I am one of those people who keeps track of time by how old which horse was when I did something. Some people do it by years, some by their kids' ages and some, like me, do it by how old the horse was.
So let me see, Hawk was a 3-year-old, and I was about 22 when I first went to Howard County Fair. And that was nearly 50 years ago. I have been going to Howard County Fair for most of those years since, either with horses or just to "see the elephant." According to Wikipedia, "The phrase 'seeing the elephant' is an Americanism which refers to gaining experience of the world at a significant cost."
But at Howard County Fair, which is celebrating its 71st birthday this year, you don't have to worry about Wikipedia's "significant cost" or elephants for that matter, because there aren't any elephants. Once you pay to get in that gate you can see just about anything you and your kids want to absolutely for free. OK, the rides cost money, but you knew that. There is livestock there that will either thrill or appall any kid and cool-looking chickens and a different horse show each day for that horse crazy little girl.
For the adults, there will be a display of art, woodworking, homemade clothing, knitted and crocheted things as well as jellies, jams and other types of handmade household goods. It might be enlightening to explain to your kids that real people made this stuff and still can if they are so inclined. For dad, there are antique cars and trucks along with men who own them, some antique, too, and some not so antique but all proud of their cars and ready to talk about them.
On Monday, Aug. 8 and Tuesday, Aug. 9 there will be Rockin' R Western Productions' PRCA Rodeo. The rodeo is just outside of the grounds so you will have to pay to get in, however this is not only the bull riding but also has a full slate of all of the great events that you would see in a rodeo that you had to fly to Texas to check out. There will be bull riding, of course, but there will also be both bareback and saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, tie down roping, team roping and of course there will the real deal barrel racing for the ladies. Those are some hard-riding ladies, too.
Now, on Tuesday at about 1 p.m., which is well before the rodeo, there will be an event where excess entries that are scheduled for preliminary (slack) competition compete before the rodeo actually opens. It is like a rodeo within a rodeo where many of the cowboys that will be riding for points for the Wrangler National Finals are riding to build up points. Just exactly like rodeo — but it's free! And before the Tuesday slack competition there will be a Cowboy Church service with Joel Nupp, which is a non-denominational service. Cowboy Church is addictive and if you ride rodeo you believe in God. You pretty much need to, you know?
There are mule pulls and horse pulls and mule coon jumping which is when the mules jump over a bar from a standing start. This is very much like what they have to do when their owner are out raccoon hunting at night and come to a fence.
And there will be something else, too. A long time ago when I was a kid I drew horses. I didn't have horses, but I drew them — lots of them all over my school notebooks. As soon as I could, I started working with horses and kept on for over 50 years. But when I retired I started drawing horses again, and painting them. And then I started painting mules and donkeys and dogs and cats … even people. Pretty soon I started selling my paintings and that led to creating cards and prints of my paintings. But I could still "feel" those horses in my hands, so that became making small sculpted things, not elaborate, but very representative and suitable for little Christmas ornaments. I don't have room for massive statues so I have to be practical, you know.
One day I looked around and thought, 'I've got to see if this actually works.' So I have returned to Howard County Fair with a whole booth full of things that I have made or painted. I will be in the air-conditioned (thank goodness!) Main Hall in booth C-9 with some 1,400 cards and about 75 of my paintings made into prints. I can be found there reliably from noon until about 8 p.m. I'm hoping that some of you will stop in and say "Hi" just out of curiosity.
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