This past weekend, I began my first year as a volunteer for the National Western Stock Show, a massive event that features tons of rodeos, livestock and a bazillion other events, including the National Fiddling Competition. The NWSS has been going on for 102 years so it's a big deal on the circuit. It is also what's known as a "terminal show" which means much of the livestock that are showcased here for judging are then "put on a truck" meaning soon appearing at a meat department near you.
There's 525 volunteers this year and we help out with everything. Armed with pockets of tissue (I'm battling a persistent sinus infection), I ran around the complex helping out and doing what I was told. On Saturday, I helped the Livestock crew - mostly crowd control and clearing the way for perfectly coiffed heifers and antique tractors. We also had sponsored a 14-year-old girl named Taylor in some 4-H type contest. She'd raised her calf for a year and then a week before the event, it up and died. Random heart failure. She was crushed! Still, she won some other big award since she had to turn in records of her calf care over the last year. Happy ending, I guess.
Then, despite a throbbing sinus headache, I moved on to my next shift: Cowboy Hospitality. This means making coffee, providing drinks and meals for the brave souls who get on bucking broncos and mean-ass bulls. This was the night of the Mexican Rodeo and it was marvelous. Best thing about it was Escaramuza Charra, an amazing 'drill team' of gorgeous senoritas who wore beautiful, elaborate dresses and performed all their stunts side-saddle. I know this is how all ladies used to ride but I'd never seen it before; that can't be easy.
When I came home, I emptied my pockets and realized I'd snagged a handful of freshly sheared wool from the International Sheep Shearing Contest for reasons unclear to me at the time. I absentmindedly tossed it on the carpet for Simone, my cat, to sniff over. My God, she went NUTS! Mind you, this is a feline who sort of responds to catnip but is mostly indifferent. Well, Simone immediately made love to these tufts of wool right in my living room. It was embarrassing after awhile. "Hey, can ya'll get a room or something?" I said. Her eyes rolled back in her head in some weird wool-induced state of ecstasy. A few days later and she's still clinging to the tufts, albeit, with more emotional control.
The next morning, I arrived bright and early for my next shift: Photography. I got paired up with a volunteer veteran, Greg, and our assignment was to photograph other volunteers 'in-action.' We just ran around the whole place and Greg knew everyone so I was his sidekick. "Yeah, she just got off the short bus this morning and we felt sorry for her so ... I'm letting her follow me around," he'd teasingly tell folks while I'd give my stupidest look possible.
After that, I joined a tour of other freshman volunteers and helped the tour leader, Keith, keep the herd in line. I was the Flag Lady and had to walk around with a big flag so folks could find the group easily amongst the crowds. (The National Western Complex is HUGE and it takes a few years, we're told, to fully grasp the lay of the land.) Just before we left each spot for the next, Keith would shout, "Are ya ready, Heather?" and I would respond, "The Flag Lady is ready!" and we would move on. It felt like being in Camp Fire Girls all over again, for some reason, only with guys around.
After a satisfying meal at the "Feed Lot" with a fellow volunteer, I went shopping. I snagged me some jeans and some cute cowgirl wear, which means, I s'pose, that I will have to start going places that demand Cuteness. I hear the Grizzly Rose is fun ... ?
I capped off the weekend with a peek at the Dog Pull, where dogs of all sizes try to pull a load of feed many times their weight with mostly adorable, victorious results. It was amazing to see the smaller dogs pull so hard that they managed the feat on their hind legs. The whole thing was an ad for TENACITY.