I started this job at the beginning of October last fall. The Pendleton Round-Up was just far enough in the rearview mirror that this town had shaken off its rodeo hangover (mostly) and returned to normal (again, mostly).
So it took a full year for me to finally see cattle and cowboys on the grass of the Round-Up Arena instead of high school Buckaroos.
“Just wait ’til Round-Up,” they would say — they being every person I talked to in the greater P-Town area.
So now that it’s wrapped — all four days in the big house and two more of Happy Canyon PBR — I’ve come back to you all with a conclusion. I’ve boiled it all down into one word from the hours of interviews, notes, sights and smells that have attacked me this week.
OK, so that’s more of a primal sound, a sigh of apathetic agreement if you will.
But before you call on the Pony Express (this is the Ol’ West right?) and prepare the hate mail, let me finish. I grew up in Montana, Great Falls to be exact, the home of the Montana State Fair.
And that’s really what Round-Up felt like to me, one giant fair, and nothing I hadn’t seen before. There were cowboys, skantily clad ladyfolk and drunks upon drunks upon some randoms that looked like carnies.
So really we can chalk that one up to unrealistic expectations. Folks had described this event as a near second-coming type thing, a religious experience like seeing Jesus in a cowboy hat.
Which may be true if you’ve gorged yourself on enough fry bread and Let ’er Buck Room wares, I suppose.
As for the rodeo itself, it’s big, it’s loud and it’s often. I can appreciate that, what it takes to organize an event of this size with so many volunteers. They probably had the only job this week busier and more hectic than I did in covering the Round-Up — honorable mention goes to any bartender in town.
I mean seriously, I’m exhausted.
One final thought on cowboy boots. If you go from sneakers 360 days of the year to those bad boys like I did, there’s going to be consequences. I borrowed a pair from my old man, left over from his ranching days near Rocker, Mont., and they did a number on me.
The only things worse looking than the soles of those boots all covered in cow waste and tobacco spit, are the soles of my feet. Blisters on top of blisters (yeah, it’s possible) only overshadowed by mangled toes.
My feet look like a FEMA cleanup site left unattended.
Most importantly, now that the Round-Up monster is back into hibernation I can finally attend to the mountain of laundry and dishes I’ve neglected. Then I’ll try to sleep until October. It should be a little easier since Crabby’s isn’t pillaging the nights’ innocence quite so loudly anymore.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839.