August in Utah and Idaho is a time for county fairs. Unfortunately I missed one of my favorites last week, the Duchesne County Fair. As part of the fair this year, Duchesne County celebrated 100 year anniversary of its founding. This included a song written and performed by Charley Jenkins honoring Duchesne County. I won’t lie; I may have felt a bit emotional as he talked about each of the county’s high school mascots. Here’s a link to the video:
It’s interesting to note that while our family moved there in 1979, a Van Wagoner played a significant role in the creation of Duchesne County. In 1913, William L. Van Wagoner of Wasatch County, a member of the state legislature, sponsored an amendment to the state constitution authorizing the creation of new counties. The amendment was introduced specifically to allow for the creation of Duchesne County.
While I didn’t make it to the Duchesne County Fair this year, I did make it to the Oneida County Fair in Malad, Idaho. My oldest son showed a pig this year as part of the 4-H program. In the past we’ve watched him and my two older daughters show and sell lambs and pigs. Before that I watched as my wife’s brothers and sister showed and sold lambs, pigs, and steers at the fair. For over 30 years my father-in-law, as the University of Idaho County Extension Agent, he ran the county 4-H program—needless to say the fair is a deeply ingrained part of life for my wife’s family.
This year we arrived on Wednesday night, the day before the pig show. My wife and I slept outside under the stars, as we like to do, just in time to see the amazing Perseids meteor shower. Living in the Vegas Valley we don’t get to see many stars in the night sky. In the span of the twenty minutes I managed to keep my eyes open, I counted over a dozen meteors streaking across the Milky Way.
My son had a good year showing his pig. He and this year’s pig were much more prepared than he was last year. He came in number three for showmanship in his class. Unfortunately, his pig barely made weight so he got a red ribbon for quality—a source of embarrassment for his grandfather. The auction is tomorrow. We’ll see if he can match the $900 plus he made from his pig last year.
Thursday afternoon we had to bring in the flock of ewes so that twenty of them could go to the rodeo for the mutton busting. Anyone who has ever tried to herd sheep, know that they can be contrary. In the end I managed to get all thirty of them to follow me while shaking a bucket with just a few cups of grain. I felt like a political candidate from the Democrat Party—a large group following based on the hope and promise of something insufficient to provide any relief and that actually ended up with them in servitude—but I digress.
For a number of deep-seated reasons, I always get emotional at the beginning of a rodeo, when Old Glory comes streaming into the arena on horseback. I feel a deep sense of love for my country and the power of the small, close-knit communities that make this country great. To properly celebrate the event, we bought hamburgers and fries right there on the rodeo grounds. It’s hard to beat the taste of fair burgers.
Two things made the night memorable. First, was the Calcutta auction as part of the stock saddle event. In the Calcutta auction, the person who bids on and wins the winning rider wins 60% of the funds raised through the bidding process. The person who wins the second place rider wins 40% of the pot. A number of the riders were well known for their skills or were local riders. As a result, they each managed to bring in anywhere from $60 to $120. One rider, Anthony Brown, was receiving no bids—he was an unknown commodity. In an act of confidence, he placed a $25 bid on himself. Nobody tried to outbid him and he won the marker for his ride, a chance at the pot that totaled just over $600.
Anthony Brown came out as the fifth rider and scored 84 points, a score that would not be beat. Mr. Brown paid $25 in the winning bid on himself when nobody else believed in him. He walked away with an additional $400 in his pocket because of his belief in his abilities. There is a powerful lesson in that.
Second, at the end of the rodeo we found we had an interesting companion with us as a spectator. I took his picture (below). He looked back at me just as intently as I looked at him.
Next month my father-in-law will be the Grand Marshall for the Eastern Idaho State Fair. Here’s to many more fairs and many more rodeos and the celebration of a wonderful way of life.