Friday, July 11, 2008

Marion Rodeo

MaryJane invited us to the Rodeo at Marion. I'd never been to the Rodeo, but now, all I want to do is go to Rodeos.

MaryJane's son, and his girlfriend too, are real live rodeo performers. He does the calf wrestling. She does the barrel race. MaryJane doesn't know where her boy got this interest because she didn't raise him on a cattle ranch or travel the circuit or anything like that. MaryJane is a basketweaver and horticulturalist and her husband is a businessman. But the Rodeo is huge in the South. I always thought it was a Western thing -Texas and Wyoming and all that. In fact, most colleges down here have a Rodeo team and the kids start doing it at a very young age- like Little League Baseball. MaryJane's son is a product of this environment. I wish I was a product of this environment.

The little girl on that horse is 9 or 10. She rode that beast with unbelievable confidence, control, speed and agility. She was kinda the star of the show, outriding most of the older gals. Here, she's kicking off the opening ceremonies.

This went on for about 15 minutes. I think the guy described every state. Then there was the 10 minute Honor the Troops segment followed by something else I can't remember, then the Pledge of Allegiance and the Star Spangled Banner sung real slow. The procession of Cowboys and Girls followed that. Felt like about 30/35 minutes in all but it was probably less. There's a strong sentimental tone to it all but I found it harmless and kinda charming. As a Pinko Commie Left-Wing
America-Bashing Cynic I did not feel threatened in the least.

Barrel Racing is my favorite event. It's about speed speed speed, baby! Less about chasing down and tackling frightened little calfs, although that didn't freak me out as much as I expected it to because the calfs don't seem to be all that freaked out. They're strong creatures. So it was more like," What the hey!? There's a little monkey on my back trying to trip me up!"

Barrel Racing is the women's event. To watch these dames swing them horses around the course, zipping and zooming through the arena, is a sight to behold. My mother was a Sheriff's deputy. She carried a big gun and she was a crazy fast driver. She wanted to be a fighter pilot. I think I like a woman in control of things; dangerous things like guns, muscular horses, jet planes, and the family car.

Black folks have always, ALWAYS been a big part of this Rodeo business and there were plenty black fans here in Marion. Racist historians, if you can call them historians, tend to cut blacks out of history, ignoring or crediting others with the invention, ingenuity, and innovation brought by them. And the Rodeo is no exception. Wild Bill Picket invented Bulldogging a coupla centuries ago and some of the top-ranked riders through time have been black men and women. But nobody knows this. Here's the kicker though: Why do we call them cowboys? Historically, black males were called Boy no matter their age. If they had a specific job you'd just attach Boy to it. The earliest cattle drivers were largely black men. Hence, the Cow-BOY was born.
There's all-black Rodeo shows going on all over the country. Be great to check them out. But I'll take any color Rodeo.

Going back even further, the American Rodeo is a direct descendant of the Roman Coliseum. The Spanish brought such spectacles over to the New World in the 16th century. Rodeo is also a first cousin to Bullfighting. To think that these cowboys and wranglers, in the dusty hinterlands of the USA, are a direct link to ancient Roman gladiators is just the most mind-flipping thing

I wanted to offer a Foundation Drawing and 2-Dimensional Design class for the teenagers of Sumter County who may have an interest in pursuing careers in the Art and Design fields. I wanted to introduce the rigorous training and critical approach associated with higher learning and to help the students develop a stronger, more competitive portfolio.

I especially wanted to introduce some basic tools for seeing - concepts they should acclimate themselves to in order to go forward as visual communicators.

Partnering with The Coleman Center, we raised money for supplies and fees through education grants. We convinced the University to donate easels. We recruited at all the local schools, black, white, and desegregated, as well as direct calls to area families and friends, rounding up a solid group of nine devoted kids. Our target was 12 so I think we did okay.

I had a phenomenal time and so did the students. There's now a drive to make this a permanent feature. We're working with Dr. Primm, the School Superintendent, to create a year-round High School Arts Society - a place budding artists and designers can go to strengthen their skills and pursue the creative impulse with discipline and guidance.

I was wrapping up class one day and in walks this Rastaman I'd never seen before. Never seen any Rastas in Sumter County as long as I've been here. Robert wanted to know what I was doing down here and he had all kinds of dire warnings about me staying. I simply could not relate to his point-of-view about Alabama but I liked Robert and enjoyed talking with him about things.

That afternoon, I went with Robert up to Panola to check out his land, meet his kids, hang out for a little while. He grows peaches and herbs and sells them by the bag and bushel. He also creates jewelry and other metal works. You get him talking about the soil and what a man must know about soil and Robert sounds no different from my pal, Jake, down in Choctaw County. To know your dirt is to have a highly valued key, it seems. And I never imagined I'd be so interested in hearing men talk about dirt. It's like a kind of poetry, I tell you.

Robert had nine children with his late wife. Two of them, a 20-something boy and girl, were with him in Alabama along with a toddler grandchild. They were all leaving for Washington State the next day. Going back to the reservation. His wife was Northwest Indian. A small, obscure tribe way up near the Canadian coast. He doesn't know when they'll return here. Robert even offered me the keys to his home, to come here occasionally if I wanted, maybe take care of it. I passed on that but I'll swing through now and then to make sure the roof doesn't completely cave in.

I saw this bus on the road to Montgomery from Selma. This is my kinda bus and so very 'Bama.