Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Insanity That is Rodeo

"Were they born mentally challenged or did the men's extreme psychological shortcomings take place as a result of this sport?" I wondered as I watched the cowboys prepare for, then suffer, abuse after abuse?

I'm not a big rodeo fan. Okay, I'll be honest - I'd never been to a rodeo before in my life - but I've always been drawn to cowboy images. You know the ones - whips, spurs, chaps, cute butts……. There's something seductive about the life of a cowboy; a man living and working so close to the land. A man in love with his horse, hanging with those cute cuddly looking cows all the time…….

So, I figured going to a rodeo was about as close as I was going to get to a cattle-drive on an open Montana range.

The local paper arranged a press pass so I could get behind the scenes, and I spent 3 hours watching men preparing for what was to come. They wrapped their arms in tape, they explained, to give their arms support and to keep their muscles from being ripped off their bones when they were on the horse. (Ouch!) They strapped on chaps, donned padded vests, and tied a donut-like device around their necks to try to avoid whiplash.

I could see this was going to get really ugly. A few of the men seemed to be spending an inordinate amount of time in prayer, and one sad-looking young cowboy, glancing towards an angry bucking horse in a narrow metal pen, was getting a jump on the pain by digging into a prescription drug bottle.

And these guys were just riding ticked off ponies. The men taking rides on bulls (and these bulls had some real unaddressed childhood issues which was now coming out in major rage, I assure you) - were strapping metal cages to their heads!

So, this is the romance behind the rodeo cowboys….. behind the men who week after week crawl up on animals that take no delight in having 180 pounds of human on their backs in 110 degree temperatures. I can't say I blame the animals for being enraged and working like hell to toss the pests from their backs.

But I'd still love to see the IQ scores of the men before they took up this hobby and then again after they'd been doing it for a year.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Jail Time, Anyone?

"Say," I commented to the group of women seated around the tables, "let's go picket! Maybe we could throw ourselves in front of some big equipment. Since the police department is just next door, I bet they'd come over and take us off to the pokey! Lori, would you deliver pie to the jail if we all got tossed in the clink?"

Lori was up for making a jail-house delivery for a good cause, but still the mostly gray haired ladies at the table nodded with a bit of - well, reluctance. I wasn't sure if the nods signified an agreement to my comments or if it was a way of signaling each other "Karyn seems to have lost it. Don't antagonize her….."

"We've got the local newspaper editor here - she could get us coverage," I continued. "We'd really get some attention if the entire Thursday Pie Day group went to jail for the cause." (Besides, I'm thinking, most of us are well into our retirement years or getting close. Grandmothers, great-grandmothers - women with a mission! It would play well to the media. I was liking this idea better all the time.)

The cause, of course, was the destruction of the little 100 year old brick building that was being torn down to benefit one of the churches in town. Seemed that most everyone had a lump in their throat over the sacrificing of this little building, but the dismantling continued piece by piece.

My friend, Pat, was psychologically, if not physically, trying to move from my side to the other end of the table. As the only Methodist in the group, it was her church that was gaining a breezeway over the murder of the small defenseless building. While I didn't blame her - she didn't even know about the issue until walking into our Thursday noon Pie Day gathering - she still felt a bit on the spot over my rantings and the concerns being expressed by others at the table. But, I knew she could shoulder it. She was, after all, an open Democrat in an extremely Republican state.

In the end, the women headed for home; my attempts at organizing a vigilante picketing group having met the same fate as the small building. It was just me playing to a conservative audience, and truth be told, we probably couldn't have stopped the destruction of the little building anyway.

Though, had I gone out and laid down in front of the trucks and sledgehammers and managed to get a night or two in jail - I did have a couple women offer to bring me a home cooked meal. If only they could have snuck in Arayo, too.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Watching My Hometown Die

The little brick building is simple but has a special kind of character. Set on a corner at the edge of our downtown district, it has housed various small companies through the years. The smell of baking goodies has filtered through its cracks when it held bakeries. People insured their homes and families within its walls. Originally, it was the office for a lumber yard, and at one time, if memory serves, it may have been home to a phone company. Or maybe not. The walls hold tight some of the secrets of its past.

This town was once beautiful, with old brick buildings lining its main streets, and stately homes gracing her neighborhoods. It used to be a town that people were proud to call home.

But, slowly it has lost its charm. Sheet metal covers many of the downtown building facades, and when you start to look closely, you notice that the roofs of many of the stores have simply caved in from neglect. Business signs are tattered. If a town could speak, you would hear it whispering, "what happened? Why does no one care any more?"

"What is to become of this town?" I ask person after person in power and in the know. "In five more years, there will be no town left to preserve. What of the buildings that are falling in?"

"We'll probably wait a while, then knock 'em over," is the standard reply.

My heart skips a beat. While I haven't lived here for years, this is still home and every time I return to see a little bit more of it covered in metal or caving in - - every time I talk to someone who can't see beyond the end of a bulldozer, a piece of me dies.

We live in a throw-away society. I know that. Not being much of a consumer myself, I don't understand it, but I know that it is true. Everything Americans buy is made to quickly be outdated and no longer of use, or replaced by something bigger and better. So, the bulk of our society revolves around our need to consume, and consume some more.

But, when this town is gone, when its history is knocked over "just because it is easier than preserving it" - then what? People bemoan the fact that "things aren't like they used to be!" "No one wants to live in a small Kansas town anymore," people say. But, I have to ask, "What is the draw? A town is judged first by what people see when they drive into it. Who wants to stop and stay in a tin-can town? If what people see sends the message that no one cares anymore, then why would someone stop for a cup of coffee, a burger? Why would someone look at starting a business here, or buying a home for their family?"

My parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, all rest at the local cemetery. And, even there, what was once a charming place to rest for eternity is now marred by the erection of a metal building. The long history of Carpenters in this town ends with the passing of my mom, but for a while I thought I might take up the mantle, try to inject some life into the town. I think outside the box, perhaps I could make a contribution towards saving this place. But, these are foolish thoughts.

And today that spark died in me. As I photographed the charming little brick building in its last moments, a man saw me and asked how I was doing. I told him I was shocked and saddened because the little building was being destroyed. "Oh, that!" he chuckled, "we want the bricks for the church!" he said, and off he went - a happy look on his face. A piece of our history will be gone, but the church will have its new covered breezeway, or whatever…..

As I drive away from the senseless destruction of another piece of history, there is a catch in my throat. A tear slips down my face…………