The Parade General

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Powder River, Let ‘er Buck! . . . .

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.”

 

Accordion Crimes

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a.k.a. “squeeze box” . . .

Travels With Sandy

     When Sandy was somewhere in her teens and I was maybe ten years old, we were asked to play an accordion duet for a gathering at the Grange Hall in Kaycee.  It was probably a mother and daughter banquet, which was an annual event, or some other civic affair.  I recall there was a very large audience and I was scared stiff.  It is not clear to me who invited us to perform, or who decided to pair us to play our accordions.  I didn’t think anybody knew I played.  I had taken no lessons and I had no accordion.  My older sisters each had one, though, and when I could sneak some time on them I did.  It set our dog to howling so I had to limit my playing time to avoid driving everyone in the household crazy.  I picked up some tunes playing by ear.  I certainly wasn’t ready for the stage–not even in Kaycee!

     Rodney Dangerfield gets less respect than accordionists.  Many acquaintances of mine learned to play in their youth, but don’t talk about it.  Some who recall an accordion performance are reminded of the Lawrence Welk Show on television (that they hated) or a mid-western polka band on RFD (which they also hated).  More recently, accordions are gaining some respect.  The popular Cowboy Junkies band has an accordionist, which is very cool.  And zydeco, Cajun and rock bands have discovered the magical sound of accordions!  Pulitzer Prize winning author Annie Proulx wrote a book entitled “Accordion Crimes,”   which I found fascinating as it seemed to elevate the image of this humble folk instrument and give it some mysterious respectability.

Sandy and I had never interacted in any significant way.  She did not attend the local high school and being older (and much wiser) than I, she should have scoffed at the suggestion that we play a duet.  I know we had to practice the number a few times and I believe it was a piece Sandy chose for us to play (although she professed ignorance of the affair later in life).  The song was the Julida Polka.  I am guessing at the spelling of the song’s title–I don’t believe I ever saw any sheet music for it.  Since I played by ear without music, that didn’t much matter.  I listened to her play it a few times and managed to get the hang of it.

Sandy was a natural performer.  Over the years she played her music for local gatherings, often paired with her father on violin.  She wrote and produced plays in which she acted and was a spark plug the community needed to keep things lively.  I was quite the opposite.  To this day I have vivid memories of trying to struggle through a piano piece, Beethoven’s Minuet in G for the President’s Tea in the east room of the Methodist Church.  I was in the 4th grade and my fingers seemed glued together.  I forgot where I was and lost track of the music, starting over a few times (that’s what comes from playing from memory rather than music) and I felt nauseous when the ordeal was finally over.  The ladies of the Matron’s Club were quite forgiving and thankfully they never asked me back.

Actually I think stage fright runs in our family.  When my older sister was asked to play an accordion solo for a graduation ceremony, she started off great, playing a Latin number Celito Lindo (I don’t think I know how to spell that title either) and then she looked out at the faces of the audience, which included our mother and father, and she just went blank.  She kept trying to start again, but finally gave up in despair.  Dad said that was the last time he wanted to attend any function where his children had to perform a musical number.

So we’re standing at the west end of the hall and the audience is sitting on metal fold-up chairs out in front of us.  Sandy signals me she is ready to begin and we went right to it.  Dad would have been proud, only he wasn’t in the audience.  I don’t think I made any mistakes, which was probably the first performance I ever delivered without any.  I don’t know if she gave me confidence or had me so scared of blowing our number that I had to come through on the occasion.  I believed if I hit a wrong note, nobody would notice because Sandy’s accordion would cover my crime.

A few years ago over a cup of coffee at her kitchen table, I reminded her of our accordion duet.  She asked if I still played and I had to tell her honestly that one of the family accordions was gathering dust in the basement and I drug it out once in a while.  She indicated she had been neglecting her accordion as well and we agreed to get together to practice and see what happened.  Good lord, what a racket!  I’m surprised the paint didn’t peel right off her house.  We had a lot of laughs trying to recall some of the old music we had heard on the radio or at the dance halls while growing up.  Our taste in tunes was different, but we found some songs to play together, mostly old folk tunes or country music from the 1940-1950’s.  We didn’t have sheet music, but played from memory mostly.  We spent quite a few hours reminiscing about old times.

Sandy never undertook anything without giving it her all and she persisted with her accordion until she had mastered quite a few great tunes.  Over the past ten years, she enjoyed playing with other musicians for events and to perform at the senior center in Buffalo.  One winter night we had a great jam session here on Dry Creek with Ross and Donna Mae, Erin and Bill, Helen and a few others.  I wish now we had done it more often.

I called her on the telephone a few months ago and she commented that she was worried about her group’s performance preceding the Chris LeDoux rodeo.  Each year Sandy pulled together a group to play on the porch of the Rusty Spur the morning of the rodeo, and this year she was facing a really tough challenge.  She wasn’t sure how to manipulate the strap on her accordion so that it would not interfere with the chemotherapy port on her chest.  But as always, Sandy found a way.

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Sandy and great grandson on stage at the Rusty Spur . . .

Never Leave A Knot In Your Lead!

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I just got a birthday present, I’m not all crazy about.

It seems that of all of the choices, this was one I could do without.

I was working with my young filly, trying to earn a little respect,

When my plans and hers for the round pen, simply failed to connect.

She took off for the barn in a hurry, leaving me at a loss for a plan.

And before I could get her attention, the long lead was sizzling through my hand.

You can argue that we are the bosses, and the horse just has to comply.

But a 1000-pound critter with an attitude, will soon convince you that’s a lie!

Now the interesting part is arriving, and as I look back on the scene,

I guess I was just in a hurry, and didn’t notice the knot in my lead.

It seemed as big as a boulder, as it rode on the rope through my hand.

And when it met up with my finger, well I guess you can sure understand.

That the pain was an intense sensation, put stars in my eyes I will swear!

When I finally let go of that lead rope, I struggled to hold back a tear.

I stole a glance down at my fingers, to see if I had any there.

Sure enough I had all my digits, but one looked in need of repair.

Third finger, right hand met disaster, that knot went by with such force,

As it followed the speed of my filly, that damnable spirited horse!

I suppose you’re thinking I quit then, to tend to my wounds right away.

But now I was mad as all thunder, at this pitiful equestrienne display.

IMG_4628She was standing in the barn at the window, two blue eyes were looking my way,

to see if the contest was over. But I knew that I had to stay.

I followed the end of my lead rope, and gathered it up from the dust.

I studied that knot for a moment, no wonder my finger was bust!

I pulled up some slack and untied it, trying hard not to wince from the pain.

I pulled on the lead and the horse at the end to to start all over again.

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