8. Mr. Kinney's Rodeo
TO SCHOOL PEOPLE the worst thing about Monday is that it is only the beginning of a whole week's work. For myself as well as the kids I try to pep it up with something new I buy in town on Saturday—workbooks for the little ones, art materials for the big ones. It spoils them; they probably think I'm rich. They look forward; they expect a surprise. Okay, today I had a dandy for them—a genuine thriller: a large photograph of our school riding on our float in the rodeo parade last month. It was fun to spring it on them casually.
The top photograph, as I handed them to him, was a good eight-by-ten-inch likeness of our friend and patron, Frank M. King, of Western Livestock Journal. We had received several letters from him, he had printed excerpts from the Little Cowpuncher in his weekly column, and we had met him in person at the rodeo.
Underneath it, the same size, was a camera shot of Baboquívari School children under the southwestern ramada we built on the wagon that carried us in the parade while we ate a vaquero lonche. I was thrilled when I saw the picture displayed in the shop window day before yesterday, and provoked at myself for having waited several weeks to discover it. I hadn't been sure there was a picture. The morning of the parade I had seen a city photographer down on West Congress shooting the floats as they passed him. But just as I noticed what he was doing, he exclaimed that some of us had moved and spoiled the exposure. The children, if they heard him, didn't know what he was talking about.
While Pancho went to frame the pictures, I sat down to put my desk in order, pretending not to notice. In a moment I knew the whole room was gathered around him whispering and exclaiming. Then they began shouting to me to come and look. Who had made the picture? Where did I get it? How much did it cost? Look how swell Socorro came out! Teddy, when I went over to clear a place so the little ones could see, kept pointing and saying, “Look, Mrs. Bourne! Here I am!” So, a happy Monday. For a dollar and a half. Every little while pupils found excuses to pass by and take another
Our Float in the Tucson Rodeo Parade
We won a prize. When I saw the announcement in the paper next morning I thought surely we must have been the only school to enter. At any rate we were from the farthest away; and the only school with a turnout of total enrollment. However, our appearance was so much below my plans and hopes that winning the prize was embarrassing. It was nice to see the kids glad and excited about it, and I might have felt satisfaction if things had gone right. Nothing was just right except the weather, always the biggest factor in a parade.
Our wagon, a flat hayrack long in use, was hard to fix up, especially with the flimsy material available. We didn't get it the evening before as we had expected, so we had to decorate it the very morning of the parade, in a wild hurry, in the midst of a big crowd of onlookers who were almost all entrants themselves. We were interrupted many times greeting friends and well-wishers; and our boys were so lost in wonder at all the oldtime vehicles, beautiful horses and strange costumes that they forgot our own urgency. The alarming confusion of that hour does not bring me any pleasant memories.
We wanted to represent a bunch of Mexican vaqueros having regular ranch comida [midday meal] under a typical ramada, the crude shade made of poles and brush to be found beside nearly every dwelling of humble folk in the Southwest. We planned to have a comal
I tried to plan methodically. The eighth graders headed committees in charge of refreshments and decorations. But it was no use attempting order. When the hour struck we were a bunch of gaping hicks lost in the big city crowded for a fiesta. I vowed that if ever again I had to get two dozen youngsters from over the horizon into a parade, with the town swelled to twice its size by winter visitors and rodeo followers, I'd never let a one out of my sight after passing the city limits. As it was, my little cowpunchers stayed with relatives scattered all over the southern outskirts and western suburbs of Tucson. Some were not able to push their way through the human traffic jams in time and had to climb aboard our float from the sidewalks as it passed up the main street.
The fundamental disorder commenced at the ranch. On the eve of the event I was dismayed at the frenzy of interest involving everybody in the community. Why should I have imagined that Pascual and I were the only ones to go with the little cowpunchers? The fathers and mothers and big brothers and sisters could not possibly miss seeing their own flesh and blood participate in the pageantry of Tucson's great parade. I hadn't the heart to squelch this extravagant enthusiasm, for my people
We were complimentary guests of Mr. Jack Kinney, the rodeo manager, and wanted to make a good appearance. As a former owner of Poso Nuevo Ranch, he had taken an interest in us. And Pete Waggoner, executive chairman of the parade committee, had helped us. They were furnishing the wagon and team. And Mr. Kinney had taken ten dollars out of his own pocket for a parking space for us at the rodeo grounds that afternoon. We were on our metal.
