but when I think of this era in my life, I smile.

About the same time, perhaps a year or so later, I received a gift from my parents– a ukulele. What I really wanted was a guitar and, in all honesty, I was offended by this toy-ish instrument. Didn’t they take me seriously? Didn’t they know I was ready for the real thing? I was almost six, and in my mind I was an adult already. I don’t know if Cowboy Bob and the ukulele are linked, but somehow I feel they are.

In the 40 or so years that have passed since then, my musical life took a lot of twists and turns but never took off. I begged for piano lessons. Got piano lessons. Begged to quit piano lessons. Quit. I got a guitar. Took lessons. Never practiced. Quit. And at some point, I put away all instruments for a long time.

Somewhere in my 30’s, the guitar called to me. I picked it up and this time I didn’t quit. I don’t have the soul of a virtuoso, nor the patience to practice enough to truly master an instrument, but I found out why I was so drawn to these instruments and to music. An unknown, untrained place deep in a corner of my heart told me I that I needed to put my stories to music to save them, to savor them, to share the beautiful truths that lived in them.

I bought a ukulele and started playing it again. It felt so at home in my hands, like it belonged there, like it was always supposed to be there. Why on earth had I ever put it down?

Recently, I was looking on ebay at vintage ukuleles– old instruments with dings and nicks and personality. I wasn’t looking for a fancy or expensive instrument, but one that had a history in it. When I came across a uke with the Harmony logo on it, I recognized it instantly and realized I already had what I was looking for. It was on a shelf at my parent’s house.

One phone call to my mother, a few days of waiting, a UPS delivery, and voila! My old ukulele was back in my hands. I put new strings on immediately and tightened the sticky tuning gears to get them hold a tune. I admired the nicks and dings in the uke’s body, history that I had put there myself.

Almost immediately, the ukulele began to show me a song. It was about coming home and about being welcomed back; about what we toss away and what we carry forward; about what makes us leave and what causes us to return. Most of all, it was about the “knowing” that is always with us but that sometimes takes a long time to learn.

Looking back, I realize that Cowboy Bob had an important piece of wisdom for me that I knew all along and yet had missed at the same time. The cowboy in me was saying loud and clear: “Take me seriously. Listen to me. I have something to say!”

I had tossed aside the ukulele because I misjudged it, underestimated it, didn’t think it was big enough or serious enough to hold all my intentions, my ambitions. And yet, many years later, I found it was the only instrument I ever needed.

I could hear myself and be heard.


Welcome Home/Lucy Mathews Heegaard © 2012

What do they say when you come back home/Where’ve you been, why you gone so long/What brought you back, what kept you away/Now that you’re here, please stay

Tell me a story of leaving behind/Tell me another of return/Show me the face I used to know/And I’ll tell you all I’ve learned

Leaving’s not always a true goodbye/Broken things can be repaired/Wisdom comes in its own time/But knowing is always there

What do they say when you come back home/Where’ve you been, why you gone so long/What brought you back, what kept you away/Now that you’re here, please stay

Now that you’re here, please stay

19 Comments on “Welcome Home, Cowboy Bob

  1. Cowboy Bob it is! I loved him too. So glad you shared this. INspiring and beautiful. Thanks Lucy.

  2. cowboy bob, you have always been one of my most precious friends. you have always welcomed me in and treated me to the gift of love and laughter. there’s nothing like a cowboy greetin’ when you come home.

    • And you’re one of my most precious, as well, Leelow. There’s nothing like being understood and having someone to appreciate the laughter with, as you always have with me. Lots of love!

  3. You wrote “I don’t have the soul of a virtuoso…” I respectfully disagree with that, Lucy. You are a masterful storyteller, spinning thought provoking and meaningful tales. Therein lies your virtuosity.

    And this, “I needed to put my stories to music to save them, to savor them, to share the beautiful truths that lived in them.” Is there a purer, more compelling truth than the existence of the human need to visit that place in our hearts where resides the profound feelings that live within us? I, for one, don’t think so.

    A wonderful lesson, beautifully expressed, Lucy.


    • I am touched by your comments, Charlie, and by your compliments. In a beautiful synchronicity, I was over at your blog commenting on your moving story about your grandfather as you were here visiting my blog. Thanks so much for being a wonderful companion, colleague and trailblazer in stories of the heart.

  4. You have such a beautiful voice. I loved hearing your story–I can’t believe your Mom & Dad had kept your ukulele all these years.

    • Yes, Angel, I am so lucky Mom & Dad kept the uke! We tossed out so many things in the moving we did when I was younger, but I am really grateful that the ukulele was always kept. Thanks so much for your comment.

  5. Hey Lucy!

    Wow, what a gift that your Mama kept that uke all that time!!! “Welcome Home” is beautiful, and is that Sarah singing harmony with you? That photo is about how you still look in my mind—it still initially startles me when I see you now as a grownup! And hearing you sing this song set my mind to playing your voice singing “Old love is the best love” from your first CD, which I still play on “repeat all” in Mama’s kitchen every time I go home!

    • Thanks so much for the kinds words, Pat! Actually that is me singing harmony with myself– Sara has moved on to greener pastures. I am chuckling at your comment about the photo being how you still picture me– I can say the same about you! Isn’t funny that in our minds, time stands still when we haven’t seen someone in a great while? I still think back on lots of good memories of Glendale Gardens, the mermaids, Dark Shadows at your house, and assorted other adventures and misadventures. All make me smile. Hope for another reunion again sometime soon.

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    • Thanks so much, Jeanette. I appreciate the compliment very much. So delighted to have discovered your blog, as well. I have lots to learn on the uke still and just enjoyed the Travis Picking video on your site. I’ll be back often! Thanks again for you note.

  7. Pingback: A Story of Return | Thoughts on Home | studio-lu

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