Some days, you just have to get in the car, enjoy the ride, and let the day roll out in front of you, regardless of how dusty and dirty you’re going to get. How else can I explain rooting for Cowboy Jeff in the National Team Roping Tour? But there we were, sun beating down on us in the 90 degree heat, sitting on dirty, old wooden bleachers, along the banks of the dried up Hassayampa River in Wickenburg, Arizona, making friends with Jeff, and Lorraine, a 75 year old Alaskan transplant. She took up roping four years ago! And while I was jumping to conclusions about Cowboy Jeff, I learned he’s a graduate of the Univ of Montana with a degree in sustainable food production. He just likes the rodeo life better right now. As soon as we shared our Michigan State University connection, he responded with “You guys took a whompin’ yesterday” (referring to our historic basketball loss). I liked him anyway.
Wickenburg is the “Team Roping Capital” of the US, and Saturday, 364 ropers, men and women, from young teens to folks in their 80’s, were going after a winner’s saddle or part of the prize money. We learned that men and women compete equally, as well as more than I ever thought I’d want to know about headers or heelers!
So how did we end up there? I don’t even like horses! We learned about the roping contest when we talked to Norman, one of the ranch hands at the Flying E Dude Ranch. Norman was happy to tell us a bit of the history and give us a tour of the horse corrals and dance barn (“swing your partner…”). And he helped us understand that the area used to be the “Dude Ranch Capital” of the US, but there are only two remaining active dude ranches now in the area. Of interest, two former ranches now function as treatment centers for eating disorders and a third is an alcohol and drug rehab center. When we were done, Norman suggested we might want to check out the roping contest. Why not? Off we went.
But how did we end up at the Flying E Dude Ranch in the first place? Well, that was from Bea, a docent in the Quayle Gallery (as in Dan Quayle’s mom) at the Desert Caballeros Western Museum who gave us a personal tour filled with fun facts about the area. There aren’t enough Bea’s in this world. Or enough museums like this to help us learn about another time and another life. Hey, I even learned the history of the bola (not bolo) tie!
We’d gone to the museum to attend Cowgirl Up!, an incredible exhibit of western art all done by women, referred to us by new friends, Carole and Carolyn, from right here in the “hood”, as they say. The paintings, sculptures and charcoal drawings were phenomenal, and of course, I wanted one of each – but they had too many zeros in the price for me. It was well worth the short trip! All of photos of the art pictured here were taken, with permission, at the exhibit as just a sample of the talent we saw.
I’m not sure what it is about the western/ southwestern culture, both historical and current, but I’m drawn to it. Maybe it’s the authenticity of the people, the traditions and ceremonies, the work ethic, the landscape. Certainly, it includes the silver and turquoise! I just know I love it and again, it’s been fun to find my inner cowgirl. (Want to learn about the first time I discovered my inner cowgirl? You can catch that post here, from October, 2014.) http://mypatchworkjourney.com/releasing-my-inner-cowgirl/)
Our day started with a simple trip to a local art fair where I added to my collection of southwestern art, and ended up a full day with new friends and new experiences. When I’m traveling, I like to “chat up” folks I meet along the way. Everyone has a story and most are willing to share, as long as you’re willing to listen.