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Sunday, 21 August 2011

That was an unplanned absence. On Friday I was up on the range, talking on the phone, when a white pick-up came trundling towards me, and stopped fifty yards away. Out leapt a manic golden retriever pup, followed by my neighbour Ken Moreland. He wanted to know (a) was I planning on visiting the Sheridan County Fair rodeo on Saturday, and (b) would I like a ride with him? If so, would I get myself to his place at six next morning.

So I set the alarm for 0430, got up, dressed, grabbed  a flashlight and walked the half mile to the car with thunder rolling around the eastern horizon and large rain drops pitter-pattering around me.

By six I was at Ken’s place, and by seven we were parked in Gordon, standing in line for the Tri-State Cowboys’ breakfast and annual get-together.

I suppose it was a little ambitious to hope for beans, bacon and coffee served from the chuck-wagon, which was all spruced up for the parade along Main Street. While I tucked into biscuits and gravy the head honcho made various announcements, and then read a list of names cowboys who’d ridden into the sunset over the past year. I counted 35, plus 14 cowgirls. They’re a dying generation. There was applause for a centenarian, who stood and took a bow, then Ken got up and read a poem that took a great swipe at Californians who come north to try the cowboy life.

After he’d read he introduced to the crowd some brave soul who’d travelled 5000 miles to be with us in western Nebraska. Yes, take a bow Mister Alan Wilkinson.

The Parade started under leaden skies – for which I was glad, having left my hat at home.

There was the usual succession of fire trucks, ambulances, police cars and other vehicles, plus the marching bands, and in between each one youngsters scampered across the road to pick up the candies.

When it was all over Ken was heard to complain that his float had failed to get a prize. Last year he won $100 for his efforts, payment still awaited. This year nothing. ‘I spent a full half hour over that damned thing,’ he fumed as he downed the first of his lunchtime refreshments in the Italian Inn.

The details of all that followed are only just arrnanging themselves in my memory just now. I remember enjoying a couple Fat Tires over lunch, then taking my leave and agreeing to meet up at the rodeo after I’d spent some time in the library composing the day’s blog. I was thwarted. They’d decided to take the day off. So, back to the bar to see if I could catch up with Ken and his family. Nope: they’d gone. But Jerry the brand inspector was there and it seemed only neighbourly to buy him a beer – and, a little later, to accept one in return. By the time I got to the rodeo ground the sun was out, and I was ready for a nap. I still had ten hours to go.

I’ll try and explain about the sheep, and fill in the rest of the day, tomorrow.

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