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Wi-Fi Takes Backseat To ‘Back In The Day’ – Round Up 2015

August 11th, 2015 · Tags:Arts · Cities · Wi-Fi

VEGA Roundup BBQ

 

Before there was Wi-Fi — long before — there was The Oldham Country Round Up in Vega, Texas on Old Route 66. “Vegaville” — a place where authentic cowboys, hard-working farmers and resolute merchants and their families take a day off once a year to get together and celebrate community … planning the future, enjoying the present and talking about the good times passed.

Each year the parade — heading north on U.S. 385 — is led in by two horses, one manned and one with an empty saddle in remembrance of the cowboys and loved ones who no longer ride among us. Old 66 and 385, two border-to-border highways back in the day, intersected in Vega. I don’t know if Vega still hails as “Crossroads of the Nation” as it did when I was young.

As highway traffic is stopped for the parade, a tiny marching band belts out a few sports classics for the crowd. Kids dodge horses and their leavings to grab the candy on the street thrown from old cars, horsemen, firetrucks and antique tractors in the parade. The Texas and American flags are prevalent.

The high school shows off it’s football team on a flatbed truck. The small-school football team still plays 11-man, in the smallest classification, and the cheerleaders love them all the same. The locals flash two fingers to the sky to signal “Hook ‘Em Horns” … not for the university, but for The Mighty Vega Longhorns … a school steeped in tradition.

Other towns are represented from this huge acreage of a country — 1,500 square miles, 2,000 people, created in 1876. Billy The Kid hid out north of Vega, among the cottonwoods near the Canadian River. The city of Adrian sends fire trucks for the parade … one labeled “El Padron” — a veteran of many a grassfire on the plains, no doubt. Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch is always represented with a riding team … one that now features young women as well. Wildorado — for now — mixes in with Vega at the high school level and is represented among the football, band and cheerleading squads.

 

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Round Up (file photo)

Year in, year out, a favorite float in the parade is the Leavitt/Waters family paying tribute to their matriarch Dot Leavitt, who among other things started a Route 66 mini-museum. The tribute — “Rockin Dot.” (Wonder if they have a rockindotcom on the Web … I digress …) Their float usually has a mini-windmill, bales of hay, Route 66 memorabilia … and lots and lots of Dot’s family … stuff like that.

The parade always starts at 11 a.m. sharp and when the last horse passes the old courthouse on the square, the visitors make a beeline for the serving lines … Most of the locals work hard — in 100-degree heat — to prepare for and serve the old timers and tourists and Vega’s expatriates. Townspeople work all week to make ready for the event … setting up booths … cooking beans all night from a top-secret recipe … cooking several whole beeves all night over a blistering bed of coals … the meat roasting just a hundred feet from the Friday night street dance. If there were an award for the visitor who traveled the most distance to attend the meat cooking this year, it would have to be Nancy who flew in from Hawaii. Aloha!

 

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File Photo

The PingWi-Fi motorcycle was not in the parade, not officially … ha … again this year, although there were bikes. (It is from a previous year, but I will insert a photo to illustrate … ) Hmmm … I could toss PingWi-Fi t-shirts from the bike and hopefully avoid the horse apples, if my arm holds out. By the way, no PingWi-Fi shirts were spotted around town, although several have shipped to that zip code. Oh well … Maybe one day I can suit up a softball team in the shirts … like Nike or Under Armor or something — LOL. I secretly was hoping my friend from Muleshoe, Texas might break out his Ping shirt, so that I could blog about having a friend from Muleshoe. I did visit with Danny briefly, along with his sis, my classmate Becky … and of course we talked motorcycles. Ha … saw Butch and Rat too!

 

VEGA Sunrise Windmill Extreme

As I was saying, on Saturday, after the parade, it is hot and the lines for barbecue are long, but as one resident of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex said, “The lines are not nearly as long as those at Franklin’s barbecue in Austin. So. it’s not so bad.”

Many of us prefer the BBQ in Vega. One local told me it is “meat with catsup” on the side … Because this is barbecue the old fashion way, cooked the same way old-timers served it up a hundred years ago in these parts. The sauce is not fancy. The beef flavor holds its own naturally.