I still believe the lunch idea was good. In theory it was. All along the way, so packed with people the vehicles could barely squeeze through, there was clapping and exclaiming at the sight of the little cowpunchers busily, joyously, chewing and swallowing. The trouble was to make the chuck last for the hour or more that we were parading. All of it, except the sodas, had to come out of one pocketbook—mine. The Aroses could have donated the beans. Although the Aroses still had beans saved from the last harvest, they couldn't donate frijoles because then they wouldn't have had any way to get enough dimes for the soda fund for all nine of their school kids. So I bought a bucket of beans, and Eleanor De Verl, a town friend, cooked them chinitos style con queso. They gave off a tantalizing fragrance as I bent over the pot making the “burritos” during the procession through the streets.
I made the burritos and passed them out, wrapping the tortillas around the beans and sauce. There would have been enough tortillas to make two for each person aboard. But a bunch of the small fry, led by Víctor (aged nine with a marvelous appetite and capacity), ate one in every two blocks and could easily have doubled their intake rate if they hadn't been warned to eat slowly so the people could see them eating.
Víctor, the insatiable, gave up trying to stand and knelt by the railing, close to my left elbow—intercepting a burrito I was passing out to someone else. He ate with such genuine relish that the crowd applauded in amusement.
My impressions of the long ride through the streets are endless circles of thin brown hands extended toward me hopefully around the kettle of beans. I simply could not dish out the burritos fast enough. There were twenty-three empty stomachs riding on that wagon.
Socorro, Mary, Herlinda, and Edward, at the back of the wagon, didn't get any. Ramón didn't ask for one, but I knew he had not had breakfast. The big girls didn't even have a soda until the end of the ride for they were faithfully occupied in making tortillas for the entertainment of the public.
Ramón and I weren't the only ones to appear without breakfast. All the children and their parents had come to town the night before and the friends and relatives they were staying with had crowded homes where the tables for a group had to be set several times each meal. My big boys had to leave before their turn anyway in order to help get the float ready.
The wonder is that we all got dressed and on the wagon at all. Grouped together under the improvised ramada, the little cowpunchers looked very gay as they happily ate and drank. “My-Mother” had made orange, yellow, red, and green rayon shirts for the Aros nine. The four oldest boys capped the climax by bursting out in brand new cowboy hats at four dollars each, leaving Víctor broken-hearted. Days before the festival he declared each morning that he couldn't go because he had nothing to wear. At last one morning he told me, rejoicing, that he had his shirt. Now all he needed was a hat. And shoes. And pants. And a scarf (mascada) to wear around his neck. A few days later he announced gladly that he had his pants. But right up to the last he grieved over his wardrobe as any actor about to face an important audition. We borrowed him a hat. Half an hour before he dressed that morning, his mother got some money from José and bought him a silk neckerchief. He never did make the shoes. As he knelt by the rail his raspy earth-encrusted feet stuck out behind, digging me in the thigh as I hovered over the beans and tortillas.
Lolita and Lupe shoved their way across the crowded sidewalk and we hauled them aboard some distance up the street from starting point. Even so Lolita did not have the shirt and jeans, but appeared wearing
Our biggest trouble was that the parade started before we were ready. Through the driver's misunderstanding we didn't get our wagon until eight o'clock, and the line began forming on various side streets shortly after nine. By 9:45 all the floats but ours were waiting in line. It happened that Pascual's car picked that morning to refuse to start. Mine was the only car available for the several trips to gather up the children. When enough of us arrived at the starting lot we took hammers, saw, and baling wire and began working frantically to build the ramada. Some of our poles turned out to be too short. And in our haste we broke some that we had marked for uprights. And we had underestimated the amount of brush (batamotes) for roofing. In the midst of superintending the construction and cutting baling wire with inadequate pliers, I wore out my voice calling the boys back to work. There was too much to see on the lot.
Our troubles were topped off by two last straws. I found that I had brought only one of the signs made to hang on each side of our float, leaving the other at the ranch fifty miles away. Somehow I scrambled through the traffic and stubborn crowds on the main streets and bought cloth and paint and a brush. Our artistic Edward, tormented by haste and nervousness, dashed off another one—fourteen feet long—which we used wet. And at
We made it to the bottling works, but couldn't get through the main part of town again. The police had barred it off. I dashed back the opposite direction, ignoring stop signs (cops all being at the parade route), setting Ramón a bad example in breaking traffic regulations, crossed the river on St. Mary's bridge a mile north of the parade starting lot, flew sixty miles an hour through Menlo Park Addition, and came in the back way to the starting point just as the Indian who was detailed to drive our wagon—a one-idea man if ever there was one—was pulling out into line. The kids yelled with joy and managed to halt him long enough for Ramón and me to get the precious soda aboard.
