More . . . Travels With Sandy
A cup of coffee and conversation at Sandy’s kitchen table got me into all kinds of trouble. We were discussing the upcoming Deke Rodeo for 2007 and I casually asked the question “why doesn’t Kaycee have parades anymore?” In years past, a parade of sorts preceded the annual rodeo and were always a lot of fun. Some years they were a little skimpy on floats, but the community usually pulled something together. I couldn’t remember the last one I had seen, although I had lived away for a long time and figured I had missed a few.
Sandy took a drag off her cigarette and ignored my question altogether. So I asked “why don’t we put one together?” She tossed her head back, rolled her eyes, and responded “because it is too god-damned much work–that’s why!” I dropped the subject. A couple days later I got a call. “I’ve got a few people that have agreed to help – are you in?” I, and a few other good people, were on the way to becoming her slaves for the duration. We didn’t have a lot of time before the rodeo and would have to move fast. I should have had some idea what it would be like. For the ensuing weeks General Patton a.k.a. Sandy barked out orders and manned the telephone in a frenzy to get floats lined up and committed. People came forth because, in my opinion, nobody wanted to tell her no.
I worked on developing a program, typing up descriptions of each float as the entrants came in and developing a script for the parade announcer. Sandy’s granddaughter Savanah designed a program cover with pen and ink cartoon sketches. We ran off a couple hundred copies to distribute. The Jarrard family was chosen to be honored and recognized in the parade for their involvement in ranching and rodeo for many generations in Johnson County. Harold had previously been awarded the Top Hand Award by the Museum of American Cowboys in 1996; the Western Heritage Awarded, 1997, Oklahoma City; and was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, 1997. Our very own local celebrity!
One of our most interesting parade entrants was inspired by Don Meike who told a tale of local ranchers getting behind an artificial rain-making plan in March of 1951. The ranchers raised $19,000 for this adventure, or misadventure as it became known. Lee Keith was chairman of the rain making committee. Don recalled a “Dr. Krick” from Denver who was hired to conduct the procedure. (Doesn’t that sound just like a snake oil salesman?) Anyway, Don described it as a smudge pot filled with a silver iodide mixture. A fire was lit under it to cause the smoke to rise into the atmosphere. The story got quite humorous as Don recounted Raymond Cash recalling that Fred Hesse insisted it “really worked!” When asked, “where is the rain?” Fred replied, “well something went haywire, and the rain went to Gillette.” Naturally we had to have a rainmaker float in the parade. A request went out to Kaycee High School shop class teacher Milo Warren to build one.
Milo must have gone out to test his machine because the day before the rodeo the sky burst forth. I was sitting in Sandy’s kitchen trying to keep up with the last-minute details, barked out orders and total pandemonium when I looked out her window at the sky. “I’m going home, Sandy, those storm clouds look fierce!” I don’t recall what she replied, and it wasn’t worth repeating. I slunk out of her kitchen feeling like a rat deserting the ship, but by the time I got to North Fork I knew I had made the right decision. The river was over its banks north and south of the bridge. I wasn’t sure if I should try to cross, but figured if the bridge went, it would be better to be on the side of home. At any rate, Sandy wouldn’t be able to come and get me. Five inches of rain fell. Who knew? Kaycee was spared another major flood on the Middle Fork of Powder River that day, but the North Fork flood swamped ranches all along the river banks.
The rodeo, and the parade would go on as usual, however. Powder River has yet to wipe out a rodeo – the show will go on! There were 43 parade entries in all, and Sandy had them lined up Old Barnum Road stretching all the way up the hill to the west. Someone made the last-minute comment that just about everybody in Southern Johnson County was in the parade. Would there be anybody left in Kaycee to watch as the parade traveled up Main Street? No worries. There was always a great crowd for “The Deke.”