It was a perfect evening in Green Valley Park and a perfect way to inaugurate the community celebration of the 125th Annual World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo.
The August sky was overcast, creating twilight that lasted almost the full two hours during the Lasso for Literacy Ice Cream Social Wednesday. A steady, easy breeze kept the temperature comfortable. The only distractions were the bees and the loud and enthusiastic children at play. Who knew people only two feet tall or so had the lung capacity of longshoremen?
The Rim Country Literacy Program put on a great show with both local and visiting artists offering wonderful old country music as well as humorous poems and stories, along with a few more melancholy pieces.
Junction 87, the Bill Camp Trio, Eddie Armer and Buckshot Dot (Dee Strickland Johnson) provided music through the evening. Both Junction 87 and the Bill Camp Trio gave renditions of the cowboy ballad “Cool Water,” and they were both wonderful.
Billy Ichida of Junction 87 rocked the park with his fiddle, playing a breathtaking version of “Orange Blossom Special.”
Alice Natale, who, in addition to being a great storyteller, is president of the board of RCLP, shared a humorous tale of how the West was settled — according to the cattle.
Official town historian, poet, storyteller, pioneer son, merchant, author and publisher Jinx Pyle offered “The Cowboy Test,” which tells the tale of how a boy became a man — and a real cowboy — during a Rim Country roundup.
Former Roundup reporter and now biographical writer Carol La Valley recounted the history of the song “My Darling Clementine” and even led the crowd in singing the old ballad. She then shared the story she had written based on the song.
Visiting poet Russ Morris shared “Cowboys Come and Go” and gave an encore to close the evening.
Local writer Noble Collins had both melancholy and humorous pieces. The low-key poem “I Thought I Saw Old Zane” was about what Western author Zane Grey might think if he saw the Rim Country today. Collins drew more than a few laughs with his “21 and Busted” poem.
Visiting poet Clifford Hicks also had the crowd laughing with his “Bubblegum Blues.”
Eddie Armer, another pioneer son, musician, historian and storyteller sang his ballad, “Mighty Mogollon” and shared a piece about what a gathering of Rim old-timers in heaven might be like.
Willaden Sweatt, one of the local poets performing, entertained the crowd of about 50 with several poems.
Buckshot Dot, also known as Dee Strickland Johnson, capped off the evening with the history of Levis and more, including a toe-tapping song that had a toddler so entertained he made his way to the dance floor in front of the bandstand and stamped his feet in time to the music.
The evening of cowboy poetry, stories and music was the first of its kind to be presented by RCLP, and there is already talk about having the event next year at the 126th Annual World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo. Put it on your calendar now, it makes for a perfect evening in Green Valley Park.