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HAT TIPS

Posted 3/10/10 (Wed)

Hello,

You know that deal about the fog? According to many, rain will come three days or three months after a fog. I tell you what, best start on that ark now, because if that forecast is true, it is going to be the wettest May and June since Noah went sailing. Still wish he’d have left the flies and mosquitoes. But then again, I’m just a simple writer.
I’ve led a charmed life. I’ve been to the oil fields of Alaska and the beaches of Hawaii. Saw the Atlantic and the Pacific. Did a Polka in the Bahamas. Played poker in Connecticut. Golfed in Myrtle Beach and in the mountains outside San Diego. I’ve been to rodeos in more states than I care to remember. Driven truck in Boston, New York, and Winnipeg. And I’ve been and done some things that we just won’t talk about. Most of the time, Shirley did chores.
I’ve always been sorry that I never attended a Broadway play. Oh, I went to the “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” when it played at the civic center in Bismarck. One of my friends asked if I was disappointed when I found out it was a musical. But that’s another story.
But this past weekend, Shirley and I attended a play at Bullock Hall.
Now, many of you less-traveled folk probably have not heard of Bullock Hall. It is centrally located. Centrally located between Marmath, Rhame, Camp Crook, Ladner, and Buffalo, S.D.
It is just off the banks of the Little Missouri River in the middle of ranch country.
The Bullock Hall is a small, wonderful theatre that sits quietly in a country where antelope and jackrabbits far outnumber people. A country where the wind blows freely, sage grows wildly, and the people are as independent as any in the world. Independent and closely knit.
We headed over to the play shrouded in the recent fog. You leaned ahead as you drove, as if that extra six inches would allow you to see any oncoming hazard. Which, in ranch country, could be a horse, cow, or load of hay. You drive with headlights dimmed for a while. Then drive on brights for a while. Then try it with the lights off, and hope you don’t meet anybody as dumb as yourself. I was lucky and didn’t.
At the last instant, you see the sign for Bullock Hall and swing off the winding gravel road. You are greeted with cars and pickups in a ghostly line in the fog. The lights of the hall greet you as you break through the dark, misty night.
Walking toward the hall, you hear music from the Roaring Twenties as the band breaks out in “Ain’t She Sweet.” In the hall, you find ranchers that have been watching heifers 24 hours a day, but take a few hours off to watch a play. You find families that stopped shearing sheep for an evening to watch a grandson or granddaughter in a wonderful play. Polish sausage and popcorn are being munched on as a band from the mid-twenties entertains the crowd with their music and their costumes.
The lights dim and the crowd becomes silent as the stage curtain opens on a set right out of the movies. For the next two and a half hours, this little cast of boys, girls, men, and women keeps you transfixed as they take you back ninety years. A cast and crew that has spent weeks sewing dresses, finding suits, rehearsing lines, all the time making sure the chores were done at home. Making sure the homework was done and the kids got to school on time.
It wasn’t Broadway. You didn’t have to lock your pickup. There was no security posted outside the door. You didn’t need a big checkbook. Popcorn was fifty cents. Oh, they might have missed a line now and then. But they were wonderful! Many could be on Broadway. All but Joe. I think he would get in trouble.
Joe even had to lie to his friends. He left a team roping early, telling the other ropers he had a heifer calving. I understood. How could you tell a bunch of ropers you had to go to play practice? Joe played a gentleman who drank too much and liked girls. He didn’t need any practice!
Maybe it was just me. But it seemed to me that on the drive home, the fog had lifted a little.

Break a leg,
Dean