I've learned a few things since moving out west 30-some years ago.
One is: The desert floor is no place for a picnic. With the only shade coming from a lone cactus or a thin Palo Verde tree, while scorpions and dust devils run around every which way...
A picnic is ruined. Instantly. So much for picnicking in the country.
I also learned (real fast) one summer how to herd cattle up and down ravines on a friend's ranch near Arivaca, Ariz. -- my first time in the saddle.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Merced Sun-Star
I do wear jeans, but don't own a pair of cowboy boots (and don't ever plan to). I've stayed at western-themed camps, where I shot a BB gun, hitting the bulls-eye every time, to help my team win the "cowgirl contest." (I let the REAL cowgirls wrestle the pigs, though.)
I've never cared for country music (or southern gospel, either). While everyone else is hand-clapping and toe-tapping, I'm sitting there wishing it would stop. All that "twang" drives me nuts! I much prefer the Minuet in G Major by Bach. (Please, don't ask me how my two kids ended up liking Rascal Flats! Probably from listening to the Willie Nelson tunes their grandpa sings and plays on his GEEE-tar!)
Yet, over the years, I've also learned to appreciate the hard work and love for the land that most ranchers have. And after talking to many of them, I can see why the spirit of the west lives on.
For those of you who love everything cowboy, in La Grange next weekend, April 5, there's gonna be a rodeo. There'll also be lots of good grub to purchase, along with a wild cow milking contest, and an opportunity for the kiddos to catch a goat (and take it home)!
For those of you who didn't grow up lassoin' doggies, here's a bit of history:
The beginnings of rodeo has been traced back to the 1700s when the Spaniards owned the ranches and the land out west. Those vaqueros influenced our cowboys, who in turn influenced rodeo today.
Ranch duties, such as tie-down roping and bronc riding, became informal competitions between ranch outfits after long cattle drives to the midwest. You know ... cowboys sittin' round the campfires after supper, boastin' 'bout who could stay on a mad bull the longest or tie up a calf with only one hand...
In some places out west, the rodeo is the most anticipated event of the year.
For more information about the La Grange event, please call Paul Ichord at (209) 874-3573 or Neil Casey at (209) 988-7079.
I suppose, after all these years, I can understand (a little bit) how some ladies really do love country boys. I've even learned to like a few Rascal Flats tunes myself. (Amazing what can be done with a fiddle -- I mean, a violin.)
Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.