It’s Rodeo Time in St. Paul, Oregon

I come from a small town, a town that in places across the US is disappearing, getting swallowed up by bigger cities, a faster pace. I come from a place where everyone knows your name and everyone cares about how you’re doing. This small town of only 322 people has come a long ways, while at the same time never leaving behind where it has been. It has memories of incredible people, people who fought to keep this small American town alive and prospering. You can tell in our faces who has been here their whole lives, and those that haven’t still take pride in what we have here. We know it’s rare, we know it’s sacred and we know we’re so very lucky.

This coming weekend is a special time for this small little farming town that sits south of Portland only 30 miles. It’s St. Paul Rodeo time folks, and it has come to town. It promises bucking bulls, dirt flying, cowboy boots, carnival rides, elephant ears, snow cones, and beer. It takes an army to run this event, but we do it year and year again because I think it’s just in our blood to do so. We all volunteer; make time to invite people in to our little hideaway, just for a few days.

The St. Paul Rodeo is the biggest west of the Mississippi on the 4th of July and brings in over 60,000 people every year! That’s quite a bit for small town of our size! People pile in with their pick-ups and boots, parking in make shift parking lots to raise money for the high school booster club. Excitement is in the air, and you can feel it, because the rodeo is here! Bulls and Barrels promise to be exhilarating and the beer promises to be cold. I found this piece in a book awhile back and I truly can’t say it any better than this….

In the grassy parking lot, near the entrance to the fairgrounds, pickups outnumber cars. There isn’t a BMW in the bunch. Bumper sticker proclaim “Eat Beef” and “Ranchers Are the Real Endangered Species.” They climb the grandstands before the cowboys arrive. They sit among neighbors, and look around for a hand to shake, a back to slap, an elbow to squeeze. Their smiles are unwilted in the heat. We’re still here.

A tiny loudspeaker blares a country song, and cowboy hats bob to the rhythm. An American flag snaps in the breeze. The announcer salutes the cowboys, salutes the crowd, salutes every brave American who has fought and died. In the flourish of the Grand Entry, the men and women of rodeo burst into the arena with the hoof-pounding thunder of a posse sweeping over the ridge, racing to the rescue. The smiling, blushing rodeo queen, wearing a sequined blouse, tight jeans and boots, waves to the crowd with a white-gloved hand. Rodeo clowns, wearing baggy trousers and coats of greasepaint, turn somersaults for the children, who giggle their father’s shoulders, as happy as life can be. We’re still here.

A cowboy comes flying out of the chutes. The crowd groans and gasps with every twist and turn, as if each one of them is taking the wild ride. The people of the plains know the danger of a sudden jolt, the fear of slipping from the edge.    The horse darts to the west, then to the east, and rears back in the fury. The cowboy holds tight, summoning every ounce of strength he can muster. The crowd is right there with him.

“You can ride ’em,” they cry. “Ride ’em! Ride ’em! Ride ’em!” The cowboy hangs tough, outlasting the challenge, landing on his feet. A roar of triumph sweeps the grandstands. We’re still here.

Biting the Dust By Dirk JohnsonPhotos courtesy of

Salmon Fishing & Canning

5 Gifts from My Mom…

I always have been told that I take after the Kirsch (my dad’s) side of the family.  I look like my dad, talk like my dad, I have a rather imposing Kirsch sized nose, all good Kirsch traits.  However I also get many things from my wonderful mom!!  So for this Mom’s Day I want to thank her for all the wonderful gifts she has given to me.  Here are just a few…

1. Optimism.  If you’re ever having a tough time and just want to complain, don’t go see my mother.  Because somehow amidst all your moaning and groaning, she will turn it around to some kind of positive message.  She can turn any situation, no matter how bad, into something to shrug your shoulders at and move on.  Let me tell you, living life this way is contagious.

I should add “TRUST”
Mom is letting me practice IVs on her in EMT class!

2. Cooking.  My mom is the best cook in the world!  From very early on I have always known that I loved to cook, because it was something that I saw my mom love to do.  Some of my most vivid memories of a very happy childhood have been spent with my mom in the kitchen.  I’m not nearly as good at cooking as her, a few years behind probably, but she’s always there encouraging me along the way.

3. Silver Hair.  I know this sounds like a negative but her hair is beautiful and although I’m not ecstatic about going “grey” at age 28, I can look forward to pretty hair someday…a far away someday…still dying my hair.

4. Big Heart.  Mom is the most unselfish person I know.  She gives so much of herself to others to make sure that they are ok, that they are getting help if they need it, or even just a warm meal when going through tough times.  She’s an incredible giver and everyday makes me realize how much I want to be more like her everyday!  My feeling of wanting to be there for others, and help those in need stems from seeing her be unselfish for others my entire life.  The most amazing part is that she never leaves you feeling like you were left out or put on the back burner, she knows how to prioritize and always get things done.

Big hug after the Portland Marathon

5. You Can Do IT!!  It may seem trivial, but hearing these words from my mom my entire life has gotten me through just about everything.  I ran a marathon with these words ringing in my ears, because I could hear her yelling them from the sidewalk most of the way!  Encouragement is something mom is never short on, and something that I admire in her.  She’s always there to tell you that you can do whatever you set your mind to and because of that it’s made me more happy and successful than I could have ever dreamed!

I could go on and on with things that my mom has given to me over the years.  From dinners everyday out in the fields during harvest, to the many rides around the farm shuttling tractors across the prairie, taking care of me when I’m sick, my mom has done it all!  She reminds me of how good people can be, and when you have your priorities straight and you treat people with respect good things come to you in life.  And when they don’t, look on the bright side, brush yourself off, and move on!  Thanks mom for everything, you’re amazing and I love you!

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