Canby Rodeo & Cape Lookout

August 22nd, 2005  |  Published in old and busted  |  2 Comments

Saturday night’s most likely takeaway: There is no irony at a rodeo. None that isn’t snuck in under a coat or in a camerabag, anyhow.

We dropped Ben off with a babysitter and headed down to the Canby Rodeo and Clackamas Co. Fair with Sue, Michael and Kathleen (who’s in town from Bloomington).

Ride Thunder BullWe arrived about an hour and a half early only to find the grandstand seats were already sold out … general admission for us, and the advice to get in as quickly as possible and stake a claim. “Hunt and peck … first come, first served!” said the ticket lady.

We headed in and saw that the shady parts were filling up pretty quickly, so we opted to go back out and grab some food before grabbing some seats.

Fair food’s sort of tricky, but I scored edible falafel, Al got a massive elephant ear with dollops of coolwhip (and we both got treated to some impromptu standup from a wiseacre dad who tormented the booth workers with demands for elephant tusks and elephant feet), and Kathleen got a mound of nachos that intimidated me. My Pepsi tasted sort of like sanitizer, which provoked some meditation on how it would probably have been safe to eat something with meat in it because I’m guessing my entire GI tract has been carpetbombed in the name of sanitary soft drink dispensing.

We got some seats on the west end of the arena, on the grandstand side, and settled in for an hour. Crowd watching was pretty good, and I spent some time watching assorted rodeo hands wandering around hammering on things and perfecting their best “fence-lean-head-cock-squint” cowboy looks.

Kathleen remembered a few tales of cruelty to rodeo animals that involved pepper powders and strings and bull scrotums. New to me, but evidently not, as a quick search on “rodeo cruelty” might indicate, new to some folks.

The other pre-rodeo chat topic with Kathleen was the 1994 movie “8 Seconds,” which I remember only because a coworker insisted that our group radio be tuned to country stations half the time. “8 Seconds” was the beneficiary of a massive pre-release promotional campaign aimed dead square at “country people.” As then-coworker Denise insisted, country music was about “family and good times and values” (you know … like “Papa Loved Mama).

Point I was making to Kathleen being a resurrected conversational beat from two summers ago, when we talked about how the “Left Behind” books were sort of a big deal because looking for mention of them usually meant finding a rich vein of resentment from their readers, who consider themselves outrageously marginalized. To judge from the way DJs were hyping their “8 Seconds” ticket giveaways, attendance was no less than civic duty for the members of Country Nation if they wanted to impress their marketing power on the mainstream so they could get Hollywood to make even more rodeo movies.

Take from it what you will … it’s part of a tip I’ve been on since last March, when I was feeling a lot more optimistic.

POW/MIA RidersSo the rodeo kicked off with a parade of winning livestock … cows, goats, chickens walked around the arena to applause … winning auction sums and weights announced. The MC took a moment to point out to us that all those stories about rodeo abuse were plainly false because “folks, these animals are our bread and butter … why would we abuse them?”

There was some music with lyrics Al picked up on, and of which I remember nothing but “Boot in their asses.” Al said it was pretty belligerent … a kind of non-ironic “America, Fuck Yeah!.”

Then there was an extended cavalcade of precision riding featuring the banners of assorted event sponsors. The MC had us all quiet down as the POW/MIA flags were ridden around the corral, and we were reminded that there were Air National Guard members among us this evening. The American flag was ridden around the corral to John Wayne’s “America, Why I Love Her” (I was surprised: not “God Bless the USA“). The last lap involved the rider breaking into a full gallop. The national anthem was sung by an 11-year-old boy who handled the pitch change flawlessly as the crowd sang along (with a few people behind us yelling “oh my god! oh my god!” every time the boy hit a tough note).

Winning TeamAfter that? A blur of livestock. Al’s favorite event was the first of the evening, “Team Penning,” which involves a gaggle of cows with numbers on them and teams of three riders. The MC announces a number and the riders have to find the three cows with that number and herd them into a pen. It’s a good event: There’s a lot of drama as the cows mill around, escape the pen and dodge the riders. The audience was really into it. The winning team pulled it off in under 50 seconds, but one team couldn’t manage to herd any at all.

