Features & Stories

It could be the cross-over music. After all, those 130,000 fans at the Merritt Mountain Music Festival must carry some country influence with them when they return, weary, but happy, to their regular surroundings. Or, maybe it's the result of international cowboy poetry readings. Why, even the topics of cowboy songs, cattle drives and life on the trail, aren't musical anachronisms; they've become an annual event on the main street of Kamloops, B.C. every July. Cowboy culture is spreading.

That's likely the reason an old cowboy term has become so popular in modern society. The term, of course, is 'partner'. Once used strictly to refer to business associates, it's been adapted to a broader meaning.

The vexing question of how to refer to two people co-habiting but not legally married, has worried society for years.

Even Miss Manners, the American doyenne of etiquette, is baffled. She's firmly rejected 'consort', 'free-mate', 'domestic partner', tally-man', co-hab', and 'palse'. Not even the sprightly 'co-vivant' meets with Miss M's approval.

Meanwhile, quietly, with no fan-fare, (it's just our Western way), people have been introducing "My partner, Melissa.",or , "Frank, my partner."

To be sure, not everyone understands the subtle nuances of modern useage. Your sweet Aunt Tillie may assume that you and that pleasant person are co-owners of a saddle shop. Don't worry, she'll figure it out.

To the rest of the world 'partner' is the perfect term, covering both sexes and all situations. What an improvement over 'companion', someone with whom you might go hiking!

'Partner' indicates a twosome engaged in a common enterprise, but, it's more; it implies conjugal relations, the possibility of offspring, a shared dwelling, and , especially, mutual support and responsibility.

Given the latter, perhaps we should emphasize the traditional Western pronunciation, 'Pardner" or 'Pard'.

'Partner' has vague overtones of formal legality, of being officially bound. 'Pardner' was a totally voluntary association.

Your 'Pardner' was closer than a relative. A pardner shared both the gold strike and the hungry winter in a cold cabin. Pardners lent each other horses, and defended one another verbally and physically against outside attack. They tolerated each other's little faults, not because the law ordered it, but from genuine attachment.

Pardners depended upon each other in tough situations. Should the barn catch fire, the herd stampede or grasshoppers grab the crops, pardners were right there, pouring water, rounding up strays or planning next year's planting.

Oh, sure , sometimes a renegade Pardner stole his best buddy's horse and rode back to Montana or forgot to add his pal's name when registering the mining claim. But, not often. Society scorned those who ratted on their pardners. They were sneered at and ostracized.

Generally the original bond of friendship was strengthened by trust, respect , and gratitude.

Not a bad example for any relationship, in any era! Once again, the West leads the way!

"Howdy, Pardner!"


(Trudy is a freelance writer living in Kamloops, B.C.)

Other articles by Trudy Frisk

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