Sunday, September 23, 2012

Connell's wildlife

Connell's whimsical sidewalk art
Connell, Washington, is a small town about 35 miles north of Pasco on Highway 395, which used to run through the town but now bypasses it.

I lived there for eight years in the 1980s when I published the town's weekly newspaper, the Franklin County Graphic. I make frequent trips to the town, which has doubled in size since a prison was built there, to see friends.

Wildlife has changed since I lived there. I remember one Saturday night the most exciting thing happening was that a snake crossed the town's main street, stopping traffic, and crawled up into the wheel hub of my car.

Connell's Columbia Avenue boasts a different type of wildlife now. In 2010, the town installed six bronze scupltures of various wildlife seated at concrete picnic tables, with room for people passers-by to join them.

The bronze and cast concrete sculptures were created by Ton Otterness in a project sponsored by the City of Connell and the Washington Arts Commission. The series is called, appropriately, Wild Life.

The whimsical characters include animals and veterans playing cards in front of the American Legion; farm families meeting with a banker to get a loan for a manure spreader, and a coyote ordering a mouse in the mail in front of the post office.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Pendleton Round-Up: Let 'er buck!

Statue at Round-Up arena entrance
Whenever I make a list of my favorite things, rodeos are always on the list. I love a good rodeo! Fortunately, I live in the West, where there are plenty of opportunities to indulge this passion.

I grew up going to rodeos. We almost always went to the St. Paul, Oregon, rodeo over the Fourth of July with its awesome fireworks after each night's performance. When we didn't spend July 4 at St. Paul, we spent it at the Mollala Buckaroo where organizers brought in stars from top television Westerns to entertain. I remember one year that I was close enough to touch Annie Oakley's horse as it walked by. Of course, Annie was really the actress Gail Davis, but it still was an awesome experience for a kid.

Yesterday, we attended the Pendleton Round-Up, one of the top rodeos in the West. In a couple of events, the animals bested the cowboys, though they didn't get points for doing this. Everyone laughed as one winning steer left the cowboy in the lurch then ambled off to nibble grass on the grassy oval in the middle of the arena as he wasn't in any hurry to go back to the pen. The round-up arena doubles as the high school football field.

It was a nice rodeo, but not that all exciting. For us, the highlight of the day was the Happy Canyon pageant, put on by Native American plateau tribes. More than 400 people participated in the pageant which began with explanations of Indian traditions and their way of life. It progressed with the coming of the white man to the West and how this movement changed their way of life. The finale was absolutely stunning, as a brave astride a magnificent paint horse rode to an upper stage holding the U.S. flag as the audience sang the national anthem. This was especially moving as just yesterday morning it was announced the ambassador to Libya had been killed when terrorists attacked the embassy there.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Country Mercantile

Country Mercantile, a few miles north of Pasco on Highway 395, is one of our favorite places to go. My husband is addicted to their sausage dogs and gourmet carmel corns. I like their fresh salsas and their $2 table.

Country Mercantile started out as a small one-room produce stand in the 1990s, but has expanded greatly over the years. Fresh fruits and veggies still star here, but homemade candies, ice cream and salsas share the stage along with other gourmet goodies and gift items.

Their salsas are the best for miles around. They come in a multitude of flavors - my favorite is the roasted garlic and olive, and they've got a suicide salsa for folks who like it fiery hot. Mangoes, peaches, pineapple, avocados and asparagus are some of the other flavors. Sometimes they have a cherry salsa that is almost sweet enough to use as a topping on ice cream.

The store has a huge parking lot, and it's needed, especially on summer weekends, to handle all the RVs that stop. A harvest festival in the fall draws thousands of people over several weeks to pick pumpkins and navigate a corn maze.