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Monday, 11 July 2011

No blog entry yesterday, and I am laying the blame squarely at the door of our old friends US Cellular. After a twenty-minute conversation with them on a borrowed phone when I was supposed to be watching the parade in Chadron, they convinced me that normal service had been resumed. It hadn’t. And so I received a series of texts from my family, all wondering why they couldn’t phone me. Over the subsequent twenty-four hours I wasted rather too much mental energy devising ways of bringing down death and destruction on a monolithic corporation. I now find that back here at the red house – or rather on the hill half a mile away –there is service. But by the time that came to light everyone back home was in bed. Fortunately I had stopped in Gordon on the way home and bought a huge bag of very ripe and very sweet cherries with which to celebrate my 62nd.
Well, corporations rise and fall, but I will always have my memories of an excellent  weekend at Chadron enjoying the company of Jeannie, her family, and her many friends.

I particularly enjoyed chatting with this fellow, Jerry Kennedy, a delightful guitarist and singer who earns his living as a brand inspector, a job he’s been doing for thirty-five years. When any cattle are taken to the saleroom, or to an abattoir, or moved from ranch to ranch, they must be inspected to ensure that they carry the owner’s registered brand. The owner pays 75 cents per animal, and that income pays the wages of the eighty inspectors in the western part of the state. In busy times Jerry will put in a 60, 70 or even 80-hour week, balanced against times like this when there is little movement and he maybe only works 20 hours. I may bump into him on Tuesday at the auction in Gordon, probably in the line for free grub. Just hope he doesn’t get in my way.

Among the pleasures of spending two nights in town was having the chance to have a chin-wag with Ed Hughes (Poe Ballantyne). The fact is that when you’re a specialist there are times when you really do hunger for the chance to talk to another specialist. There’s so little that you have to explain. I raised the subject of this blog and my concern that some people are struggling to read it, what with me banging out… well, this posting brings it past the 80,000 word mark. His response was that I maybe wasn’t doing it for them, that I was recording a lot of material on which I would later draw for whatever I wrote when I came to look back at this six-month period. In a way I knew that, but it was helpful to be reminded of it. He went on to talk of the Marx Brothers, who used their vaudeville days to put on and refine all kinds of material, and were later able to draw on the very best of it when they made their movies. It was a good point, well made.

After loading up with another huge platter of Mexican food at Angela’s Eatery – the place I always go to when I’m seriously hungry - I spent a part of the afternoon east of town at the black powder camp. The people out there take what they do pretty seriously, trying to dress as authentic representatives of their particular period, to use the right equipment and even put up tents or shelters that reflect the times they celebrate. They had a beautiful spot to camp, a shallow canyon about eight miles south of Hwy 20.

I was particular impressed by a rancher from out this way who was cooking over a small rectangular pit. He had a grill that was hinged so that it could be raised clear while he built his fire and let it reduce to hot coals. I have to say that to this inveterate builder of fires it was a thing of beauty.

At the far end of the canyon the muzzle-loaders were lining up for target shooting – and I unwittingly missed a great opportunity.

It was yesterday morning, over coffee, that Tom, who had been out there with the piece he had built himself, casually said to me, ‘You should’ve come and found me; I would’ve let you shoot.’

Saturday evening was rather like Friday. Same band, some of the same songs, but a much larger crowd. I think a lot of people were doing the rounds, dropping in on one gig after another. I found three other outdoor performances on my short tour of town as the sun went down, all well attended. There was a real festival atmosphere. But despite 80 to 100 people crowding into our yard there remained this air of intimacy. I was especially pleased when the singer, whose name I never quite caught, came up to me and said, ‘You’re from England, right?’ I told her I was. ‘Go on,’ she said, ‘Say “bloody hell!”’

What’s a gentleman to do? I uttered the killer line in my best Cockney accent, and she duly folded up. I suspect it has something to do with a TV show, or movie.

I really felt a bit sorry for myself this morning, and was reluctant to leave. I’d met some great people, heard some excellent music and before I left received a card from Jeannie – who invited me to come back in early August for the festivities that spill over from the Sturges bike rally. I don’t seriously imagine I’ll able to resist.

Now that I’m starting to write seriously, and despite that conversation with Ed, I may indeed soft-pedal on this. I can’t predict how it’ll pan out. Maybe fewer entries, maybe shorter ones. We shall see. I can see problems, because somehow more and more stuff seems to keep happening.

Right now, though, I’m going to sit outside and watch the sun go down, which means I have to light a fire to discourage the mosquitoes.

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