How a Jewish Cowboy Foiled a Hungry Grizzly Bear and Saved Passover

It Took Frontier Wisdom, Courage — and a Matzo Ball

Kurt Hoffman

By Naomi Zeveloff

Published March 24, 2013, issue of March 29, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

When I was very young, my father told me bedtime stories that, looking back, may have helped me overcome my feeling that I couldn’t be both Jewish and a Westerner. Growing up in Utah, where Mormons tend to treat Jews as living Bible characters instead of real friends and neighbors, I often doubted the authenticity of my family’s ties to our community and, more broadly, to the West.

But the fears seemed to go away on the nights that my two sisters and I — tucked into bed after bath time — listened to my father’s stories about Cowboy Bob, a Jewish rancher in Wyoming (my parents, originally from Queens, lived there for a time before they settled in Utah).

Cowboy Bob had a wife, Boola Boola, and three children: LuAnne, Jeremy and Betty Sue (which he pronounced B-b-b-b-b-b-betty Sue). Unlike the Jews who settled the American West, Bob was not a merchant or a shopkeeper but a tried-and-true cowboy who wrangled cattle, shot rifles and rode a horse; Boola Boola and the kids had their own horses, too.

Cowboy Bob was such a successful rancher that he hired a foreman named Wafflefinger Jones to help him out. Wafflefinger had flat, corrugated hands, the result of a childhood accident in which he smashed them in a hot waffle iron. He appeared in my father’s bedtime stories soon after we got our first waffle maker.

The only Cowboy Bob story that I can recall with any clarity was the one my father told us one year at Passover. In Utah, Passover was a particularly fraught time. Each year’s observance began with a harried search for matzo. If our local grocery stores carried it, it was often, bewilderingly, the not-kosher-for-Passover kind.

When my parents did find the right matzo — many times at the now-defunct holiday market hosted by the Salt Lake City synagogue, 60 miles north — they would buy enough to last for a week of morning matzo brei, school lunches and matzo pizza dinners. My Mormon peers often asked me about the comically large “crackers” I brought for lunch. My mother’s colleagues wanted to know why her crackers had “tire tracks.”

Cowboy Bob’s family never seemed to have trouble acquiring Passover goods. In the episode that I remember, Boola Boola was in the kitchen on a snowy Wyoming day, cooking up a giant vat of steaming matzo ball soup. LuAnne, Jeremy and Betty Sue were setting the table for the first Passover Seder. Suddenly, a monstrous, growling grizzly bear — not a terribly uncommon sight in Wyoming — appeared at the window, threatening to break in.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.