Today was the first full day of the 2013 “Daddy of ‘em All” a title that probably means little to those outside of rodeo fans and the populace in and around Cheyenne, Wyoming, or maybe I don’t know the popularity of this annual extravaganza. The western celebration of rodeo, night shows, parades, pancakes, and a miscellany of carnival and hoopla is Cheyenne Frontier Days and it becomes part of your life in southeastern Wyoming. This ten-day event marks the middle of summer and it blisters with action nearly 24-hours each day.
As a child I eagerly awaited Frontier Days each year. It was a time filled with activity and wonder. I excitedly watched the parade from the downtown sidewalks admiring the trove of beautiful horses. I scrambled for bits of “gold” and “silver” thrown from the mining floats and thrilled at the mock outlaw shootouts. Every year we would stand waiting, for what seemed an eternity, to savor the sweet taste of free pancakes, ham, and juice served up by the local Kiwanis Club. I have a few memories of watching the rodeos; these consist of dust flying and blurred images of legs – horse legs, cow legs, and legs of cowboys.
A child’s memory is a funny thing; it focuses on the immediate field of vision. That limited vision often gets a kid in trouble. My most striking childhood memory of Frontier Days is the visit to the “Indian Dance” which took place in the downtown streets. The tribal members would set up in the round and entertain the crowd with traditional song and dance. As the culminating event, the children in the audience were invited to join in the round and dance alongside the tribe members in their beautiful beaded costumes. I couldn’t have been much more than five-year’s old when I ventured into the swirling cloud of fringe and feathers. The drums thump-thumping, the women’s voices in high, hollow chorus and the throaty chant from the men filled my ears. I stomped and spun along with the crowd. When the dance was over I looked around for my parents, but they were nowhere in sight. The drumming continued, but now it came from my heart as panic ensued. I felt breathless and confused, the world was spinning, but I was standing still. My eyes welled up with tears. All I could see was the blurry figures of the tribe members, the beauty of their beaded costumes washed away in my frightened confusion.
Suddenly I was swept up in the arms of my father, who had never taken his eyes off of me. He came to my rescue and brought me back to the safe grasp of my mother’s gentle hand.
I don’t remember ever joining the dance again. I remained satisfied with the safe sideline activities, especially the parade. I loved horses and dreamed of riding one in that parade one day. I never did ride a horse in the parade, but I got something much better.
“Oh, look at that cute little boy on that great big horse.” My mom pointed out to the street at one of the boys from a local riding group. I didn’t think much of the boy at that time in my life, but the horse was great.
Many, many years later my mind’s eye looks back on the parade and the little boy who became the love of my life and is my husband today. Little did I know what treasure existed at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Parade.
See more about Cheyenne Frontier Days here: http://www.cfdrodeo.com/home