Saturday, June 27, 2009

June 27, 6 a.m.

The wind early in the willows.
The water over the weir
This morning dawning clear.

June 27, Malta

How do you talk about a rodeo in Small Town America on a Friday night? We did attend, and it was a cultural spectacle - really an extravaganza. The stadium was full; the arena, an acre of black dirt. There were chutes to release the animals, cowboys, cowgirls, people cheering, American flags flying, a clown and a glib announcer with non-stop action! Calf roping, teams and individual; saddled broncos, bucking bulls, barrel racing, cheering crowds, rodeo queens, tractors and Dodge pickups on display. I could accept it as all this and just a community coming together for what they like to do, a celebration of their heritage and identify - and did. Much was made of “our shared history” - of the “American” quarter horse and his importance - of preserving “our values and traditions.” The rodeo queen shared in the written program her motivation to be queen to be a spokesperson for just such. And on the fences and out of the mouth of the announcer, a continuous flow and presence of hard sell. The fence panels called for the use of non-smoke tobacco products - that solid old family value dip and every chute that released a bucking bull or horse was from this or that bank or construction company. The costumes of the participant - and most of their gear worn had long lost any utility for the bulk of the observers and even participants - and yet the lingering identification. Understandable and harmless - but in another way, jingoistic foolery, consensual fakery, a masquerade ball. We have to do something with ourselves while stuck on the planet and this is one of the solutions these people have settled on. I did learn, too, from the announcer that Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is a great place for a vacation in the summer if I love golf and now you have. This was the long reach of marketing seamlessly woven into his barter.

The adult male competitors on the bulls and horses often bit the dust which mixed with that already in their mouths, both of which they spit out publicly after their fall while waiting for the girl earned in this traditional way locally. The children of these unions were sent from the “Bank One” chute atop a sheep; lying prone on the sheeps back initially and then often happily trampled underfoot - protected by a bicycle helmet, to great applause. So, the beat goes on. Actually, I loved it. With my sociologist cap on, I may be the grinch that stole the rodeo. You can ignore that.

The ride from Chinook to Malta was a magical mystery tour without a drug assist. 70 miles with a tailwind that should have a proper name like those in the Sahara Desert that bury and desiccate people. We were here by 1 p.m. and still could walk and talk, an uncommon condition for us when we get somewhere. The terrain was flat - along the Milk River valley - with some excursions into the rolling hills - the traffic was light - unlike mosquitoes. These are a specially-adapted breed or strain that can intercept a moving object at the speed of sound and hold on. Imagine blowing across America, head down, grinding, the landscape and your life flashing by, dead ground squirrels filling your gaze, and you are suddenly completely covered by mosquitoes that have materialized from clear air and are busy sucking more blood than can be replaced from you. Well, that’s what happened. They are air eddy experts and come up drafts intent on the filling. We survived but are now semi-bloodless and in acute deet intoxication, which is not all bad.

We’ve camped in the city park in Malta. No shower, no hot water. More big cottonwoods and more mosquitoes. The locals came for afternoon barbeques and horse shoes; those that weren’t at the 25th Anniversary Appreciation dinner and dance downtown for the Valley Pharmacy. A simple place, friendly people, mosquitoes.

I went to the dinosaur museum. This area very productive of fossils, saw Leonardo, a complete 77 million year old complete specimen of a mummified dinosaur and a list of the plants identified in his stomach. Discovery Channel has done a special on him. Later I met the ranch owner at the street dance who found him on their property. Got her - the ranch owner’s wife’s picture = two degrees of separation from Leonardo, the mummified dinosaur.

Since we have had such a wonderful tailwind, I have devised a sail out
of RVC pipe and plastic sheeting to capture the anticipated wind tomorrow. It is untested and may be a hindrance when going downhill or in a truck blast. We’ll see. Could give me a 5 mph edge on Dave if it works.

Glasgow tomorrow.

Dave lost the second Frisbee bocce ball. Chase game 8 to 1. This was the Blaine County Championship. I relate this result not to crow but for the sake of completeness. He seems discouraged in this area and beginning to question if he can compete in this league. I am encouraging.

Met Gary Harbaugh in Water Works campground in Chinook. From near Santa Cruz. Riding a gull wing motorcycle, pulling a trailer. A retired navy veteran and police officer. A man, too, of strong opinions and a patch to match on his vest for every one. Enjoyed “taking it to them” - them being these different than he, which included most Californians, all politicians and the “liberal media.” Had the ability to project sympathetic views on us as long as we lay low which we did. He roared off on his six cylinder machine in complete agreement with us, who remained completely invisible to him, to do battle with legions of straw men who litter his landscapes. One man, one vote and one of us just got neutralized. A nice guy, really. Had a lot of flag patches, each a flag for his sunrise.

Pat Sewell

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