Monday, July 23, 2007

God Bless America - Happy 4th July

It was a beautiful (but very hot: about 40 degrees Celsius) day for our first 4th July in America. Even though Bagdad is a very small town, they still know how to celebrate and being as fervently patriotic as they are, what better excuse for a celebration than the nation's birthday. The photo at the top of this post shows the crowds of people waiting for the parade to start - I didn't know Bagdad had so many people (or so many fire engines; there were about 15 or so of them in the parade). The theme of the parade was "Saluting America's Heroes", which was interpreted in several different ways: Ben Franklin (aka Sharon the postmistress) riding a horse; a couple of floats with reference to the war in Iraq; kids dressed in Western gear for "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys", even Wonder Woman and her sidekick driving an ATV (that's American talk for quad bike). There were far too many lollies (thrown to the kids from the floats) for us to carry home, and for days afterwards there were crushed lollies all over the road.
The 4th July celebration coincided with the opening of Bagdad's new community centre, which is going to be an excellent facility for our little town. The centre has been built on the site of an old elementary (primary) school which was condemned because the buildings were derelict. The classrooms have been rebuilt and now there is space for all sorts of craft classes, a community orchestra, drama group, a new library, gymnasium plus a brand-new playground, skate park and two swimming pools. There is also a new preschool for 3 and 4 year olds, which N will start attending in August.

Yeee Haawwww - the World's Oldest Rodeo

Howdy again Partners, as promised, now an update on our July activities. First up is our afternoon at the World's Oldest Rodeo, in Prescott. This professional rodeo has been running since 1888 and is part of the annual Prescott Frontier Days festival, held the week of 4th July. The rodeo always draws a big crowd and is the highlight of the Frontier Days. We'd never been to a live rodeo before so we didn't really know what to expect. It was a hot day and the rodeo arena was very dusty but we enjoyed our few hours of entertainment there. The rodeo starts with the obligatory prayers and singing of the national anthem, the first time I had heard it in America which actually made me feel a bit emotional, and homesick for Australia.

There was plenty of traditional rodeo entertainment in the form of bronc riding, calf roping, bull riding, barrel racing and so on but a few other more unconventional "acts" as well, the strangest of which was definitely "Whiplash, the Cowboy Monkey". I kid you not, this is an actual 18-year-old Capuchin monkey that "rides" a Border Collie dog and rounds up sheep. The monkey is dressed in typical Western attire, complete with a cowboy hat. I still can't decide if this was really entertainment, or something else. I found the whole thing just a little bit disturbing actually! One of the more truly entertaining performers was a guy who rode TWO horses at once, standing on their backs circus-style, then jumped them both (yes, at the same time) over a convertible car. Sounds a bit cheesy but it was pretty cool to see it.

As far as the rodeo riding went there was a lot more action in the bull riding than there was with the broncs, that is to say that not one cowboy lasted the full 8 seconds on any of the bulls, but almost all of the bronc riders managed to stay on without getting chucked in the dirt. These guys make serious money from the rodeo - some as much as US$350,000 a season. I guess they can afford good chiropractors!
It was a fun afternoon out and another essential Western experience ticked off the list. See "What's Happening Around Here?" for a link to the World's Oldest Rodeo website for more info if you are interested.

Monday, July 9, 2007

You're the Meaning in My Life, You're the Inspiration - the Station where Chicago and REO Speedwagon Never Die

We have been going to (our nearest town) Prescott (about 60 miles or 90 minutes away) at least once a week and while we are in the car we listen to a certain Prescott radio station which shall remain nameless. At least once during each leg of the journey we hear a song by REO Speedwagon or Chicago. That station must have an impressive back-catalog of albums because it doesn't seem to matter what time we are travelling, night, day, it makes no difference, there is almost ALWAYS at least one Chicago or REO Speedwagon song. If we happen to fluke it and not hear one, we wonder what has gone wrong! Their other favourites that we hear EVERY time we go to Prescott are:
  • Snow Patrol - Chasing Cars
  • James Taylor - You've Got a Friend, or Fire and Rain
  • Carrie Underwood - Before He Cheats
  • anything by Elton John
  • anything by Billy Joel
  • anything by Fleetwood Mac