Photo by Susan Mark
This morning, I head for my pre-work bicycle ride on the path around Sloan Lake in Lions Park. I can hear the horses neighing in their pens. Along Eighth Avenue, the traffic barriers have gone up to funnel people along the streets of least resistance. A faint hint of manure tinges the air.
This is the calm before the chaos. I live one long block from the rodeo grounds. You can see the stadium from my back yard. I don't need concert tickets: we can simply put out lawn chairs in our driveway and listen. Sadly, this means I also am "at" the concerts when they book Kiss or something equally dreadful. The only escape is indoors with all the windows closed, sweltering.
For the other 355 days of the year, it's the most peaceful, quiet neighborhood I could ask for. I take these 10 days in stride as best as I can. I no longer look twice when people on horseback ride through my alley. I was even late to work once when my car was blocked by a high school band practicing parade marching. My boss understood completely.
They call it the "Daddy of 'Em All." It started in 1897 and is claimed to be the longest running annual outdoor rodeo in existence. Downtown is bedecked in ribbons and readied for the not one, not two, not three, but four parades. If Cheyenne has a claim to fame, this is probably it.
The Kiwanis Club fires up its griddles to serve tens of thousands of pancakes at three free breakfasts. The lines snake through downtown. As you get near, you see the cooks flip the finished pancakes high in the air while Boy Scouts run around with foil lined trays to catch them. Pancakes, a couple of pats of butter, a splash of syrup and a slice of ham on a foam plate later, you can sit on hay bales and listen to live music.
It's concerts and drinking and dancing. It's watching men try to wrestle 600 pound steers to the ground. It's a second Christmas in July for the downtown merchants. It's parents trailing children baked too long in the sun and young girls in cowboy boots and little else streaming up and down our street.
I call it the West at its Weirdest every time I try to talk someone into coming to see it.
Living so close, we've had our headaches. One year someone stole my husband's license plate as a souvenir. We've had to call the police for street fights between teens high on testosterone after the carnival closed. We've yet to see someone urinate in our yard, but one young man did vomit on our walk.
Still, most people are wonderful. We meet nice folks from all over the country. They're just here to have fun, spend some money, listen to some live music and watch a few bull riders get flipped like cheese omelets.
If I didn't live here, I doubt I'd ever be here for it. Just not my cup of tea. Given a week off and a little spare cash, I'd rather go rent a cabin away from people without a television. Introverts do not do crowds and noise well. At least this one doesn't.
Still, if you like this kind of thing, it's just a hoot. And it's only for 10 days.