Wednesday, July 26

sheridan, wyo rodeo

First of all, is Wyoming serious with this sky? The clouds, huge conglomerates of cottonballs--no, there is no better analogy--stretch to the horizon, as far as the eye can see and splatter the sagebrush-ridden landscape with shadows like sunspots on Mother Earth's rolling belly. I couldn't get enough of it, which was good because I had ten hours to kill.

This was taken about an hour outside of Evanston, somewhere near Rawlins--country I had not traveled through since I graduated from elementary school. As the headline suggests, Pam, Lane and I were forging our way through dry southern Wyoming to my favorite Smalltown USA: Sheridan.

Past Rock Springs, we drove on the stretch of highway that houses modern largess ranches The Pathfinder and Sun Ranch. These monsters literally go on for miles and miles. Historical Martin's Cove sits on the west side of the two-lane highway, just south of Devil's Gate. As a kid, I always got sad and curious around this nexus of pioneer and homesteader trails. I felt the same at 26. Independence Rock, carved up with the names of young pioneers, marks the spot. I realize this at the same time that Mom says, "There is a special Spirit here." It resonates.

After a bout with Burger King in Casper, it was on to Sheridan. We arrived around midnight; Grandma and Grandpa stayed up to greet us. Lane and I shared the airbed and Mom crashed on the couch in Linda's little one-room apartment atop Mike's Electric (as in Michael Demitri Janich, our great-grandfather).

From there it was all memory lane: black licorice ice cream at the park, cold cereal with Grandpa in the morning, the drive to Janich Lane in Big Goose, and classic Main Street under the too-close, too-hot Wyoming sun.

But what would Sheridan be without its rodeo? I've never been too excited about the sport, at least not until Lane's passion sparked my own. Rather than the sad, roping of calves necks that I usually see, this time I was able to interpret the timed events as a dying game made up of dying skills that grew out of real-life ranching. I lost all interest in the eight seconds of brainless fame that mark the bareback, roughstock events--if this is where the modern cowboy is headed, America is in trouble.

Perhaps the best part of the Sheridan, Wyo Rodeo are the Indian Relays (pronounced "really") in which some young, barely-clothed Crow or Sioux Indian risks his life to win a cash purse of $15,000. The young Brave hops on a barely-broken horse at the gunshot beginning, and proceeds to run the entire length of the outside arena before coming back to center court. Once there, he leaps off that horse for another. Mind you, there is no saddle, only a bridle and many of these youngsters don't make the daring jump from horse to ground, and ground to horse. I can't believe this stuff is legal. Here's a favorite shot. Check out the ensemble.

And then there's the classic home-spun Rodeo parade down Main Street, which features a classic high school marching band; a guy with long, blonde hair dancing around in cavalry regalia; the elderly Elk Club members doing figure eights in go-carts; the also elderly Shriners Club band playing middle-eastern music--their float trailed by llamas and an exotic camel; and my favorite, float upon float boasting Sheridan's recently awarded title of "The No. 1 Western Town in America." It truly is, down to the land we stole from the Indians and my very own great-great-grandparents who were allowed to settle there in the Indians' stead.

The Crow Indians always win for their costuming. It's pretty awesome. The female costume is adorned with row after row of elk teeth. From far away they look like shells.

The "crazy" cavalryman who for some reason reminded me of Custer.

Check out the original J.C. Penney sign behind this WWII Vets car.

My favorite float: Homemade cowboy with pointer finger to heaven: "No. 1 Western Town"--right in front of Dan's Western Wear, a Main Street classic.


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james said...

that town seems really cool. for some reason, i really want to live in a small town. great story and pictures guys.