Monday, July 21, 2008

The coldest summer I ever spent

A friend of mine in Philadelphia called the other morning. I told him I couldn't talk long because I had to finish getting ready for work, "grab my jacket and hat and scoot out the door." Really? he asked. A jacket?

Yes, really. It's cold. It's been mostly overcast for the last week, with the sun poking through for only a couple of hours a couple of those days. When I was driving the bread truck in San Francisco or living in Albany I thought I knew foggy-cold; you know, when the fog is so thick you've got to turn the windshield wipers on, or when you daren't go out without a substantial jacket.

Now I guess not. I don't think it even got up to 60 today.

It might seem more summery if I could get away from the coast for a bit, but with one day off a week I haven't had much of a chance. Then again, it's still burning away from the coast; rubbing stinging eyes and breathing in the ashy remnants of our forests isn't much of a trade up.

So instead we've turned the heat back on and put another blanket on the bed. But even though we may not have the weather, it's still summer, dammit, and Humboldt's big summertime events are still on and crowded with revelers—wearing hoodies and knit caps, but still reveling. Good thing beer is a year-round drink. The county fair is in August; in June it was Arcata's Oyster Festival. In July it's the week-long Fortuna Rodeo.

We went to the rodeo in Orick last Sunday, and this Sunday G-man, his daughter Alisha and our son-in-law Brian and I all drove down to Fortuna. As spectator sports go rodeo is tops: sitting outside, lots of animals around, and the thrill of watching people compete in tandem with animal partners. And it's certainly very, very low on the corporate sponsorship ladder. The prizes were cash, gas cards, and belt buckles. You may be ground in to the dirt of the arena by a steer, kicked by a horse, or stomped on by a bull weighing over a ton, but hey! Have a belt buckle. You'll feel better.

Brian and Alisha were extremely accomodating and agreed to go down a little early so that G and I could experience the pit barbeque before the rodeo started. Humboldt County has its share of okay barbeque joints, but a real pit barbeque? Oh, sign me up! We stood in line for almost half an hour, and it cost us $12 a plate, but G and I each got a sturdy paper plate piled high with barbequed beef, baked beans, potato salad, roll and butter, and jello salad. And when I say "piled high" I mean it: they must have put a pound of meat or more on each of our plates.

It probably wasn't a good idea to eat that much meat at one sitting—of course I ate it all!—especially since we've been so meat-light since G's gall-bladder scare. It was so much meat that the two beers I drank while in the stands didn't even get me buzzed. It was so much meat I didn't eat another meal until dinner about an hour ago. It was so much meat G swears even his pee smells like beef.

I felt like a weeble sitting on the bleachers, all bundled up and watching the calf roping, the team roping, the steer wrasslin', the bronc busting and the bull riding. Half the people watching were toting ziploc baggies and foil-covered plates of beef. I guess those are the folks who've been to the barbeque before. If I'd known I'd've brought a personal trough.

Trying to rope a cow for the "wild cow milking" event. Mostly silly, but still fun. You can see the other cattle watching the action from the holding pen.

Why won't this steer lie down, Lord, why? And he's just going to get bigger, too—unless he ends up taking part in the next deep pit barbeque.

One, two, three, jump! A girl's riding troupe from Idaho was our entertainment for half time. All the girls rode bareback and only used neck straps, no reins, bridles or bits! And in keeping with the Indian theme many of their horses were fancy colors: pinto, palomino, buckskin, appaloosa.

To practice your steer wrasslin' stand on the running board of your friend's truck, and when he gets up to about 35mph, throw yourself off. Repeat til your mom calls that it's dinner time.

The meat meal of doom. That's about halfway through the plate, just after the Dairy Princess came by and handed out cups of Humboldt Creamery ice cream. Yum! (Of course, we ate those, too.)
The best part was, a family sat down across from us and started pulling out a bunch of Tupperware containers. The dad must have seen our eyes pop out of our heads when we saw what was in 'em: salsa, jalapenos, some red goop, and about a kilo of fresh tortillas! We asked him what the red goop was and he said it was atole. Get out! De donde eres, we asked? Oaxaca! Que parte? Huajuapan. We've been there, we said. You have a very fine museum. He then explained to us how they do atole in Huajuapan and let us try it.
It was a lot better than the atole in Benito Juarez, that's for damn sure.

Before the rodeo started, all the participants raced around the ring. If they'd had swords it would've been a proper melee...instead, I quizzed G on his horse colors.

Bronc bustin', Fortuna style.

More bronc bustin', this time on a lovely Appaloosa. I wish the horses head was in the photo, but I love all the cowboys in their hats and chaps sitting on the rails.

No comments: