The festivities are already underway. Ranchers are auctioning off their cattle, sheep, and swine. Their faces look like stained wood carvings glaring out at the crowd watching with wonder and lust while the hot equine forms motor around the arena below. Each animal gives a raspy huff at the audience from behind their black-bulbed eyes as they choke and wheeze in their muddy trot. Some will be slaughtered and some will be turned out to stud and make more meat. It’s a contest and ribbons are handed out. Everyone cheers. Hee-haw.
Next is the beauty pageant. Lines of fat, little country girls fight for the title of Miss Rodeo Tennessee. They enter the ring single-file like a cherubim clone assembly-line wearing red, white, and blue sequined-fringed outfits with matching cowboy hats and boots. Each girl performs her curtsey and gives dainty grin to the crowd. Their nervous mothers twitch, looking on from the edges of the arena, fanning themselves impatiently with their rodeo programs and pant like rabid dogs. Ribbons are handed out. Everyone cheers. Hee-haw.
The rodeo is about to begin. The mayor sits with the Rotary Club up in the director’s box eating prawn sandwiches with steak knives. He takes a microphone and thanks everyone on behalf of the sponsors as he stares out at his hillbilly denizens under his ham-pink brow. A choir director from the First Baptist Church walks out and sings the National Anthem through the crass brown rust mold of the clogged stadium speakers. The harsh noise rings and echoes out across the valley. Everyone cheers. Hee-haw.
The rodeo clowns run out to rally the audience. They are Hispanic and their tan skin looks like leprosy under their white face paint. Drunken high-schoolers throw stale popcorn at the clowns with their devilish smiles lashed broadly across their faces. Little children are running up and down the bleachers, playing wild-wild west, plastic six-shooters strapped to their hips, killing one another over and over. Grandmas spit snuff juice into their Styrofoam cups. “Whhoooop it up!” They all holler at a teenage rider climbing up ass of an angry bovine. Its horns are sanded down to the butt of the skull, right above the brain meat. Everyone cheers. Hee-haw.
Cowboys line up – one after the other - and ride the show meat. They put on a show for a bumpkin mob enthralled with the lewd ceremony. The riders strap themselves to their snarling beasts that throb madly between the fragile legs of the frail handlers. Each pair – rider and animal - performs their rigid, pagan choreography on the dusty ground of the Expo Center as men, women, and children ogle the charade, entranced by their barbarian custom, indifferent to the fate of those performing. Hee-haw.
The final rider assumes his position atop the hate-fuming bull, black like charcoal. The gate in the corner of the arena swings open and the animal tears out in a huffing rage, bucking up and down, ripping through the air like a rabid raptor, cowboy in tow. The rider holds on. The creature swings its heavy bulk around and around in circles like a horned hurricane. The rider keeps on going. The beast thrashes back and forth. Its gait and posture spins rough and forcefully, a mechanical twister covered in matted hair caked with earth. Finally, the poor boy is thrown off his crotch and falls in to the dirt. The bull jumps free and stomps the rider’s pelvis down into the brown dust. Everyone cheers.
The rodeo clowns run out. They hypnotize the animal with their ghoulish make-up and lead the beast away from its victim. Slowly, the riders gets up, dusts off his leather britches, and waves to everyone as he limps away. Hee-haw.
Nick Schillace Landscape and People (Burly Time Records: BTR003, March 18th, 2008)
Now to carry over the "Rodeo" theme we head to Detroit, MI via Durham, NC as Burly Time Records releases an album full of the gritty grace and rhythmic strums of the acoustic guitar. Nick Schillace is a Detroit-based acoustic guitar player who creates magical stories with just his hands and six strings (twelve on occasion). Landscape and People is his second album, but his first on Burly Time, a label that can take pride in picking only quality folk acts. One word that keeps coming to mind while listening to this album is tradition. However, this collection has a certain quality that allows it to break free from that traditional sound while paying its respects at the same time.
Landscape and People
A Kings's Head/Dunes/Long River/Memorium Djalma/1976/Ching-Chong/Your Memories of Oklahoma (mp3)/A Real State of Independence