27 August 2007


I got a hefty dose of Americana this weekend at the Grant County Fair in John Day. The fair itself was not much to write home about: a few food stands, a motley assortment of displays, a barn full of livestock, a few (expensive) rides, and an inexplicable but kind of cool reptile zoo. The real highlight was in the evening, when the fair gave way to the rodeo. As a born-and-raised urbanite, I was all set to appreciate the rodeo as a spectacle and to enjoy a few condescending laughs. To be sure, there were aspects of it that reinforced all the stereotypes: the announcer with the affected Texas accent, the borderline jingoistic patriotism (never mind that the man singing the anthem didn't know all the words...), and the clown making jokes about killing off endangered fish to protect farmers. On the whole, though, I really, genuinely enjoyed myself. Above all, I was amazed by the skill shown by all the competitors. It's no easy task to rope and hogtie a calf in under ten seconds or to stay on the back of a bronco or a bull that really does not want you to be there. Frankly, I could never hope to do any of the things that the men - and women - in the rodeo were doing, which of course made watching them that much more entertaining and impressive. Almost as fun was taking in the atmosphere out in the grandstand, which was packed full of honest-to-god ranchers and cowboys; regardless of what you think of Western cattle culture, it's nothing if not colorful. 'Til next time, move 'em on, head 'em up, head 'em up, move 'em on...

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