There was nothing to do with my car but leave it where it was. More than two anxious hours later when I had ridden back from the end of the parade behind María Valenzuela on her horse “Medianoche,” there sat the car, safely alone in empty spaces.
Triumphantly we had our float, our costumes, our chuck, and our lovely sodas, and the show could go on. The sun was bright and warm, a most precious circumstance for thinly clad paraders. Jouncing along up Congress Street in line, I found we had no bottle opener. Pancho donated his knife which worked well enough until, as the wagon bumped over some streetcar tracks,
With no other mishaps, the little cowpunchers gave themselves up to having a wonderful time. The younger ones, eating and drinking with obvious gusto liked the sights along the way so much they seemed to forget their own parts in the parade. They were seeing more people than they had imagined were in the whole world. There were incredible masses of people wedged along the sidewalks, hanging from every window, leaning over the flat roofs of buildings. Occasionally the little ones pointed, shouted from full mouths, and jiggled litter from the ramada into the beans as they waved to friends and relatives along the route. Our public! The older ones, conscious of the honor conferred by our rodeo sponsors, wore their hats and bandanas with swank—keeping perfectly in role.
Treading their brief hour upon the boards as sons and daughters of the true West, they made our staring, gobbling miscellany into a unit. Back at school, while their hearts were still swelled with bubbling excitement, they wrote their stories for Little Cowpuncher, telling our subscribers, near and far, what the fiesta meant to them.‘‘ ON OUR PARADE WAGON
Socorro, Herlinda, and I made tortillas all along the streets in the parade. We already had the bolas ready. Socorro was the heroine for she could make them bigger. I believe the tortillas was our best triumph for winning the prize. People on the streets called for tortillas as we passed.
After the parade about fifteen of us jumped on Mrs. Bourne's car to go to the Rodeo Grounds. The little children with broken hearts could not go in because there was no room for them in the car. With the ticket Mr. Kinney gave us we all went in and got parking place No. 59.
When the show began, whom do you think we saw? Mr. Kinney on his retinto horse. I'm sorry he did not hear us sing at the Santa Rita Hotel the night before, but he wasn't there. And he did not see us in the long parade for he was riding at the front. I'm glad we got to see his great pretty show. I enjoyed it with great pleasure all the whole day. —Frank Aros, 6th Grade’’ ‘‘ MY FUN AT THE RODEO
If I were a rodeo cowboy I would rather like to run the race horses than to ride the broncos because I had learned to ride the running horses here at the ranch. Running them at the Rodeo is much easier because there are not holes and ditches and bushes like the ones here. I would not like to ride the broncos because they would throw me down. —Pancho Aros, 5th Grade’’ ‘‘ A STORY OF THE BRAHMA BULLS
Saturday morning some of us went to the Livestock show to a sale of fine bulls. The most popular bulls were the ragged, big-bone ones born in Arizona at the University. One was sold for one thousand dollars. Our mouths watered when we saw those fine bulls that is how much we would like to have one. They also sold some steers of the Four H that were as fat as pigs.
We could not stay for all the show but we learned very much the two hours we were there listening and looking. And the man who was in charge was amusing all the people with his way of speech. He must have a wonderful throat to talk so fast and so long and so loud all that time. —Edward Hernández, 8th Grade’’
What do such experiences as these have to do with schooling? No amount of vicarious learning in the isolated routine of country schooling, or probably any schooling, can equal this firsthand knowing about the world. Perhaps as spectators and participants in this “big city” enterprise the children learn respect for the orderliness and efficiency showing on the surface. At their ages they cannot see the seamy side of such events. They are not outraged by the suffering of dumb animals. They know nothing of corrupting influences on the professional contestants. They cannot imagine the underlying high-pressured commercial interests. They see the vividness of pageantry, the grace of practiced skills, the thrill of chance. They grow thus, in contact with the sophisticated world, and they are naturally grateful to those who make it possible.