On the square by where the serving lines form, there’s now a very cool little coffee shop with high-powered caffeine and frozen blended drinks as well … rivaling the java at any coffee shop anywhere. It’s called The Lazy J Coffee House, in the branding fashion of the Old West. (And yes, it has a great Wi-Fi network … So, there … my original premise for this blog — Wi-Fi exploration — has been satisfied. Mission accomplished. “It’s a free concert from now on …” Know what that’s from? I digress …)

 

VEGA 15 Lone Stock

Sunset On Milo

Further south on the highway is a Dairy Queen, just as with most Texas towns, or so people joke. However, my buddies and I remember many a year before Vega had a DQ. (This blogger found the Wi-Fi network at DQ lacking … no big Dilly Bar, so to speak …) “When I was a kid …” we just had the good old Roadrunner Drive Inn, where we downed many a cherry Dr. Pepper to wash back a smoke burger … I think there may have been a Dairy Mart of something like that, years before in the same building as The RR. Last trip, I checked out a new local favorite — The Windy Cow in neighboring Wildorado, Texas. Yes, Windy Cow in Wildorado has Wi-Fi … although I was so busy with a chicken fried steak that I never logged on. Therefore … Did not check in on Facebook. Did not get a free desert. Did not pass Go! And did not see a murder suspect get nabbed there after a nation-wide manhunt. Ha … well not a laughing matter — a true story. The owner of the cafe — also just off Route 66 — teamed up with good old Oldham County Sheriff Medlin and other authorities to apprehend a fugitive … for real … a few weeks before Round Up.

Windy Cow Catch

Biggest change? Despite the party atmosphere of this place — forever — the town only recently voted to allow its first liquor store. Yes … when Vega went “wet,” I bet there was a noticeable hit to the revenues in every town 30 miles in all directions … Yes, there was a time when adult refreshment was the best excuse for a road trip. (Politically incorrect, as charged …)

There are several great murals around town … new additions on the side of the museum, the funeral home, the football fieldhouse and the building that houses the justice of the peace (I believe). Well, hell. The museum is new too — housed in an old lumberyard, once featured in a full-length film.

The “western” band playing on a flat bed trailer/stage, on the lawn at noon, this year was not the Texas Swing of the past, nor a George Strait-cover band or anything near it. … More like guys with ear gauge ear piercing things and a country-ish bass beat … But the old timers chatted and tapped their feet and ate extra portions of the stewed apricot side dish all the same.

There were no cloggers on stage this year … perhaps that is no longer a pastime anywhere … with the advent of line dancing. (In my simple mind there’s little difference, but admittedly, I am ignorant on both accounts. Regardless, I offered to clog for my niece, if that would make her Round Up experience complete. I digress …) Several nieces, great nieces and a nephew also braved the heat, making my family time very enjoyable … almost as endearing as my friend’s daughter who has taken to calling me “Uncle Kent” as of late.

I can vouch that 50 years ago there was no better event in the lives of the farm kids and town kids who ran freely all over the courthouse lawn, than this one day of the year — if for no other reason. Snowcones! In the past, we rated the Round Up on a scale based on whether or not the local Kiwanis were serving “rainbow” snowcones that year (mixing all flavors). These days, snowcones are about 95 cents more in price, but still popular. You meet the happiest kids with red and purple and green lips. Local youth organizations have added homemade ice cream, ice tea, cold bottled water to the fundraisers in recent years.

This year … NO BINGO!?! But the raffle giveaways kept everyone’s eyes glued to the four or five digits on the tickets in their hands.

Seemingly ancient trees around the courthouse lawn prove the value of shade on The High Plains. Several trees this year shaded a ring of chairs set aside for attendees of a class reunion featuring classes from the tiny town’s ’60s and ’70s. After a night of dining and re-acquainting with old friends from decades before, the Vega grads just hung out, visiting … Everyone knows everyone … pretty much … or at least recognizes certain family traits in faces, enough to guess who anyone might be.

Typically rainclouds threaten in the distance for the Round Up, but usually the light show stays off in the distance and lets the celebration continue.

There is something for everyone … a favorite — the Toad Belly Classic softball tournament with its signature kiddie pool smack dab in centerfield. No doubt the outfielders pray for a ball hit that way and a diving catch, during dusty games in the hottest part of the day. Just across the way from the softball fields is the roping arena. All afternoon Saturday team ropers and ranch rodeo participants show off some of the best skills in Texas. Friday night, the women’s ranch rodeo teams go at it … darned impressive!

As everyone looks for old friends at Round Up … or those they once knew … It is natural to reflect on high school parties — no matter how long ago … One might think of silly rivalries or old hurt feelings … misdeeds … shenanigans … You might see someone and you hug them after so many years and are also compelled to offer condolences for their lost loved ones, those departed since the previous Round Up … It’s a bitter sweet moment mixed with joy for this meeting and reverence for those gone. Despite never having entered a 12-step program … I was glad that an old friend accepted my apology for a thoughtless act so long ago, overdue for about 40 years.

