Flashy Weekend Ahead

Monte Vista’s big extravaganza is this weekend — Ski (sky) Hi Stampede which includes Colorado’s oldest pro-rodeo. I don’t think I’ll be partaking this year even though I love the rodeo. It’s a handful of pro-rodeo cowboys (more pro-rodeo cowboys pay the entry fee than actually show up) and a slew of amateurs. Some people regard rodeo as man vs. farm animal, but I don’t see it that way. Anyway, even from that perspective, at the Stampede rodeo, the animals win.

My favorite event is the calf-roping. I love watching the horses work, and sometimes they seem smarter than the cowboys they’re working with. To learn more about this wonderful event, you can read about it here, a post from yesteryear, Ski Hi Stampede Rodeo. Yesterday, I had to take Bear to the vet and saw a sign, “Closed Saturday for the Stampede Rodeo” and it occurred to me that they would be working. I don’t know why it never occurred to me but someone needs to be on hand for injured animals.

In the last few weeks various school bands have been practicing marching and playing at the same time and learning the route. I love that. Since I am a block away from the end of the parade AND two blocks from the high school, I get to enjoy all of that. The extravaganza includes a parade, rodeo, concert, dance and carnival. The carnival is the old-school carnival with the short scary rides and the scary-to-8-year-olds haunted house.

The story around here is that summer in Monte Vista lasts one day — July 27th (or whatever day Stampede lands on). That would mean every small town in the San Luis Valley gets its day of summer on the day of its big summer “do” because each town has its day. Saguache has its Hollyhock Festival at the same time as our Stampede so there is sometimes a little serendipity in the concurrence of summer in two towns at once.

P.S. The photo is a trick rider on two horses about to jump over fire.


Ski Hi Stampede Rodeo

I LOVE a good rodeo and today I watched a good rodeo.

One thing that made it wonderful is that this is a small town and each event had two levels; one the pro level followed by the San Luis Valley level. This isn’t the Calgary Stampede or Cheyenne Frontier Days or the Denver Stock Show. This is where cowboys ride for prize money and to, hopefully, get into one of those big rodeos. Most of the cowboys didn’t even make time. Most of the steers got away without being wrestled. Most of the calves ran off wondering, “What was THAT all about?”

Three of the bronc riders who’d paid and said they were coming didn’t show — didn’t even call (something that is honestly not that easy to do in the San Luis Valley with cell service iffy in many places) — so in the middle of the bronc riding they took a break and three beautiful horses got to run around the arena for no particular reason except to been seen by the audience. The bronc rider who won (a decent amount of money) happened to be one of the three who showed up and the only one who made time.

There was junior bronc riding, too. Little kids on strapped up small horses. It was actually pretty awesome to watch four or five fearless little boys. The boy who won was interviewed by the announcer who said, “How old are you?”


“How long you been riding?”

“Oh, a few months.” But the announcer’s horse kept stepping on the little guys over-sized chaps so it was a strange interview with the interviewee just trying to get safe.

There was sheep riding. Three little kids competed for a trophy and a little girl won. The sheep were hilarious. The minute they came out of the chute, they just put their heads down and the kid slid over. Then the sheep all huddled together discussing what had just happened to them. They happened to do this in front of a “Ram” sign. There were kid clowns, too, to “save” the sheep boys and girls from getting hurt. A little girl about 7 won the trophy.

My favorite events are the team calf roping, calf roping and steer wrestling. I love to see the way a horse who knows his/her job works to help out the cowboy. There were a couple of horses who seemed new the whole thing and were no help at all, but there were also horses who knew their jobs better than their human partner(s) did. It’s a beautiful thing when it works.

There was a trick rider — a gorgeous young woman all glittery (so were her horses) who stood on two horses and rode through fire and around fire and showed the relationship that can exist between a rider and horses.

That relationship is very obvious in barrel racing which is usually an all girl event — but today I saw a young man barrel racing. I also saw a lot of young women in the team calf roping. There were also a couple of women working as pick up riders in the calf roping events.

The rodeo ended with bull riding — no one made time and the bulls were beautiful and glad to get out of there.

The only completely strange thing — and I don’t know if it was a lack of consciousness on the part of the announcer or something else — but the announcer said some words at the beginning about how we live in a great country that has freedom of religion, where people can worship any god they want. He explained how in some countries that isn’t the case. He followed this with a prayer that began with John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the light and none shall come to Father except through me” which pretty much contradicted his religious freedom speech.

The president who was mentioned was Ronald Reagan, and they played a video of a speech he had given. That was tremendously informative to me about the place where I live. Then a young man sang the Star Spangled Banner a capella and did not miss a note. I have truly never heard it sung better. (Though I think our national anthem should be “America the Beautiful”)

You might notice in the photos lots of the people are wearing pink. The rodeo proceeds today go to the cancer center at the local hospital — something that is relatively new to our valley. If you consider that the San Luis Valley is an area as big as Connecticut and that before that cancer center was built people had to go at least 3 hours by car over a pass to get to a hospital with those services, you’ll know how much it means. Out here the pink shirts are for ALL types of cancer. At the end of the rodeo they released pink balloons in honor of people who have died of cancer. It was a tiny balloon release, bringing home to me how small and vulnerable our population is. I almost lost a friend last year – but didn’t, and I’m grateful because if that had happened, I would not have gotten to know her better, and it would have been a loss for me — not to mention to her family, her clients, her then boyfriend now husband. But we have a hospital and it now has a place where cancers can be diagnosed and treated. That’s a big thing in a rural area like this.

Anyway, I didn’t take my fancy camera because it’s cumbersome, so these are all phone pics. And one film.

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We’ve had R-A-I-N, LOTS of rain, and it began its seasonal falling almost IMMEDIATELY after the new garage roof and door were installed. Last evening it rained for HOURS, beginning with a hardcore gully-washer mixed with hail.

I’m not a fan of rain. In fact, I hate it. Four months of it — nearly non-stop — in the People’s Republic of China in ’82/83 cured me of any romantic associations I might have made with rain through poetry and little contact with it. For my town right now it’s a pest.

This is the weekend of the Stampede. Most people have never heard of the Ski (pronounced “sky”) Hi Stampede, but it might be the biggest event in my town — competing only with the Crane Festival. The Stampede is built around the rodeo — the oldest pro-rodeo in Colorado. There are parades on Friday and Saturday (today) and rodeos Friday through Sunday. There’s a big (for us) carnival and tonight there’s a concert and dance.

The end of July is also the beginning of the Great Return — what I call the migration of motorhomes back to Texas from the San Juan Mountains where they’ve spent the summer. The Great Return is usually over before Labor Day and the traffic on my street/US 160 is greatly diminished. This morning the motorhomes will be taking a detour from the highway (my street) down Monte Vista side streets because of the parade. The parade is sweet. It’s slow — there are big gaps between floats and marchers — but it’s great. For the past few weeks the high school band has been practicing in the evenings, marching and playing at the same time.

I hope the pestilential rain holds off today. It’s a big day for my little town and I’m going to the rodeo.