The bull wrestling and roping were impressive, though there were a lot of “no times” handed out because it turns out rodeo events include an impressive array of rules involving how many feet are sticking up or the manner in which an animal’s roped or how stoically the contestant swaggered back to the wall.

Part of the evening’s events also included “mini bull riders” : nine-to- thirteen-year-old boys who rode small bulls. Some of them didn’t last long, but two of the contestants managed to hold on for a long while … one of them did a pretty good sack dance when he finally did get thrown. More points for managing an appropriately leisurely swagger back to the fence, I think. Most ten-year-olds would probably run.

Bronc RiderThe bronc busting and bull riding were o.k., but the MC introduced us to yet more rules and regulations governing how one must ride a horse involving shoulder blades and bodily positioning. I think a program would have helped sort a lot of it out (and given us a chance to scan the sidebars for rodeo-friendly siding experts and concrete specialists in the greater Clackamas Co. area).

Those were the big events of the night. The sound system blared “We Will Rock You,” a somewhat anomalous “YMCA,” and other athletic event greatest hits of the ’70s while the audience did waves and stomped the bleachers. At one point, when a rider held out for a long while, the announcer called out “Let’s all help him! LET’S ALL HELP HIM!”

I guess I was more impressed by the horsemanship of some of the other events, especially the barrel racing. The turns the horses make are amazingly precise, and the sight of that last, full-out gallop back toward the finish line isn’t soon forgotten.

To rejoin a character from earlier in the narrative: We picked Ben up from the babysitter around 10:45, a little the worse for wear: He hadn’t slept so well, and he’d fallen earlier in the evening and given himself a fat lip. That was a drag.

Shooting Notes

You can stop reading now and skip down to the next heading. If I kept a shooting journal elsewhere, this would go there.

Saturday night was my first chance to use a new 1.5x teleconverter for the G5. In 35mm terms, it brings the G5’s approximate 140mm 4x zoom to around 210mm. The price for that gain is flexibility: at under 2x zoom with the converter on, the vignetting gets pretty bad.

I was still happy with the results. There was no way I was going to get really close to the action because I didn’t feel like hovering at the fence for limited opportunities, so the extra nudge helped grab a few shots.

I also pushed the camera up to its 200 and 400 ISO settings as the light got worse (which happened pretty quickly … the real magic hour light was going on as we took our seats an hour before the event started). The results were predictably grainy: Even the 200 setting on the G5 is rough … the 400 is strictly there to say ‘I got a picture of it’.

I’m also getting more and more comfortable with the RAW workflow, and learning to live with the idea that I’ve got several photo streams at work, each with its own issues.

The “winning team” shot, for instance, exists as the version you see on flickr (lightly post-processed to help the colors come out a little more and get some sharper contrast), the original RAW file, and a third file I worked on to make a print for myself, with a few Photoshop effects applied to tighten down the cropping and ease the sharpness/brightness of the background enough to let the subjects really stand out.

Sunday Hike

So Sunday we got up and headed out for the coast to do the Cape Lookout trail, which is a moderate 2.5 mile walk ending with a nice view of the coast.

Cape LookoutBen hadn’t slept too well before we picked him up at the babysitter’s the night before, so he was in a pretty grouchy mood. Not his best hike ever, and he was frustrated at the top, because the small overlook area isn’t very safe for someone without a pretty well-tuned sense of self-preservation or an awareness of the import of phrases like “400 foot drop.”

He chilled out on the way back down, after we gave him his binky hoping he’d catch a nap. By the time we rolled into the Tillamook Cheese Factory, he was in a much better mood.

The main topic of discussion on the way back down the trail was what we make of our ongoing, back-of-the-mind thinking about moving back to somewhere in the midwest, which has gone from a certainty to something that’s pretty hard to talk about.

Cheese Production FacilityAs summer’s winding down, though, we’re coming to realize how little we’ve really explored the region since we’ve lived here. We’ve had a very active summer, making it a point to get out almost every weekend, and we’ve still got lots to see.

I don’t know if we came to any conclusions, but it’s pretty clear to both of us that leaving Oregon won’t/wouldn’t be a very easy thing to do. We really love it here.

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