A serial memoir by Jean Fogelberg

Buckaroo by Henry Diltz

Buckaroo Boone

The enticing smell of roasting turkey filled the house. I set the table with silver, china, crystal water glasses, and the delicate Riedel wine glasses. Dan had everything under control in the kitchen but now and then he’d ask for my help; usually just to hold a bowl or scrape a pot. Buckaroo sat at his spot on the edge of the counter by the turret, watching us. 

     When the guests began to arrive for the Thanksgiving Day celebration, we were ready. It was a small dinner party that included Dan’s ranch manager George, his girlfriend Jan, and neighbors Ron and Janelle. 

     George was a lanky cowboy with short salt-and-red-pepper hair and a beard. He was pleasant to me, but I could tell he was watching for telltale signs of defect. Ron and Janelle were easy-going Texans who had a summer home just below the ranch gate.

     We mingled for a bit in the kitchen until Dan shooed everyone into the great room, asking me to stay behind to help with final preparations. When all was ready, everyone moved to the dining room. Dan asked me to start the music. There were speakers throughout the first floor, and Dan always had classical music playing on the stereo during dinner.

     Once everyone was seated, Dan and I brought in the wonderful traditional Thanksgiving meal he’d prepared. The turkey was perfect: moist inside with crispy brown skin, and there was dressing, mashed potatoes with homemade gravy, green beans, roasted acorn squash and cranberry sauce. It was all delicious, and the talk and laughter rose up into the dome over the table and drifted back down again mixed with Mozart. 

     I’m sure Dan and I were positively glowing that night, we touched hands a lot and smiled into each other’s eyes. It was a lovely party, but we were glad when everyone left and we were alone again. As we cleaned up, Buckaroo hung out with us and got the occasional bit of turkey.

     When the long weekend was over, I went back to Santa Fe, knowing Dan would follow shortly. From then on, we maintained a Santa Fe/Pagosa Springs routine. I had changed the cafe’s performance schedule so I played on weeknights and had my weekends free. The other musicians were more than happy to switch; they now had the prime weekend nights. On Fridays I’d drive to the ranch right after work at the management consulting office, then back to Santa Fe on Sunday evening. Dan would come down to Santa Fe on Monday or Tuesday and we’d have the weekday nights until Friday, when we’d start all over again. 

     Each Friday night I would wander in the kitchen door, exhausted, to be met with a kiss, a cat, a glass of champagne, and the wonderful smell of the meal Dan was preparing. When we met I weighed 117 pounds; in three months I gained 12 pounds on his cooking.


Buckaroo had taken a shine to me, but Dan actually had three cats: two Maine Coon Cats, Buckaroo and Sassparilly, and one black short-haired rascal named Mojo Boogie. Rilly was a neurotic silver female who lived in constant fear of everything. Mojo was your typical young male cat, full of himself and looking for trouble. Buckaroo had the soul of a lion; majestic and serene. Dan called him Buckaroo, Boone, Cooncat, and Little Buddy; he interchanged the nicknames regularly. I took to using all the nicknames as well, but I never used Little Buddy: that was just between Boone and Dan, compadres for more than nine years.

     His certificate of pedigree listed him as a Brown Classic Maine Coon, born on August 20, 1986. Both of his parents had the famous Heidi Ho line in their genealogy, but Dan had no interest in bestowing posh titles; he named the kitten Remington Buckaroo Boone.

Remington Buckaroo Boone

     One night I was in bed, watching Buckaroo as he sat by his water bowl at the base of the wooden bottled water stand. I loved the way he drank - he didn’t lap up water with his tongue, he dipped his right paw in the bowl then licked the water off of the furry pad. I heard Mojo come bounding up the stairs, and through the open door. Seeing Boone, he froze. Then he got all dangerous looking and started creeping forward ever so slowly. When Mojo was about six inches away his hackles rose. I held my breath, waiting for him to pounce. Bam! Buckaroo fired off a quick right hook. No claws; just a solid paw punch that came out of nowhere. Mojo shook his head, wakawakawaka, and wandered away looking dazed. Boone watched him go, then resumed drinking. The soul of a lion, that cat.

Buckaroo by Jean

     Dan had told me that Buckaroo was particularly fond of Burt Bacharach songs, and he proved it one afternoon while we were sitting on the couch in the TV room. Putting Sergio Mendez and Brasil ’66 - Greatest Hits on the turntable, he set the needle down on “The Look of Love.” As Dan came back to the couch, singing along, Buckaroo hopped up on the coffee table. “You sing too,” Dan said, so I did. Buckaroo turned his head and stared at me. Then he took a step forward and put his front paws on my knees. After a brief hesitation, he stepped off the coffee table and on to my lap, all the while peering intently at me with his big golden eyes. I leaned back in the cushions, nervous, but I kept singing. He put his huge paws on my sternum until we were almost nose to nose.

     I glanced sideways at Dan for reassurance. His eyebrows were raised and he was trying not to laugh. “Keep singing,” he whispered, “he won’t hurt you,” but he didn’t sound very sure. Buckaroo gave a raspy “Waaaaa,” which, I think, is the Coon Cat equivalent of a roar. Then he laid down, half on the couch and half on my lap, and allowed me to pet him. “He likes you,” Dan said.

     There was a book about Coon Cats in the upstairs library that said they “like to lend a hand,” and that was definitely the case with Buckaroo. He resembled a little ranch dog, trotting along on walks and keeping an eye out for any danger. Dan had done some illustrations for a children’s book about Buckaroo. He even made up a short song, kind of a theme song, called “The Ballad of Buckaroo Boone,” that he would sing to him at bedtime. Buckaroo loved it - he would sit between us, purring and kneading the comforter ("making biscuits," Dan called it.)


“I’ll tell you the story of Buckaroo Boone

The greatest Coon Cat in the land

He rides through the desert with ol’ Marshall Dan

Lendin’ a hand when he can.”

Dan's illustrations of Rilly, Buckaroo and Mojo

Sometimes Dan would be in his music studio, working and re-working a song, obsessing over tiny changes and overdubbing into the wee hours. At some point, Buckaroo would hop up on the mixing board, walk delicately between the sliders, then sit down right in front of Dan. Back away from the board, Marshall Dan! When that happened, Dan knew the part was as good as it was going to get. He trusted Boone’s instincts, and gave him producer credits on a couple of his albums. The management office in L.A. actually received phone calls now and then from people asking how they could get in touch with the producer, Remington Buckaroo Boone.

     I was leaning on the island counter one afternoon, talking to Dan while he stirred something in a pot on the stove. Buckaroo sauntered past us and into the small herb room just off the kitchen, where the litter box was. After about thirty seconds, he came tearing around the corner at top speed, claws scritch-scritching for purchase on the Mexican tile floor, ears back, tail all fluffed up. He ran like the hounds of Hades were after him and he didn’t stop until he reached Dan’s music room clear on the other side of the house. 

     As he was hightailing it past us, Dan had set the spoon down and called out, “Head for the hills, Marshall Dan!” in his high, gravelly old-cowboy voice. He walked over and shut the herb room door, but not before the smell of runny poop reached me. 

     This comedy routine of theirs never got old for me. A pee or a little poop, and Buckaroo would fastidiously shake his paws free of litter then calmly go about his ranch business. But the occasional runny stinky mess, and it was scritch-scritch-scritch and “Head for the hills, Marshall Dan!”


Posted May 23rd. 2020 Copyright ©Jean Fogelberg 2020