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Melting Pot

Down in the arena it seemed the same as always – hooves and chaps and hats pulled down hard against the force of the bucking. The Memorial Day Rodeo was in full swing and riders settled into their saddles the same way it's been done for decades.

On the terraced hill holding the spectators it was another story – shorts and sandals and iPhones and concern about the animals' welfare.

As a local pre-schooler was flung head first into the dirt from the back of a running sheep an urban mother nearby in the crowd gasped and shook her head. I could see her point, particularly since her young one was nestled into a car/carry seat that looked like it could withstand a mach one ejection.

As I thought about the contrast the world went wavy for a moment, like in the movies when the hero is about to have a profound vision. When it cleared I was watching someone in front of a suburban Seattle school board proposing, in earnest, that Mutton Bustin' be added to the first-grade sports roster.

"Every sport carries injury risk", explained the Carhartt-clad parent to a board member whose mouth was hanging open. "But these youngsters are a lot tougher than we give them credit for. Or at least they could be. Muscle coordination, focus, learning to rise up in the face of painful, humiliating defeat – these are important developmental elements for our kids. And we can easily make room in the schedule by combining first and second grade lacrosse."

The board sat silently, trying to decide whether or not to call security.

Back in the real world another ranch family grade-schooler was being lowered onto the back of a wild-eyed calf.

A second wavy moment. (It could be my new glasses)

"Our next rider", said the announcer in his infectious full-western drawl, "is Reginald Van Buren. Originally from Brookville, New York, Reginald carries degrees in microbiology and evolutionary kinetics. He's new to the rodeo circuit so let's give him a big hand as he nods that he's ready and OH MY GOODNESS GRACIOUS! UNBELIEVABLE! His ride lasted – let me check – 0.6 SECONDS! That, my friends, could be a NEW WORLD RECORD!"

Wavy world again. (Maybe my meds?)

Now it was just a mix. Barrel racers riding English. Bull riders in Crocs and Patagonia microfleece. Rodeo clowns clad with hydration packs. And below me in the crowd a ten gallon hat sporting a North Face label.

"Stroke?", I nervously asked myself, and closed my eyes. Then I heard the deep, slow voice of Sam Elliott saying, "Why don't you just enjoy the rodeo, pardner."

It was too late. I was off and running in the world of "what if", conjuring up more Methow Melting Pot ideas like:

  • Mountain bike calf roping (do you stay on or bail if the calf is stronger than the brakes?).
  • Prius pickups (with optional lifelike diesel engine sound).
  • Shimano splitting mauls (starting at $424.95).
  • Filson bike helmets (the natural protection of leather and fleece)
  • Biathlogging (ski and fell your way to victory)

It could be a whole new identity for our valley – something besides the same old spectacular scenery, vibrant community and healthy living stuff. Want to ride horseback in your Tour de France togs or wear a belt buckle the size of a hubcap with your ExOfficio shorts? Go right ahead – in the Methow you are only limited by your imagination (and the Shoreline Management Act).


This time Sam Elliott actually appeared, but only long enough to re-make the point by squinting and raising one end of his thick handlebar mustache.

Okay, so maybe Seattle's Lakeside School will never have a steer wrestling team and the Methow will never host a cross country "run-with-the-heifers" roundup. But glancing back and forth between the arena and hillside I still had to wonder why the boundaries exist.

The crowd hushed as a cowboy took a nasty spill off an angry saddle bronc and lay motionless in the dry dirt. The rider's spurs glinted in the sun and his chaps were splayed out like a dead bird's wings. As I waited I pictured him wearing Birkenstocks, lycra shorts and a Capilene crew neck instead of his Wrangler and Resistol uniform. Try as I might, it just flat didn't work.

So, I loosened the laces on my Merrill Moab Ventilators and laid back in the coarse grass to enjoy the rest of the rodeo. But I still think this Methow Melting Pot idea could work – not to mention how much fun it could be – because, you know what? - I'm pretty sure I read on the internet (the fountain of truth) that someone is now making an electric hybrid log truck.


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