One Tin Soldier

have cap gun, will travel; google

I was probably around nine years old and a couple of years into my first pony; summers were spent exploring the hills and coulees around our farms.  My cousins and I pooled our pop bottle money on cap gun “ammo” and, out in the sage and the brush, we’d reenact days of old:  The Pony Express, coming through!  Oh no, an Indian Ambush!  Settlers crossing the plains.  A stagecoach robbery!  You see, the four of us had our own horses and acres and acres of land on which to carry out our adventures.  We’d ride most of our days and when we came in, stinking of ponies and sweat, our mothers would pour us glasses of Tang, make us a bit of lunch and send us right back out again.

Coulees are excellent place for adventures!

It was around this time that I became aware of the fact that my parents had another name for me. You see, as a child born in the ’60s,  no one knew the sex of a baby before baby arrived.  It stood to reason that parents picked out a few names, just in case.  (As the youngest of five, Nana suggested the name “Caboose” to my parents, to which they just laughed.)    My cousin proudly revealed that her name would have been Jeffrey Jarl, after her Dad, Jarl D.

Jeffrey Jarl =  JJ. Way. Cool. And – the same name as her pony at the time-what were the chances?

Well, I simply had to know.  I pestered Mom until she finally revealed my boy name would have been Willard John.

Willard John?

After Grandpa Willard, my Mom’s father.  That was reasonable, I supposed.   Grandpa Willard was kind to me and lots of fun but Willard John?  Remember my best friend and cousin, Debbie, was now JJ.  JJ can’t be wrangling rustlers with Willard John at the OK Corral!  To me, a girl sporting tangled braids and a short list of fears, the name evoked the image of an older man living in a stuffy building with bad pipes and lots of cats.

Twisting the name around in my head and unleashing my imagination, I soon realized that Willard could be shortened to Bill or Billy. And everyone knew that Jack is just another name for John.  And there it was: Billy Jack.  Oh yeah …

Billy Jack fit my “girls can do anything” swagger at the time. I liked the fact that he was as a hero in his town, taking on bad guys, righting the wrongs and looking fab while doing it.

JJ and Billy Jack had an awful lot of adventures that summer, and for many others that followed.

Are you aware of your alternate name?  Have you ever imagined yourself as someone else?

Categories: Attitude, Family, Home, Life, Personal, Self Discovery | Tags: , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

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38 thoughts on “One Tin Soldier

  1. I thought “Billy Jack” of Hollywood fame, carried a 2X4? 🙂 I have a similar toy gun and box from Dad’s stuff that I couldn’t part with.

    • He might’ve, I don’t remember. We carried our cap guns with pride and easily slayed all the bad guys we imagined hiding out in our coulees!

  2. Morning
    My Mom wanted to call me Colleen Collins but Dad would not go for it instead its was Susan Marie Collings!
    If I was in trouble it was Susan Marie! If I was in “big trouble” it was Susan Marie Collins! Some of the time I was Susie or Susie Q


  3. Heh, Billy Jack. That would have been awesome. Six girls in my family and we all had alternate male names. Some came easy – Pat was Pat, Sandy was Sam, Peggy was Pete, Roberta was Bob, Shelley was Shell. And then there was Susan, who for some reason was tagged with George?!? My cousin and I had a similar game of attack and escape that we played out in the pasture – although our get away was not a horse. It was a Mini Austin car that our hired man, Dick, used to let us take to practice our driving out in the pasture. And, yes, we were well under the legal age to drive. Sooooo much fun it was!

    • You know, I remember that you called Shelley “Shell.” And now I know “the rest of the story …” Funny

      Loved that you had a similar game played out in a mini Austin – how cool was that? And the best driving was always under-age in in a pasture, right? 🙂 Good to hear from you again, Pat. MJ

  4. Ah, yes, I remember that song well. And I KNOW that my mom told me what my name would have been had I been born a boy. My dad’s name was William Everett, and I’m thinking it would have been something with Everett. I’ll have to ask my sister if she remembers…. she just might.
    Fun post!

  5. “Are you aware of your alternate name? Have you ever imagined yourself as someone else?”

    I’m still trying to imagine myself as me

  6. Billy Jack? Then your initials would have been BJ. I like that.
    haha…Well…I guess you can figure out why my name is Georgette…I didn’t come out a George, my mother’s dad’s name. What a fun post. Thursday before Easter, daughter #2 found out they were having a boy…back to the drawing board for names, as they were convinced it would be a girl as the first ultrasonographer predicted. I do wonder what they will name him. Don’t know yet.

    • We didn’t find out the sex of our babies so we had both names prepared … and I had a feeling that you were named after a favorite man in someone’s life – a Dad, an uncle, etc. Exciting times for you – with a new little one on the way. Will be fun to hear the news!!

