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Future barrel racer - for sure

Before the rodeo begins: When I go to a baseball game I like to arrive early and watch batting practice, the teams take infield practice, and the crowd arriving. It is part of the experience and part of the fun. So it was with attending the opening day of the Alder Creek Pioneer Rodeo. I arrived early.


It was a treat to watch and listen to the colorful and informative program put on by the Yakama Indians in attendance. I listened with admiration as a young lady sang our national antehm. Then I went up into the stands under the shade of some ponderosa pine, and watched the "getting ready" process of this 100th annual running of the Alder Creek Rodeo.


Before the rodeo began there was a lot of activity. Lots of folks have to do their job to put on an event like this. So I watched. A man drove a farm tractor across the rodeo arena to disc the ground. The martiarch of the Yakama tribe, took care in placing cultural adornments on the buckskin horse she would ride in the opening ceremonies. The rodeo's president, decked out in early 1900s attire, checked his bowler hat.


But the most fun was watching the many who rode their horses around the arena. Walking their horse and visiting with others. Cantering their horse and turning tight circles. They were young and old, cowboys and cowgirls who would compete, rodeo queens, mounted drill team members, and lots of little cowboys and cowgirls just having fun riding their horses. It was magic and some of my favorite photographs were taken before the rodeo itself even began. These are some of them.



If you read the story about my visit to Bickleton 7.7.2007 you will read where I met a pretty young woman at the Carousel Museum in Bickleton, Washington. She told me her dad had gone to college with one of my WSU classmates from Bickleton, Mike Clark. She pointed out the church in Bickleton where I would find Mike.


Now roll forward to the 100th Annual Alder Creek Pioneer Rodeo in Cleveland, Washington (four miles south of Bickleton). In a chance meeting at the rodeo, I was talking to two of the Yakama Indians participating in the rodeo events. A young man (David Clinton) walked up and joined us in the conversation.


During the conversation, I learned that it was his wife (Kim) who had helped me at the Carousel museum in Bickleton in 2007. He discovered it was me, who had written the “blog” about that visit. And to add to the story it turns out that David and Kim’s pretty 17 year old daughter had been chosen as the rodeo queen for this the 100th anniversary year of the rodeo. Small world. I might add that not only was Queen Katelynn a lovely young lady, but she could really ride a horse.




The 100th running of the Alder Creek Rodeo in Cleveland, Washington.


Friday night (June 11th, 2010) I had visited the rodeo grounds in Cleveland, Washington with my wife. We met two of our long time friends there as well. We took a few free rides on the 1905 (also listed as 1902 or 1907) Herschell-Spillman “wooden horses” carousel. Later we drove north from Cleveland the four miles to Bickleton, where the four of us had a nice and fun dinner at the oldest tavern in Washington state, opened in 1882…the Bluebird.


Saturday (June 12th, 2010). I took my camera and ice chest and drove back to Cleveland to spend the day. The day opened with talks by Yakama Indians in native attire. Several of them entertained a large audience telling stories of their dances, traditions, costumes and ties to the area and the Alder Creek Rodeo.


I found it fun sitting up at the top of one of the grandstands under the shade of some huge ponderosa pine trees, watching the preparations for the official start of the 100 year anniversary running of the Alder Creek Rodeo.


The rodeo itself was full of excitement, fun, humor, skill, and wonderful horsemanship by men, women and kids. My favorite event of the entire rodeo was the women’s barrel racing. A range cow milking event with teams of three men trying to “capture” and get milk from unruly, indignant and strong range cows, provided the most laughs.


There were plenty of American flags on display and during the opening ceremonies of this small town rodeo,and there was a touching tribute to our country, our flag, and the men and women in uniform serving our country. It was well done.




A trip to Bickleton 07.07.2007


When I went to Washington State University I met students from all over the state. One in particular, named Mike Clark, was from a town so small that his entire high school graduating class included just seven other students. It was also right out in the middle of nowhere. The name of the town - - Bickleton, Washington (Kittitas County). I nicknamed Mike “Bickleton”. The last two years at WSU I didn’t keep track of Mike but heard that he had gone into the air force and was flying fighter jets (this near the end of the Vietnam War).


A couple of weeks ago my wife and I were visiting her Aunt Betty and Uncle Jess in Yakima. We got to talking about how fun it was to visit small towns. We started sharing stories of our own favorite small towns. Jess said he had always wanted to visit Bickleton because a pilot friend of his had flown over the town and mile from the town out in a field were all these old cars, and in good condition.


I told Jess I had actually gone to school with somebody from Bickleton and since I had never been there, I was determined to make a mini road trip there. Today (July 7th, 2007) my wife and I drove to Bickleton.


We drove to Mabton first (had to ask directions because the back way we took, the highway stopped abruptly and it wasn’t clear whether we should go left or right to reach Mabton, that should have been “straight ahead”).


Once at Mabton we found the sign pointing the way to Bickleton and off we went on a winding two lane asphalt road through treeless prairie. Up a major ridge we went and then up and down through broken canyon country.


