Is it day yet?

In Here at DFW early (5:00 a.m.) after a shared ride with two classmates from HAS to the airport. Everyone was early, so we pushed off a little early as I guess we all are twitchy to make our connections to send us back to the country (New Hampshire, Ithaca and north of Burlington, VT). This is a beautiful airport with clear signage, a link service and plenty of coffee shops (not open to my chagrin), They have this wonderful vending machine of stuff you really want from ipods, Bose headsets, battery chargers, ancillary computer batteries, personal dvd players. It is a true splurge machine. Only downside is if you don’t have the itunes thing going on your computer, the only good of buying an ipod at the airport is that you flaked on a birthday, and a new nano or shuffle would fit the bill. Did I mention that I wish there was coffee?

It was a late night yesterday with our visit to the Fort Worth Stockyard Rodeo. It felt less like something produced, but more like the truck racing or my favorite, the demolition derby we have in Tburg. Admission was $20 a head and we were admitted to a hundred year old building (which they proudly announced many times last night), with nice woodwork and a sprung ceiling, the ring with combed dirt—all in darkness. The only light was on a tractor with a device similar to what we use to smooth out the baseball fields at our home games. But there it was, all in it’s glory, the brilliant blue tractor, the zamboni of the rodeo world. We found our orange seats and were told by Murray, that we were free to wander. I am kind of kicking myself with the choice of camera. The toy, point and shoot, that really works in the available light environment needed to have a much, much faster shutter speed to get the right pictures—but my plan was to work with other stuff for the project other than a close-in rodeo depiction. The light levels even when they pumped them up, were abysmal. And so we waited until just about 8 for the antics to begin.

First off, all the cowboys and girls seem very young, very lanky, --essentially a co-ed sport like cross-country running. I expected to see A and his compadres just around the corner as these cowboys were hanging out in the same way. The horses were wonderful. I had forgotten the wonder of the working horse—and how these noble beasts who had sculpted bodies with bumps and valleys describing bulging muscles much like Barry Bonds. I loved how they backed up, siddled and really were in tune with their riders—attesting to the strength and skill of the riders (all of it being so cool in the saddle—no juking, no nervousness, as natural as walking-- it was all so subtlely in the legs) and the sensitivity of the animals dancing with their riders—leaning into the sport of either speed (with the flopping barrel racing gals) or pulling back with the calf/ cow roping. I just have to face it, I love horses—(not enough to own one, but certainly to admire them). There were some real honeys there—palaminos and this paint with a white braided mane (with the perfect neck and proportions) I could have cried. Compared to the massive horses K rides (which I adore too…so much so that for a birthday, Amanda and a friend rode the biggest horses at the Cornerhaven Farm over to the Camp House to wish me an equine birthday!), these small, smart horses are toylike, but amazing iin their true partnershp with their riders. As you could gather, I loved the horse event just for the opportunity to watch these excellent riders working with their horses.

The bull riding was more about the prep. The cowboy (who Jim O’Brien properly pointed out now wear hockey helmets) is lowered or gently engaged on the beast with his buddies above him—helping, holding, supporting—to get him ready for the moment. Once the gate is opened, often it is within seconds that the cowboy has been dumped and the thrill is to watch him try and not get either gored or trodden on by this energetic bull who, to be honest, just wants to get out of there. And then, the mother thing happens and I want to crawl under my seat for the Roman empire moment of watching this person who WANTS to be there, get battered by a bull. My great, great grandfather, John Appleton (a member of one of the two civil war “Glory” regiments from Boston, Harvard graduate who was assigned to watch over Jeff Davis as he was a “gentleman; settled in Greenbriar County WVa after the war was over and ran a hotel/spring until he met his maker by being gored by a bull). What horrors. And people love it and laugh. It could be your kid, husband or brother. I don’t get it…but I am a northern wimp. So, what do I know? Maybe a tolerant thing to say might be “pursue your bliss”. However, how is it that someone decides that this (bull riding) is the extreme sport they must engage in? Or is it a point of pride for a family? Or are they all greek and they have been bull dancers in their families? What is the motivation? What is success? Where’s the fun?

The rodeo clowns were okay…but I loved their makeup…kabuki like. There might be a picture in that.

There were two kid events which were very cute and very funny. Gerry (with a G) Hampton turned to me and proclaimed it the best of the whole rodeo, describing it as “an easter egg hunt gone wild”—He nailed it. First one was for kids 12 and under. They pumped up the music (bizarrely, the tune “YMCA” by the Village People, which I am always stunned that this is “fun music for families”—but who am I?) and all the kids came into the ring and formed a line with half the kids facing one way, and half the other). At the proper moment—a little calf is let into the ring and the kids start running for the beast. They ran and ran, trying to get a ribbon off the back to be the winner. All these little people, tiny cowboy hats, boots and bandanas scrambling for the little cow, the being who had my sympathies in this exchange. The crowd loved it. Then a little later, a smaller set of kids ( I think it was 6 or 7 and younger)—same line-up only running after a mother sheep and her fleecy white baby lamb. The sheep almost won this one except they kept the gates closed (not fair in my book). Again. More hysteria from the crowd with the camera flashes popping like Christmas lights.

The rodeo was local culture. It was pretty much hokey pokey, but this is what I am used to and like. No polish, all edges. Families and bakesales—everyone there for the fun of being there. It would be cool to see a really “professional” rodeo—a more NASCAR event (as the advertisers are car, tractor, boots, and agricultural equipment)—but as we were in Cowtown, it seemed like the right thing to do.

It was bittersweet saying goodbye to my hosts, Doug Anderson and my new colleagues at Hartford. I am heartened by their spirit, intelligence and unbelievable talent/abilities and am looking forward to my two weeks in July with the edge that I have a peek under the tent insofar as the people, expectations and a new slant at my work. It is welcome work and I feel that I have a place within this group and can contribute. I will only get as much from the program as I put in—so work lies ahead.

I just got to Philadelphia. Slept the whole way—I hope not with my mouth open…but it was one of those blackout sleeps that you really cannot comport yourself the way you would like. Coffee has been drunk. And I am sitting on a radiator as the quest for a place to plug in manifested itself in my perching on a radiator with my bags all around me like a street person. I missed a bit on Gary Myrick so I will give you a brief next.