  7. cooper

    I remember the cult of Billy Jack, must have gone to the Rialto half a dozen times to watch the movie…of course these were the single-screen days when a ticket cost seventy-five cents. I have many alternate names…most of which are not proper for mixed company.

    • loved going to the movies then; I don’t remember seeing this in the theater but it’s possible my sister snuck me in when she was supposed to have been baby-sitting me. That happened more than once!


  8. What a fun childhood you had! (Yes, I’m sure it had its share of “downs” as well.)

    I never gave myself another name, though my dad and his neighbor buddies gave me a few nick names: Ter Bear, Teen Jean, Punk. (Punk? Really? But it was said with such affection I never minded. It was actually short for Punkin.)

    • I had the kind of childhood that I can only dream of now – and could never replicate for my kids. Mostly – it was all that open space to roam, ponder and play. We had a lot of freedom – some might say too much – but we knew our boundaries and rolled in the fact that the adults trusted us to do the right things and be in on time for supper.

      Punkin? I can see it 🙂 MJ

  9. You lived the life the rest of us dreamed of at that age. A real pony! I would have been named after my two grandmothers had my brother not intervened. Iza Grace. Never heard them mention a boys name.

    • I did; we had ponies and baby kittens, dogs, barn cats, pigs, cows, calves and chicks. Lots of land to roam and grow; the wind in our faces and the sun on our backs. An idyllic childhood in many ways,

      Iza Grace! Now there are some classic names. 🙂 I have Patti as a sister; always loved the name.

  10. I would have been Ricky Pete had I been a boy, the exact reason that God had mercy on me and made me a girl. Can you imagine? I’m so glad we have an ‘MJ’ instead of a ‘BJ’. Sounds like you spent a lot of time running around outside as a kid which is great!

    • Ricky Pete! I can’t picture you as anyone but Renee :). Yes, we ran outside and in and out of the barn & such all the time. Heaven!

  11. I have no idea but my son knows the names, both male and female, we had thought of for him. However, my dad, calls him (for fun) by the name “he” jokingly wanted us to name him if he were to be a boy and that was: Rodney. Yah, the boy would’ve been Rodney Radermacher. Ummmm…no. So now, since it’s such a joke between him and his Grandpa, Jake will blame Rodney for stuff like tracking dirt/hay in the house, grease hand prints on the fridge, etc. 🙂 *He* thinks he’s funny anyway.

  12. Love the name 🙂 I will have to ask my mom… I have no idea… funny thing about names… you mention Tang in the post and one of my patients had a baby last night… her name Tang Tang… which is Sugar in Chinese 🙂

  13. MJ, I remember the song more than the movie. It was a big part of my burgeoning Peace activism lifestyle which continues to this day. That a song can have such an effect is both wonderful and a bit scary as today’s music has (to my mind) SO many negative connotations. Hooo boy, now I really sound like an old timer 😉
    I’ve never considered my possible boy name, but likely it would have been after my dad, William. My parents desperately wanted a son but ended up w/ all girls. I’m named for my Great Aunt Anna.

  14. sure brought back a lot of Billy Jack memories girlfriend. Really fun post

  15. Leonard. If I were a boy, my Mom would have named me Leonard. Her name is Lenore, and I was going to be named after her regardless of the sex. Thank goodness I was a girl. 🙂

  16. Deb

    Truth be told, I bought JJay from Clifford Kvale for $60. He called her Lighning on account of that majestic lightening bolt on her right shoulder. She was wild as could be, so we had a big round up and chased her into a corral in a coulee somewhere between Kvale’s and your place. She tried to climb out!!! Anyway, Dad put a bridle on her and rode her home. When she would try to stink around, he would stand up, when she was done, he’d sit down and ride a bit further!!! OMG, what a sight! I think I was 5 or 6. Too little to saddle her little self on my own. She was big to me. Anyway, I used to love this show called “The Governor and J Jay”, the girl in the show had tons of snap and moxie, so I used her name. Happy coincidence that it would have been my initials. I put millions of miles on that little horse. Dad always laughed when he told a story about overhearing me talking to our friend Connie, who desperately wanted a pony. I told her that “all she had to do was nag and nag and nag and pretty soon there would be a pony!!” Thanks, you brought forward tons of memories to enjoy. Remember Tiny?

    Have a great day!


    • I have faint memories of JJ connected to the Kvales but didn’t understand it until now. And we grew up a mile apart and I don’t remember the TV show you mention – how’s that possible?

      We were so lucky to have parents that understood little girls needed ponies to ride and room to roam 🙂

      Hugs to you sweet cousin of mine,
      Billy Jack

  17. What a great memory and how wonderful that you made your ‘other’ name fit you.

    • There’s a million more memories like that; we had a lot of freedom (some would say too much I suppose) and we learned to do by doing. We learned to open & shut gates on our ponies, gallop through the Provincial parks while charming our stays by offering pony rides to the visiting kids and mostly .. we had the childhood I wish I could have given to my own kids.

      Cheers! MJ

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