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Cowboy Memory Cafe
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Michael and Lynda Markut lead the Cowboy Memory Cafe

Howdy Partner.   Head ‘em up – move’ em out!  Go west young man, go west.  Cowboy lingo and images from the Old West filled the backroom at Panera in Brookfield for the Memory Café on November 10.  Michael Markut, a collector of western memorabilia, presented a fun afternoon of songs and reminiscing about life on the saddle… or at least how that life was portrayed in popular culture back in the 1940’s, 50’s and early 60’s.  Michael is also the husband of Lynda, who co-facilitates the café each month with colleague Wendy Betley.

If you grew up in this era, perhaps you too would remember some of the items that Michael featured in his Western show and tell – a Roy Rogers horse shoe game, Lone Ranger puzzles, a Have Gun Will Travel card set, a Hopalong Cassidy lunch box, toy cap guns, western comic books, a view master with cowboy reels.  Michael even brought the official Roy Roger Pledge to be a good citizen.
The memorabilia sparked café participants to conjure up their own childhood memories of rawhide, lassos, holsters and horseshoes.  And  dadgumit – everyone had the best time!  “This was a terrific memory jogger for both of us, but in particular for Barbara,” said Dan Johnson.  “When she was a kid she was into a lot of role play. Her mom made costumes for Barbara, including a full cowgirl outfit, all real cute stuff.  She loved horses and so she remembered a lot of the names of the horses. Hopalong Cassidy and his horse, Topper.  Roy Rodgers and his horse, Trigger.”

“I enjoyed it very much especially the exhibit featuring the toy guns,” said Jim Durand.  “It brought back memories of my childhood in northern Wisconsin.  We listened to the radio, we listened to the Lone Ranger, so it brought back those kind of memories. My dad worked in a bank and he would pick up our mail after work and bring it home.  I remember I had sent in a boxtop and 25 cents for a Roy Rogers book and a decoder ring. And every day I would ask my dad, ‘did I get my package, did I get my stuff today?’”

Peg Brandt agreed that the toy pistol collection really brought back wonderful memories for her husband John.  She said, “When John was a kid he had the whole get up – cowboy hat, a vest with the fringe on it and the holster.  He remembered all that.”

A memory café is a safe place for individuals with mild cognitive impairment, early to mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias to share their stories and socialize with others who have worries about their memory.  This western-themed café really got the group energized and allowed both participants and their care partners to share happy childhood memories.  “I haven’t seen Marie smile and sing like that for a long, long time,” said Jim Loden.  Heidi Mays who cares for her partner Steve said, “We appreciated Michael sharing his collection with us. It brought back a lot of wonderful memories for Steve as well.”

Michael Markut ended the program with an old fashioned sing-a-long that included Gene Autry’s famous “Back in the Saddle Again” and Roy Rogers and Dale Evans theme song “Happy Trails”.  Café co-facilitator Lynda Markut said, “I really liked Happy Trails at the end. It was a great way to close. It was fun talking about simpler times and fun toys.”

Happy Trails to you
Until we meet again
Happy trails to you
Keep smilin’ until then….

As Jim Durand and his wife Trudy said goodbye to their memory café friends on November 10, Jim said, “I have to go home and get out my ukulele and see if I can still play Happy Trails.” 

Who cares about the clouds
When we’re together?
Just sing a song
And bring the sunny weather...

Happy trails to you
Till we meet again.


Lynda Markut plays a vintage western guitar

Barb Johnson demonstrates her "lasso" technique




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