My Momma was a Cowgirl

Memory Necklace made with mom's Sterling Bracelet Charms

Memory Necklace made with mom’s Sterling Bracelet Charms

This post is not only about my mom, but about recycling jewelry, so I thought I’d post it here on our Walker Goldsmiths blog page.  Mom left a western themed Sterling Charm Bracelet when she passed away and I’ve always wanted to do something with it to remember her and share it with my girls. Here’s a bit of her story and what I did with the charms.

My Momma, Doris Pfeifer, was a cowgirl born at home on the ranch in Ballantine, Montana in 1926.  She could hunt, fish, shoot and ride with the best of them.  She could also cook a goose and sew all her clothes.  I learned to cook from her mostly over the telephone.  She’d leave something out to thaw and go off to work and then when I came home from school as a kid I’d call her on the phone and she’d direct me how it should be cooked.  It worked out pretty well. Her sewing lessons were sort of on the same level where she’d show me once or tell me how and then I was on my own.  I’d whine about a bit sometimes when I was stuck and she’d re-explain, but never do it for me.  She was the most organized woman I’ve ever known and taught me the value of lists.  There was a permanent list for every family outing that she’d whip out and order us kids to follow and like lightening we were out the door.

Both she and her sister were born on the ranch in Ballantine, Montana during the depression years of the horrendous 30’s.  Granddad Harvey Pfeifer was a horse rancher and came from horse ranching people in Missouri.  That’s what his family did when they weren’t traveling preachers.  The depression was so severe for granddad that it caused him to lose the ranch to the bank.  He and gramma Jeanette James picked up their little girls and moved to Billings hoping to find work.  Work being so scarce they joined the WPA crews and traveled the northwest with other working hungry families building bridges and working wherever they were directed.  Gramma Jeanette told me once that was a very happy time in their life.  No more worries about the ranch, and just going from job to job with other folks in the same circumstances was a relief.  She told me about card games in the evenings and brewing beer behind the wood stoves and homemade music.

When the depression cleared up some and the girls needed to go to school they headed back to Billings and rented a home.  Granddad would never again buy a home, always rent, and we figured that it must have been just too painful for him to take the chance of losing again.  Gramma Jeanette got the girls in school and started taking in sewing for extra money and Granddad hired out as a carpenter.  I remember as a little girl being so very fascinated with the fact that nails would come out of his mouth!!!  And Gramma joined the Montana Cow Belles.

Logo for Montana Cowbelles

Logo for Montana Cowbelles

The Montana Cow Belles is the women’s auxiliary of the Montana Cattlemen’s Association.  They officially promote horses, cattle, sheep, home economics, handiwork and the western heritage.  They are the PR team for beef products with their cookbooks and recipes for beef, sheep and wild game. I have one of their cookbooks and love all the practical recipes.

Teenage Mom on horseback

Teenage Mom on horseback

Mom and her sister Dorothy were the cowgirls in the town.  Both good horseback riders who loved to hunt and camp out.  They loved their Montana.  Among mom’s jewelry there was always the sterling silver charm bracelet with all the fascinating little western charms that were very appealing to me as a curious kid.  She’d let me look at it and fiddle around with the charms, some of them had moveable parts and spanned the history of the west from Indian days to WWII.  It was quite a heavy collection of charms given to her one at a time from girlfriends and old boyfriends.  When she passed away I got that old charm bracelet and still found it interesting.  I put it in my safe and there it stayed for over 12 years to be viewed occasionally, too big and cumbersome to actually wear.

Then I got this great idea!  I have 3 daughters who knew my mother before she died so why not make charm necklaces for each of us and divide up those charms to a reasonable number. I also found a great picture of mom on horseback as a young woman and reduced the size in Photoshop.  Owen created a sterling bezel for me for each necklace and I put the photo in each one covering it with epoxy to create a protective top.  Then I assembled the necklaces with Coral, Turquoise and Sterling beads and chain to make 4 necklaces each different yet similar.  I think they turned out wonderful!  A wonderful fun tribute to my Cowgirl Momma!

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