Posted 5/16/12 (Wed)
The third weekend in May brings the Preakness. The second leg of horse racings’ Triple Crown and it also brings the bucking horse sale. So come this weekend, Shirley and I are heading west. I have to recover from the Derby. I think I bet on every horse except the winner.
If you live on the northern plains, you’ve probably been through, or in Miles City. To ranchers and cowboys and rodeo guys in the spring, Miles City is the Mecca of the North.
The “World Famous Miles City Bucking Horse Sale” is held every year in May. Has been for over 50 years. And it brings out people from all over. Our family has been involved in the bucking horse business since the ’60s, so I haven’t missed it often.
We weren’t always a kinder, gentler nation. I remember years ago when the streets were roped off for drinking and dancing. The local law enforcement would be busy all night breaking up fights between sheepherders and cowboys and Indians and soldiers and girl fights and everything. It was the real wild, wild west.
It’s changed some, but not a lot. Or maybe it is just that I am a lot older.
There is a local bar that is the headquarters for cowboys. The Bison. If you are looking for a rancher friend you haven’t seen for a year or two, you go to the Bison. If you are looking to meet a hunting guide who used to live in the Dakotas, you go to the Bison. If you need to cash a check, leave a message, or drop off a package, you go to the Bison. It is also the best poker game in town.
After the parade comes down Main Street on Saturday morning, the Bison fills up. Earlier in the week, they have removed all the tables and chairs. It is standing room only. Shoulder to shoulder. People are hollering greetings to newcomers. Hands are shaken, backs slapped, and it is a great time. The Drum and Bugle Corps marches through and General Custer stands on the bar and directs the band. A Scottish band of bagpipes marches through and plays a few songs. There are cheers and beers all around.
A late friend of mine, Casper, used to run the poker game at the Bison. He was a big man. Professional steer wrestler. And a man who probably could have played professional football if he hadn’t been a cowboy. Years ago, I saw him take his boots off and race a track star down Main Street in Miles. And Casper won. He was about six-five and 300 pounds and could run like a deer.
A few years ago, I was standing by the poker table waiting for someone to leave the game, because I was next on the list to play. While I was waiting a lady came by selling roses. You know me. The hopeless romantic. Well, not really. But Casper bought a rose for my wife.
A couple of minutes later, a friend of Shirley’s looks in the door and waves at her to come visit. So, Shirley hands me her rose and her purse to hold while she walks out on the street to visit.
Now picture this, a 250-pound plus man, standing in the Bison on bucking horse sale day, holding a rose and a huge ladies purse. Picture a steady stream of young cowboys walking in and out of the Bison, walking right past this guy.
In the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, or ’90s, it would have created the biggest street fight since The Little Big Horn. Well, actually, that wasn’t a street fight. Anyway, it would have created a stir, and being older and wiser, I wasn’t relishing this idea like I would have decades ago.
Shirley came back in about 15 minutes. She saw me standing there, with a tear in the corner of my eye. She thought I had been hurt. I had to explain how, now instead of getting in a fight, guys would just walk by and shake their head in sympathy for “that old man standing there with a rose and a purse.”
And in retrospect, being old is a lot easier than being young in Miles was!