Some of you may know, I’m a big fan of rodeos. I have been since I was a little girl because of the 4th of July.
Every summer, the sleepy little town closest to our farm would burst to life for four days with the biggest event of the year – the 4th of July celebration. I can’t even tell you how old I was before I figured out the 4th of July was supposed to represent a single day, not a time of year.
Some towns might go all out for Christmas or Halloween, maybe even Easter. But our small town had the 4th of July. Apparently, going all out for Independence Day is something they’ve done for more than a century.
The four days of fun generally included four nights of rodeo, games and activities in the park, and a parade. Fireworks generally took place the night of the 4th. There was also a Suicide Race, most often right before the second night of the rodeo.
The town boasted a saddle shop owned by a wonderful, kind man who also tended to enjoy a good joke from time to time. When I was four, my dad took me to Leroy’s shop to get a new belt for the rodeo. I remember walking inside, holding tightly to Daddy’s hand as the rich scent of leather filled my nose.
While Dad and Leroy talked, I wandered around the store, looking at saddles and boots, running my little fingers over the smooth leather of bridles and the rough texture of new ropes. Then I spied the belts. Dad let me pick the one I wanted – a floral stamped leather belt with a silver buckle. On the center of the buckle was a little gold saddle. I still have that belt today and whenever I look at it, I smile, recalling fond memories from both going to town with my dad and going to the rodeo.
Anyway, my family was big into the 4th of July celebration. We usually went to the rodeo at least once, sometimes twice. Quite often one or more of us would be in the parade. My oldest brother and his wife often rode their horses or drove a wagon in the parade. My other brother frequently entered one of his antique cars. I remember one year Mom helped me make an early 1900s costume so I could ride with him. I played In the Good Old Summertime on the piano about fifty times in a row and recorded it on our tape player, then we blasted that from a boom box in the car as we drove down the street (yep, that was back before you could loop songs on your smart phone!).
Back in those days, my oldest brother and one or more of my cousins would ride in the Suicide Race. If you’ve never seen or heard of one, in a nutshell, a group of riders with more courage than I could ever muster race down a harrowing trail to see who makes it to the bottom first. The race starts at the top of a butte with a blast of dynamite and ends in the rodeo arena across the river. It’s a 2-mile course down the hill, across the highway, through the river and into the arena. If a rider makes it off the butte, many of them end up taking a swim in the river.
Eventually my brother stopped racing and his kids took over as competitors. My niece was the first girl to race, starting when she was just 16. She rode five years, and won it twice.
Here you can watch the race from a competitor’s perspective. If you skip ahead to about the two-minute mark, it’s when the race begins.
Thanks to my childhood, I still feel that same excitement when the 4th of July rolls around. Even though we moved away many years ago, I still think back on those holidays with great fondness and nostalgia.
I think that’s why, if I have a book that includes the summer months, I often work in a scene of a parade or rodeo.
One of my favorites is this excerpt from my sweet historical romance, Bertie.
Enjoy an excerpt!
Bertie smiled and slipped her arm around his, drawing him closer into their rowdy group. Together, they watched the parade. The sheriff served as the grand marshal, flanked by Lars and Kade. They made such a striking duo as they rode their horses down the street, waving to the crowds. Three other deputies rode behind them.
“There’s my daddy! There’s my daddy!” Brett and Ben yelled, joined in their cheers by all of Lars and Marnie’s children.
Bertie giggled when Sophie nearly lurched out of Marnie’s arms, begging to go with her father. “Please, Mama, ride with Daddy. I wanna ride with Daddy!”
“No, Sophie. Not today. You just stay right here with me and watch the parade. Look, see the little pony cart coming? Isn’t he pretty?” Marnie tried to distract her daughter, but the child fussed and squirmed.
Bertie’s mouth fell open when Riley stepped over to Marnie and held out his arms to the child. “Mind if I hold this little sweetheart for a while?”
“Not at all, Riley. Maybe she’ll settle down for you.” Marnie handed over Sophie with an indulgent smile.
Sophie stared up at the man she’d only seen a few times. She leaned back in his arms and studied him. A tiny finger traced down his straight nose, across his cheeks and over his bottom lip. She grinned and sighed, wrapping her little arms around his neck, knocking his hat askew. “I like you.”
“I’m glad to hear that, Miss Sophie. I like you, too.” Riley reached up and straightened his hat, then turned so he once again stood beside Bertie with Sophie perched on his arm. He kept the little girl entertained and engaged during the parade.
Bertie marveled at his ease interacting with the child. He seemed confident, as if he had experience in handling fussy little ones. From past conversations, she knew Riley was an only child. Curious, she wondered where he’d gained his knowledge of keeping a little one content.
Perhaps he was one of those people who just naturally took to children. If so, it made her like him even more.
The “burrrrrooom boom boom boom” sound that Bertie recognized as Nik’s motorcycle rumbled down the street. He appeared riding his bike, followed by a group of bicyclers including several young women wearing bicycle bloomers.
“Looks like Nik finally got his harem,” Tony joked, nudging Garrett with his elbow.
Just for fun, here are a few patriotic puzzles to enjoy!
And a jigsaw puzzle!
What about you? Do you have any fun memories from 4th of July celebrations, or even summer memories as a child?
Wishing everyone a beautiful weekend full of fun and joy!
After spending her formative years on a farm in Eastern Oregon, hopeless romantic Shanna Hatfield turns her rural experiences into sweet historical and contemporary romances filled with sarcasm, humor, and hunky western heroes.
When this USA Today bestselling author isn’t writing or covertly hiding decadent chocolate from the other occupants of her home, Shanna hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller.