Monday, February 13, 2006

February 11, 2006
I rode in the Wickenburg Gold Rush Days parade this morning. The Sons of the San Joaquin were the parade grand marshals, and I rode in a second wagon hitched behind theirs. Just before we took off, one of the band members, Rich O’Brien, gave me this gem: "Dallas is to Fort Worth as Pat Boone is to Miles Davis." We were talking about Western towns losing their soul, like Scottsdale, who used to have a good-natured competition with Wickenburg over which berg was the most Western (Scottsdale’s claim, "The West’s Most Western Town" seems like a bad joke today). Wickenburg, on the other hand still has it. They are not afraid to wear their Western heritage on their sleeve. As we lumbered down the street and the crowds waved enthusiastically, I wondered where my hometown of Kingman lost it. Is it the subdivisions? Or the developers, who seem to circle a town like Apaches around some wayward wagon train? Whatever it is, it’s spreading, and the true Western heritage that’s still seen in towns like Sheridan and Wickenburg is getting more scarce as the days go by. I think the part I hate the most is the homogenization of everything. As I drive through Snottsdale today, with the wall to wall franchises and cookie cutter strip malls, it could be Burbank, or Dallas, or Cleveland. We are losing our regional and local feel on everything. As the wagon made the turn on Yavapai, I made a vow that this is a fight we are going to take up: saving our Western Heritage. I’m not going to be preachy or picky, but dammit, save something!

When the parade got to the downtown area, with the crowds banked ten deep along the sidewalk, the cheering increased, and the big draft horses pulling our wagons, stepped lively, their ears tweaking back and forth. A marching band behind us started hitting the high notes and I fought the urge to do my dance. I ultimately decided to act restrained for once and not steal thunder from the Sons. I was glad I did, this was their day, not mine. I was just proud to be in the dang thing.

After the parade, I walked downtown and went into Johnson’s Dry Goods Store and announced, "I’ve been driving by here for 50 years and I thought it’s about time I stop in and buy something." The owner looked at me like I was nuts (or from Kingman), but the clerk said, "I miss you on the radio," so I imagine the owner got an earful when I left the store with my $28 Western shirt.

At noon I drove out to the Everett Bowman Rodeo Grounds on Constellation Drive and set up shop next to a horse trailer and did sketches (19) for an hour and a half, then went up into the announcer’s booth and met the head hotdog, Shane Burris, and he introduced me to the crowd and I did a True West Moment. Here’s the copy

Endurance of the Horse
Paul Boord of Point Marion, Pennsylvania wonders about the endurance of the horses in the Old West. Paul wants to know “how far could a horse and rider travel in a day and, more importantly, how long could a horse run full out. In the movies they seem to go on for miles and miles.”

I contacted longtime horse trainer and Cave Creek cowboy, Floyd Brooks and he told me a horse in good shape can run full out for about two and a half miles, but if you push them much farther they’ll tie up (that’s cowboy for “get a Charlie Horse”).

On the other hand, Floyd tells me, if you know how to pace a horse, you can stretch that distance by trotting and loping, with short bursts in between. Floyd says a horse will regain its air as it trots. It will pick up more oxygen and regenerate itself. Riders with good horses, using this technique, have been known to cover 50 miles, or more, in a day. To give you an idea of that distance, that’s all the way from here to Phoenix. Never mind that a cowboy on a horse could not survive beyond Bell Road.

Floyd also told me that the idea of a cowboy busting out of a saloon and jumping on his horse and galloping off at a dead run is one of the biggest myths in Hollywood. “You have to warm em’ up like any athlete,” he told me. “We move ‘em around, flex their rib cage, get ‘em warmed up. It looks good in the movies, but you do that to one of our horses and he’ll probably buck you off pronto.”

Remember—in the movies the horses get to rest between takes.

I’m Bob Boze Bell and this has been a True West Moment.

Took off for home at two, after a very fun and successful time Out Wickenburg Way.

Favorite Onion Headline de Jour
Political Cartoon Even More Boring and Confusing Than Issue

New poll question:
Do you think drug dealing was more prevalent on the frontier than it is in the West today? Vote here.

“"The real voyage of discovery consists not in making new landscapes but in having new eyes."
—Old Vaquero Saying

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