"My Cowboy's Gift" first appeared as a one-act drama for the stage, written and performed entirely in poetry and song.
Set in the contemporary American west, "My Cowboy's Gift" is an exploration of acceptance; how, when hurled into that chasm between what we demand to know and what we are able to know by way of reason, we must undergo the metamorphosis of faith, a metamorphosis made possible by love. The story is that of a rancher who, while attending to his recently-deceases wife's personal effects, has found a cache of old poems, some written by his wife and some by a cowboy who worked at the ranch many years before. Growing fearful as he reads them, for it seems obvious that they are poems between lovers, the rancher thinks back over the years, fear turning to jealousy, jealousy to anger, anger to bewilderment, and finally, bewilderment to dismay. He argues with himself about the facts and the meaning of the facts, re-hashing the past. As he speaks, the other characters - the wife's spirit, and the cowboy - appear to tell the story from their own points of view, in song and in poetry, sometimes together, sometimes alone. Though the rancher never acknowledges the presence of the other two, his story and theirs are intertwined, the song or poem of one character triggering that of another. It is through these poems and songs that the rancher ultimately achieves his metamorphosis.
A word about the title. On large spreads, where owners most often live elsewhere and day-to-day operations are done by employees, the top hired hand is usually called by the title of manager or foreman. On small ranches, the owner and the owner's family do most of the work. A few small ranches from time to time can afford a permanent hand, a man who lives on the ranch and draws full-time wages. But as short of titles as they are of capital, these small ranch owners generally refer to such a hand simply as "my cowboy" (as in, "I'll send my cowboy over to help you unload those steers"). In this piece, the cowboy is "my cowboy" to both the rancher, in the usage just described, and to the wife in a very different way. But "my cowboy's" gift is much the same to both rancher and wife; it is his poetic love of the wife that serves as catalyst to both rancher and wife to move each toward a complete understanding of themselves and a better understanding of the power and the practical requirement of love in human affairs.