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Posted 9/16/14 (Tue)


“Let ‘er Buck!”
To folks in the rodeo business, those words mean one thing, the Pendleton Roundup is on!
I’ve been hearing them for years. And if you are a rodeo fan, it’s one of the rodeos on your bucket list. Along with Cheyenne, Calgary, and the Finals. Well, I plan on going to some again, but as of now, I’ve made it to all of them.
No, I know you are figuring that I qualified and competed. Nope. Just dreamed about it. But I was a spectator at all of them at some time over the last 20 years.
Pendleton is probably the hardest to get to. You have to spend a couple days driving, or a miserable day in airports. Airports weren’t built for big fat guys. But when you get into Washington and Oregon and see the Snake River, and the Columbia Gorge, you feel kind of sheepish that you were complaining. Because over 200 years ago, Lewis and Clark drug a boat to the Rockies all the way from St. Louis, then walked over the Rocky Mountains. Those young men were tough. And determined. And they didn’t get to attend the Pendleton Roundup when they were there!
We flew into and stayed in Pasco, Wash. It’s about an hour north of Pendleton. It’s a beautiful city, with much of the development built the last 10 years. If you leave there and head for Walla Walla, you drive by feedlots, cornfields, grape orchards, blueberry fields, asparagus fields, onions, apples…the list goes on and on. You drive by forests that are planted for paper. You can see grain and oil barges filling on the river. You can stop and have a wine tasting experience. Of course, I wouldn’t think of doing something like that.
There are huge, huge fields of recently harvested wheat. They farm hills and hillsides that would make you nervous riding a horse on! If you leave Walla Walla and head to Elgin, you go over the Blue Mountains. Now, they are not like the Rockies, but they are a sight more than the Turtle or Killdeer Mountains! You will see a lumber mill with hundreds of thousands of trees cut and stacked waiting for the saw. You see millions of acres of timber, broken up by broad valleys of farm and ranch land.
Pendleton, the home of the Pendleton wool mill, is a city of about 16,000 people. And they dang sure know how to put on a rodeo. The arena is huge! It is the only rodeo where the events cross a dirt racetrack, and for the most part take part on grass inside the track! I don’t know how many people the grandstands hold, but they dang sure fill up with rodeo fans. From the time that crowd starts the countdown to the Grand Entry; Five, Four, Three… until the last wild cow is milked, they are into this rodeo. They stand and cheer for a great bronc ride. They cheer each barrel racer as if they were a family member. The Indian Relay race, where you see some of the wildest, bravest young men you ever saw brings standing ovations. Bucking horses and pick-up men jump the rail fence around the track.
There are six pick-up men. And they are good ones. In the rough stock events, as quick as one is done, another cowboy nods his head and the gate opens. Three pick-up men are getting one out of the arena, while the next one is bucking. The action is non-stop.
But it was the onions that got Shirley. I guess Walla Walla onions are expensive in North Dakota. At least according to my shopper.
We had a rented car. Every once in awhile, we could come across a spot on the highway where someone had spilled some onions off an overloaded truck. We would have to stop, grab a few onions, throw them in the car and proceed. Then we would find a few potatoes. Then a roadside booth selling carrots. Then asparagus.
The next time you see me, I will be working at the farmer’s market on the north side of town.

Let ‘er Buck,