These two words can awake and excite a soul like no other. My thought of what I wanted to be when I grew up is forever linked with these two words: a cowboy who would win the All-Around Championship at the Pendleton Round-Up…
Realistically, there was a better shot of me becoming the President of the USA, as the road of a Round-Up champion takes a special & courageous soul to travel.
Big dreams at the Pendleton Round-Up, a big stage for any cowboy: if you win here, you have made it on the rodeo circuit. The Pendleton Round-Up is one of the oldest and most respected rodeos in the world.
Dreams of Larry Mahan, Lane Frost, Mike Currin, Mike Beers, Ty Murray and Bobby DelVecchio, great cowboys who have electrified the rodeo world with their art, still churn in my head. Such dreams find the minds of many young rodeo fans in Eastern Oregon, all in anticipation of one day riding in the world-famous Pendleton Round-Up.
Yet, it is not just the big names that kids dream about…it is the ranchers and farmers of the area that make this show (and dream) so close. Heroes, who one day are working the fields of their farms and ranches, and the next day are dedicating their time both as participants and key figures in making the Round-Up successful.
Favorite events of steer wrestling, saddle-bronc and bareback to the riding of the Brahma bulls will see local and international cowboys show-off their skill. While they often end up with just a mouthful of dirt and grass to show for their efforts, they’re always buoyed by the applause and support of the crowd.
In someway, all of us in the crowd are on the field sharing our dreams with cowboys as they ride.
Of course, dreams of young men are never complete without visions of a goddess or two to steal away his time, and the Round-Up has more than its share of such beauties. While every rodeo has numerous ‘buckle-bunnies’ it takes a special woman to make it to the Round-Up, especially the role of Round-Up Queen and her Court of Princesses.
The Queen and Her Court can take me away from whatever I am doing, and along with everyone else watch them glide into the arena, flying in on their steeds with a grace that would make Pegasus jealous. There have been royalty a plenty over the years: Jody Gugin, Ellen Kilkenny, Sara Mautz and my all-time favorite Mary-Lou O’Rourke (Lazinka) back in the 1960s.
Mary Lou’s husband (Bob O’Rourke) taught me the joys of fishing and the spirit of living in the area…while her brother Bob Lazinka had land on Butter Creek and in the mountains outside Ukiah, an ideal place to spend a lot of time elk, Chukar and pheasant hunting with my Dad (a past Round-Up Director as well…very proud).
The call of “Let’er Buck!” still echoes in my head, no matter where I am. These simple words create a wonderful sense of emotion for any Pendletonian, anywhere in the world and at anytime of the year.
These are the words of freedom, of hard work, of taking risks and knowing you have a whole community of people with love behind you. It is at the heart of what made the West a great part of US history. The stuff little kids dream about…even kids in their 40s.
The Round-Up is a conglomerate of the spirit of the surrounding communities of Eastern Oregon (Heppner, Helix, Pilot Rock, Athena, Hermiston, Enterprise, Baker…to name just a few). An event created over 100 years ago to celebrate the life of the West and to commemorate the harvest season and communal support for the farmers and ranchers. And, of course, to put on a show…
Many people have asked me how & why I speak so often of my family, and the answer is simple: because I come from Pendleton. Knowing that after 25 years of being out of contact, I can show up at the doorstep of any friend in Pendleton, and we can pick-up our conversation as if it was yesterday as they warmly take me in.
The spirit of the West and the spirit of the people of Pendleton are the backbone of the Round-Up.
While I love my adopted cities of Hong Kong and Seattle…the roots of Pendleton taught me the essentials of life. The phrase ‘salt of the earth’ is often thrown around, but come to Pendleton and you will see and experience this quality first hand.
The Round-Up is an annual calling around world. Friends from all across the globe will come to this small town in Eastern Oregon and join the ‘wild & free’ spirit that makes the rodeo what it is today. While it is an event that brings together a rich history of the life of cowboys and the West, it also strongly wraps itself up in the history & culture of the Native Americans who have always been at one with the land.
As mentioned in my earlier post of the beauty of nature: no one owns the water, the sky or fresh air, and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation are reconnecting modern society back to the roots of nature. Chinook salmon have returned to the Umatilla River through the relentless work of the Confederated Tribes working with farmers and irrigators. Working with Mother Earth is a way of life in this region.
The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation host an amazing tribal village, with over 300 teepees consisting of Indians from around the Northwest. Here they share their cultures with all travelers, and during the week tribes from the Pacific Northwest gather in the village to visit with friends and relatives. One of the most mesmerizing and refreshing sights you will see at the Pendleton Round-Up.
The days of dreaming of becoming a cowboy maybe out of reach for me these days, but then again, as I strap on my chaps, put on my Stetson and an old belt buckle from riding days past…it is a dream I get to relive every September at the Pendleton Round-Up…the grandest of all rodeos.