I had read on the internet that Bickleton prided itself on the following. Bickleton is:


* The blue bird capital of the WORLD (when you self proclaim something you can be generous in scope).


* Site of the oldest rodeo in the state of Washington (hard to find enough cowboys with just 90 people in town). 2010 was the 100th running of this wonderful small town rodeo.


* The oldest tavern in the state, called the Bluebird [with a name like the Bluebird Tavern, you wouldn’t expect bikers but there was one Harley (man and a woman together) parked outside the Bluebird]. The Bluebird Tavern. Washington State's oldest tavern, opened for business in Bickleton, Washington in 1882. A 1903 Brunswick pool table in the tavern in original.


* An antique and rare carousel (built in 1902 and moved from Portland, Oregon in 1929). It is only operated ONCE a year, the second week in June, at the oldest rodeo in the state.


* Last but not least and most intriguing was the Whoop N Holler ranch and museum. It was said to be 13 miles out of town (toward the Columbia River and the tiny town of Roosevelt, Washington). As near as I could tell the Whoop N Holler museum housed a HUGE collection of restored antique cars - - out in the middle of nowhere). This was undoubtedly the source of Uncle Jess’s story of “old cars by the hundreds, out in the middle of nowhere).


About 12 miles before reaching Bickleton, we started seeing lot of bluebird nests. They were all painted white with a bright blue roof on them. Lots of time and care had been taken in the construction and placement of these nesting boxes for mountain blue birds.


Soon we found ourselves actually entering DOWNTOWN Bickleton, population 90 (more or less). We were both hungry but there weren’t too many choices in Bickleton. On our right the Bluebird Tavern (at the time no vehicles in front, one Harley Davidson motorcycle parked in the shade on the side. Next on the right, the squat metal Bickleton Fire Department with about four doors and an old fire truck sitting outside at the end of the building (a small old fire truck). A big shade tree stood in front like the “village Smithy of old”.


Past these two town buildings were a few houses. Time to make a U-Turn. Now heading North through Bickleton, a curious brand new building sat on our right. It said AROUSEL museum, which I must admit, I never did “get” (why it was named the arousel) until I got home.


We parked in front (ours was the only vehicle) and walked into the only brand new building in town. It was a small museum and to tell you the truth, you could see 75% of the display standing in the entry way. A pretty young lady greeted us as did an older lady sitting behind a desk. The young lady handed me a pen and asked me to please sign their guest log.


As I was signing the book, the older lady said, “admission is $4.00” and then when I didn’t blink, she added “each”. Well to tell you the truth, I like small towns and I like to support small town businesses etc. but I was thinking I would rather spend the $8.00 another way.


Thinking as fast as I could I said, well we really didn’t stop to visit the museum today, I was just hoping I might find somebody who has lived in Bickleton for a long long time and just might possibly know somebody I went to college with many years ago.


”What’s his name” asked the pretty young lady.


“Mike Clark”


Her face lit up and so did the older ladies’ face. In stereo they pronounced “Mike is the pastor of our church here in town”.


I figured as remote as the possibility seemed in Bickleton, Washington, that this must be another Mike Clark. Somehow a college graduate who flew F-4 phantoms and was a whiz in math at WSU, didn’t sound like he could be the pastor of the 100 year old Presbyterian Church in Bickleton (but he was).


“Yes” said the young lady. “After college he went into the Air Force then was a commercial pilot for American Airlines”. Then as if not being able to contain herself any longer, she said “If you knew Mike in college, you must have known my Dad. He was one of Mike’s best friends in college and he too is from Bickleton”.


Unfortunately I didn’t recognize her Dad’s name.


Then she told us that if we wanted to talk to Mike we should go now, as he would be performing a wedding at one o’clock this afternoon (and believe me we were to find out that a wedding in Bickleton is a major event that every body attends).


Anticipating that I was about to ask for directions she pulled me outside and pointed to the tallest roof line in town. Then she actually told me how many streets I should proceed down the main street of town, before turning right to the church. I honestly could have hit the roof of the church with a rock, with a good strong throw. God, I love small towns.


Now my wife and I had a graceful way to skip the four dollar AROUSEL museum. We drove to the church and as we did we passed the only other business in town and that was the grocery store across from the Bluebird Tavern. As we first drove by it we didn’t notice that it was not only a grocery store but also the town café (The Market Street Grocery and Café).


We drove to the church. Nobody there, but what a beautiful well cared for old church it was. All doors to the church and meeting hall beside it were unlocked, and I peaked in each, without finding a soul (no pun intended).


My wife and I went through the church gate to the house immediately behind the church and I knocked on the door. I didn’t recognize the man who answered at first, but then when he identified himself as Mike Clark, I did recognize him. He did not remember me though he remembered my name. So the first part of the conversation under the shade of an old tree was to reestablish our common threads at WSU. This done we both gave thumbnail sketches of our 40 years plus, since we last were in college together.


He gave me a card with his email address and we promised to keep in touch. Now wedding party members started arriving at the church so my wife and I took leave and a couple photos of the church as we left.


