Xena, Arizona Ranger

The other day I was listening to Marty Robbins, as I do now and again (after all, the man’s voice is like gelato, creamy and smooth). Specifically, the song Big Iron. Songs often influence, or interweave with, my writing. This song makes me think of the main protagonist of my WIP, who is a ranger, though not quite like the Rangers of the Old West, idealized or otherwise; not entirely unlike them, either.

The thing is, my ranger-protagonist is a woman. She’s not a gun-slinger, partly because her distance-vision is terrible, but mostly because there aren’t any guns in her world. However, I can definitely see her hunting down an outlaw and taking no prisoners.

So, on impulse, I stopped the music and began to re-sing the song to myself with the ranger being female. Then, when I reached the part about the outlaw, he became a woman, too. The result follows.

“Big Iron,” by Marty Robbins, altered lyrics in red.

To the town of Agua Fria rode a stranger one fine day,
Hardly spoke to folks around her, didn’t have too much to say.
No one dare to ask her business, no one dared to make a slip,
The stranger there among them had a big iron on her hip,
Big iron on her hip.

It was early in the mornin when she rode into the town.
She came ridin from the south side, slowly looking all around.
She’s an outlaw, loose and runnin,” came the whisper from each lip,
“And she’s here to do some business with the big iron on her hip,”
Big iron on her hip.

In this town there lived an outlaw by the name of Texas Red.
Many folks had tried to take her, and that many folks were dead.
She was vicious and a killer, though a girl of twenty-four,
And the notches on her pistol numbered one and nineteen more,
One and nineteen more.

Now the stranger started talkin, made it plain to folks around,
Was an Arizona Ranger, wouldn’t be to long in town.
She came here to take an outlaw back alive, or maybe dead,
And she said it didn’t matter, she was after Texas Red,
After Texas Red.

Wasn’t long before the story was relayed to Texas Red,
But the outlaw didn’t worry, those that tried before were dead.
Twenty folks had tried to take her, twenty folks had made a slip,
Twenty-one would be the Ranger with the big iron on her hip,
Big iron on her hip.

The morning passed so quickly, it was time for them to meet.
It was twenty-past-eleven when they walked out in the street.
Folks were watching from the windows, everybody held their breath,
They new this handsome Ranger was about to meet her death,
About to meet her death.

There was forty feet between ’em when they stopped to make their play,
And the swiftness of the Ranger is still talked about today.
Texas Red had not cleared leather ‘fore a bullet fairly ripped,
And the Ranger’s aim was deadly with the big iron on her hip,
Big iron on her hip.

It was over in a moment and the folks had gathered ’round.
There, before them, lay the body of the outlaw on the ground.
Oh she might’ve went on livin, but she made one fatal slip,
When she tried to match the Ranger with the big iron on her hip,
Big iron on her hip.

Big iron, big iron,
When she tried to match the Ranger,
With the big iron on her hip.


It certainly changes the mental imagery, doesn’t it? Don’t get me wrong, I love the original version of the song, too, and am as happy to sing it as to sing my slight adjustment.  Since doing this, though, I’ve tried flipping the pronouns in other songs, and it nearly always works.

Anyone who reads my blog consistently knows that I consider myself a feminist, and I in no way feel that I have to choose between feminism and loving and respecting men. Feminism, to me, means being considered a whole person, on equal standing with men, who are also whole people.

The culture I live in is riddled with messages that I don’t like. Few stories have interesting (much less powerful) female characters, and alternative feminist narratives sometimes seem to belittle, if not demonize, women who desire traditional female roles. It all makes me want to throw up my hands and shout “stop telling me what I should want and give me some better stories!”

Things are getting better in this regard, but progress seems slow. I will keep playing with songs and writing my own stories that neither limit women to periphery or symbolic roles, nor demonizes them if they make their mark on the world by keeping a home and raising children.


About jubilare

Just another tree in the proverbial forest. Look! I have leaves! View all posts by jubilare

6 responses to “Xena, Arizona Ranger

  • bobraxton

    write: on

  • technicolorlilypond

    I love it! I like the imagery of two female gunslingers, it made me think of Firefly somehow. I think most of the time pop culture portrays a constant Kobayashi Maru scenario for women. If they like dating and being sexually active they’re a slut, if they are retiring and sexually inactive they are a frigid wallflower. If a woman is in the workforce working at a career then she is neglecting her family, especially her children, or she is bossy or bitchy or trying too hard to be a man. But if she stays home to raise her children in a traditional role then she is a lazy burden who probably isn’t very smart. It is infuriating! Also, how come in every show it feels like there are always only one or two female characters and one of them is the love interest? Grrrrr…Clearly, I have a lot of feelings about this issue, but, I’m glad I’m not the only one. :-)

    • jubilare

      It changes so much and so little at the same time! Zoe for the win! :)

      Although what you say is very sad and true, I can’t help being thrilled that someone has mentioned the Kobayashi Maru on my blog.

      Things seem to be getting a little better, as in, there are some shows that exist, now, that do pretty well on the Bechdel test. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bechdel_test
      The new Battlestar Galactica and Fringe come to mind. Sure, they are still the minority, but rounded female characters who exist for other reasons than to be love interests do exist. Movies are still behind tv in this area, though that is not too surprising as thier formula leaves less time for character development and exploration. I honesty think most of the travesties of female characterization are done because people don’t stop and think. It’s so frustrating. But the story-telling patterns of women being in perifery roles are deeply entrenched and it will take a lot of work to dig them out.

    • jubilare

      Oh, and you are definitely not alone. This is something that is being talked about more and more. A lot of women (and men) are tired of the same-old thoughtless patterns.

  • palecorbie

    Oh no! Did I not show you this? If you haven’t seen it, you’d like it, I think.

    Your Ranger is also awesome, but then she probably knows that (also, due to the foreign terminology when I first encountered the song, I have never been able to picture it as anything but a clothesiron-throwing duel…).

    • jubilare

      Huh, you did not, but someone else did. And yes, I like it. :)

      She is probably more awesome than she knows, but she would be less awesome if she knew it, so it’s a little paradoxical. :)
      I’ve envisioned the same thing…

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