It had been almost 10 years since my last foray to The Recycled Cowboy Store in Ladson, and on a randomly empty Saturday, I needed a curiosity fix.
Was the back room still piled high with square dance skirts and “pettipants” (modest—but saucily ruffled—undies worn under said skirts and over true undergarments)? Might there be a pair of perfectly broken-in cowboy boots waiting just for me? Or a similarly loved-and-left-behind pair of jeans? A little drive north could sort out the mysteries.
After turning off I-26 at the College Park Road/Ladson exit, I pulled into a dirt lot and stepped inside what is more or less a shack comprised of rooms that connect warren-style, one leading to another and circling back to the first. It was surprising how many people had the same Saturday idea as me—the last time I’d visited, it was just myself and Ms. Linda Blevins, who opened the place in 1996. But this weekend, ESL Spanish-speakers hunted for cowboy shirts; couples tried on biker jackets; “l’il cowpokes” eyeballed lariats and new and used kiddie cowboy boots; and other tourons like me wandered slack-jawed in awe of the collection of prairie-style wedding gowns, the wall of $10 jeans, and the back room stuffed with square dancing coats, silver slippers, and more.
Even though I am in the process of downsizing and have a strict one-in, one-out policy on the fashion acquisition front, the spoils were tempting. First there were the knee-high suede half-chaps you zip on sort of like soccer shin guards. I could see them turning any pair of cool leather shoes into boots, pronto. A $15 Rockmount riding girl shirt in a faux chiffon with pearlized snaps, gingham print, and bib hollered at me (Rockmounts go for $50 at the bottom end!). And then there was the Land’s End canvas field coat with corduroy trim for $20. Pulling it on, I was so very of-the-prairie, in a Barbour jacket lite and Ducks Unlimited sort of way.
When my costuming vibe kicked in—meaning I started to see myself sporting these clothes in various scenarios with various imaginary cast members—I was in trouble. I knew it when I considered a square dancing dress emblazoned with palmettos, South Carolina state shapes, and crossed cannons. I have no conscious designs on do-see-do-ing, but I sure did linger possessively by the frock, fingering its appliqués, and posturing defensively when interested others passed too close.
But it was in the tack rooms where I really fell in love. With a horse. Or a horse on a flyer: “5 yr old Registered Thoroughbred mare for sale. She is sound and sane. Has the best temperament of any TB I have ever been around. She has great manners, doesn’t kick or bite, doesn’t mind being turned out or being stalled.…She has been ridden on trails before and is not afraid of anything. Not spooky or jumpy. Very gentle and kind.... Deserves a great home!!!”
Oh my. It’s a good thing my one-in, one-out policy has a “no new pets” clause. Because I felt such kindred spirits with that mare (I sometimes wish someone would advertise me like that on Match.com), it was painful to walk away. But a cowgirl’s life is like that. Curiosity piques, she explores, and off she wanders again, onto the highways and byways, empty-handed as oft as not.
Open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m-5:30 p.m., The Recycled Cowboy Store is located at 181 College Park Rd., Ladson. For more information, call (843) 569-7573 or find it on Facebook.