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!
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • 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.