While some healed old scars, others were making new memories … Ha … Caught a high school cowboy and “his date” “parking” on a country road near my brother’s farm … in broad daylight … right there in plain view of God and everyone … LOL. Two heads poked up from the pickup seat, and they smiled and drove away, anonymously, expeditiously. I totally agree with them, for some endeavors, “Daylight Savings Time rocks.”

 

VEGA 15 Dirty Wheel

Speaking of the farm, as strange as it seems to me and as much as I love everything fun about Round Up, this year I enjoyed some hard work more than anything. Sadly, as a kid, I was totally disinterested in anything to do with farming, much to my dad’s dismay. Oh … if I had that part of my life to do over. Ah heck … I would probably rebel again … anywho … It was very satisfying to get dirty loading and transporting some farm equipment from one farm to another. Yes, this city slicker even drove a farm tractor a few miles (an all day-long, everyday-of-the-summer job I hated for years back in the day) … The tractor trek included an overpass route over old Route 66. Does it get any more nostalgic? I also used the tractor to drive through some of the weeds on the farm, scouting for and avoiding rattle snakes. Lots of rain in the region created an excellent habitat of prairie grass and such … for all kinds of scaly things … Even spotted a horny toad in the weeds — coincidentally on the same day that Sports Illustrated featured (hometown) Fort Worth/TCU’s Trevone Boykin on the cover. That must mean something! Good luck for or an omen of impending Heisman? … Still haven’t figured out how TCU came up with Horned Frogs when everyone in Texas knows the correct term is horny toads … I digress …

*EDITOR’S Note: After this blog posted, we got a look at that issue of SI … Not only is the aforementioned Frog on the cover, there is also a nice piece on Baylor’s 6′ 7″, 392-pound tight end LaQuan McGowan – a product of Oldham County by way of the Boys Ranch Roughriders.  Wonder if he ever attended Round Up …

 

VEGA 15 Spidey

 

No snakes this time.  Lots of owls, huge spiders, grasshoppers the size of a U-Haul trailer (ouch), rabbits, etc.

Saturday night the adults scoot boots to country music, while the teens pair up to the latest music at a local church. Young and old ride around the town, just like forever, enjoying a cold one — whether it be a DQ Blizzard, a “Colorado Koolaid” or even a somewhat pretentious craft beer … j/k … No matter what you’re drinking, its all about visiting with friends … inspecting the town for change. It’s there. But some things are just the same.

Round Up!

 

VEGA 15 Tree Shaped

Johnson Grass

And then there was the ride home. “On a steel horse I ride.” As much as I love to travel on the Triumph Thunderbird, it was pretty grueling. I think the official high temperature in the area was 108, but I passed a bank thermometer somewhere south of Wichita Falls that claimed, “114.” I think they embellished. Regardless, it was hotter than a spider on an oven on pancake day. Quite proud of my contingency plan — swim trunks in the saddle bag — I pulled over in Windthorst, Texas — on the backroad to Fort Worth (281) and Googled swimming pools. The nearest I found was 12 miles out of my way in Archer City, Texas. No worries. I veered west and was in the pool area in no time. But not IN the pool. As luck would have it, I caught the pool “on break” (as if that is really going to keep 10-year-old boys from peeing in the pool …) And after riding in the heat for hours, had to wait another 15 minutes. I guess it made the dip in the pool that much more refreshing. By the way, you do know that Archer City is the home of author Larry McMurtry (previously featured in this blog — McMurtry, Archer City )?  By the way … This was not “THE pool” — the famous swimming pool/diving board in the scene that introduced a skinny-dipping Cybil Shepherd to moviegoers in McMurtry’s “Last Picture Show.” Cybil’s big splash was filmed in nearby Wichita Falls at the country club. No one re-enacted the scene, I might add, while I was in Archer City. Pretty sure I was at least the second most famous writer in the pool that day. I digress …

 

VEGA Silverton Formation

On the journey to The Panhandle, earlier in the week, the trip was about as scenic as ever I recall. Much rain had made the native vegetation so green … in stark contrast with the red rock formations on my south-to-north backroad. On the way to Round Up, I turned off of 287 at Estelline, Texas and headed west toward Turkey, Texas. Love that. But rather than continuing west, I turned the bike north on 70 a few miles, then looped back toward Silverton on 256 … There are many miles of canyon lands back there … YOU MUST make the drive some time. You’ll thank me. Near Claude, Texas you get to see the back side of Palo Duro Canyon from the road, and the Estelline-to-Silverton loop features a lot of Caprock Canyons. Beauty.

Know what I sayin?