Returning to downtown Bickleton we decided to go to the grocery store in case there was something that looked good to eat and would hold us over until we went by the Whoop N Holler and made our way ultimately to Goldendale, Washington.


When we walked in we were surprised (and very pleased) to find not only a really cool old fashion feeling store (with products stacked neatly on bookshelf type displays; and ice cream counter in the center; pictures of historic events and building on the east wall; but a café with menu and all.


The next hour of ordering our food; walking around the store (taking some photos); listening to the locals come in and hear what they thought was important to talk about; was, as the television commercial jingle goes….PRICELESS.


Our waitress was an Indian looking lady with dark black hair braided in a pony tail. The cook cash register operator was a short haired slightly heavy lady with a quick wit, which she used effectively on all that entered. With my wife’s “bat” quality hearing she determined that the short haired quick witted gal was the owner of the place.


Brand new blue bird houses were for sale at the store and lots of blue bird themed gifts and crafts. My wife picked up an anniversary card for her sister, and we both picked out a small blue bird box craft for a good friend of ours.


The locals that came in were absolutely the best entertainment you could ask for. An old man sweating at the brow and wearing bib overalls parked his old battered pick up truck with home made farm trailer behind it, right in front of the café (parallel parked), then came strolling up to the ice cream counter. As he gazed into the large cardboard buckets of ice cold ice cream (it was really hot outside), he asked “Where’z my blue berry ice cream”.


The witty one quickly replied “Sorry Ralph. All out of blue berry. Can’t get anymore until next Tuesday. Try the raspberry cream, you will like it”.


Ignoring her suggestion for the moment and acting like he might turn and walk back out the way he came, he said in a droll manner “you sure picked good weather to be outta my favorite ice cream”.


Wisely, she said nothing in reply.


Long silence.


Ralph then said “I’ll take two raspberry cream cones”.


Ralph bought the two ice cream cones, wished the owner of the store well, and exited out the front door. I craned my neck to see whether there was somebody or perhaps a dog waiting out in that hot pick up truck, or whether Ralph just ordered two cones for himself.


As he fired the old truck up, a hand came out (his wife) for the other cone, and down the main street of Bickleton they disappeared.


The café had papers, magazines, road atlases AND a basket of various power, reading glasses out on a table for their older clientele (like us). I thought that a really nice touch.


Toward the end of our meal (always good in a small town café), I picked up my ice tea glass and hit my water glass, spilling the water all the way across the table and onto the floor. Embarrassed I started using napkins to get all the water off the table top but I would need a towel to get the water on the floor.


I went to Witty and the waitress, explained my plight, and Witty gave me a big wad of paper towels. I liked the fact that she was going to let me clean up my own mess. As I wiped the water off the old store’s board floor (it had a board ceiling too), Witty quipped “There you have done it”. “Now that is the only clean patch of floor we got”. “Won’t match the rest”.


My wife eats MUCH slower than I do, so my salad and patty melt sandwich was gone while she still ate her big lunch salad slowly. The waitress an the owner decided it was time for them to eat, so both brought a big salad out to one of the tables and started to eat and chat.


As you would expect (and they claimed they knew what would happen) - - customers started coming in asking for this and that. First one of them would jump up from their meal, then the other, then both.


I walked with my wife up to the cash register counter saying that since their lunches had already been interrupted that I just as well pay. Witty rang up the meals; the ice teas; the card; and the little blue bird box. Now I swear the following happened, just as I’m going to tell it:


Witty looked up at me with the final stroke of the old cash register key and said “1814”. And she sang it out just exactly like the start of the old Johnny Horton song of the 60s (The Battle of New Orleans).


I didn’t blink, but sang the next refrain “we took a little trip”; she then sang the next verse “along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Missi-sip”. Now me, still singing “We took a little bacon and we took a little beans” and then we both broke up laughing so hard I couldn’t stand it. Straight faced I said “Johnny Horton, 1960s”. “Yip” was all she said as she shook her head and smiled.


Hard to have much more fun than that in a town of 90 people.


Sadly we now left the little town of Bickleton and headed to the Whoop N Holler ranch and museum. We were told by the nice folks at Bickleton that we couldn’t miss the sign. Then did say though, that the nice people that had run it for years were getting way up in age, and they didn’t know how they would be able to keep it going much longer.


Arriving at the Whoop-N-Holler ranch and museum, we were saddened to see a “closed” sign nailed to the big wooden sign along the road. The house and the “museum” were gated off. I could see a lot of old cars and old truck scattered around some of the buildings, but we weren’t going to get to meet Lawrence and Ada Ruth Whitmore who live on Whitmore Road and run the Whoop N Holler. A real shame.


We headed on south to the Columbia River, by Roosevelt; past the John Day dam; up to Goldendale; over Satus Pass (3,000 feet in elevation, same as Snoqualmie Pass); then back home. A good time together.


Postscript: The AROUSEL museum in town is the Carousel Museum (the “C” was missing on the sign and I didn’t have the on the spot imagination to figure it out). That one went right over the top of my head.

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Taken on June 11, 2010