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Equine Events: A Cultural Comparison

by Our Man in Wyoming
Tue Aug 9th, 2016

Photo of Tensleep Rodeo by David Huber

Recently, the pages of TMI have been vividly accented with electrifying action photos of this year's Horse Trials. Here in the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming, there is only one comparable annual equine extravaganza: The Rodeo. In addition, there is just one other event per year which can compare in interest and energy -- the Demolition Derby. This week, TMI articles have shown that the Millbrook Region enjoys parallel spectacles with both kinds of events, and some cultural comparisons are noteworthy. And concerning the second event type, the community concerns are exactly the same. 


Last week was I routinely driving through the neighboring town of Tensleep (pop. 470) and was delightfully surprised to see the rodeo in progress. The event infrastructure is ultra-lightweight and portable, mainly some circles of fences within an empty lot off of the main street of town. Refreshments center around Barbecue. There is pulled pork, grilled hamburgers, baked beans, cole slaw and potato salad. Beer is served, lots of it. 

I won't falsely tease and pique the horse-lovers of Millbrook with how often one spots horses here; in truth they are usually only seen on ceremonial occasions. Though there are countless herds of luxuriously-coated Black Angus, which, ongoing, survive somehow on the Badlands (though how?)

Downtown Tensleep, WY

In the current era, Wyoming has a greater preoccupation with motor vehicles than animals, and the passion exceeds even that of the Northeast. A small fleet of large pickup trucks seems to be a cornerstone of the family business for the majority of families. Vehicles are key for recreation as well:


The run-down industrial neighborhood in which I live is richly populated with old, starkly functional, underutilized garage buildings, originally built for servicing trucks. Some are abandoned altogether. It looks like Mexico.

When the new highway bridge over the Bighorn River was built, the town became aligned to a new main street, at the expense of this neighborhood. Fans of Alfred Hitchcock will remember this dynamic as having prompted the downfall of the Bates Motel. 

Some of the garages are now only used by middle-aged townsmen to work on their hobby cars. Last season, one of them started test driving his Derby vehicle, at speed, (sans, as always, any exhaust system) on the city street in front of my current apartment building. The racket was unbearable, but I was able to resolve the problem in a Wyoming way which was refreshingly straightforward. No papers were filed, and the pictures of the infraction that I brought to the Sheriff's Office were not accepted. 

There I spoke to a khaki-uniformed man with an intense penetrating stare, Officer Duffy, who abruptly interrupted me in mid-Hello, letting me know that the correct form of address needed to be "Captain". Next he corrected me that it's not "Demolition Derby" here, just "The Derby". Then he told me that he would speak to the offenders in person.

Problem solved. They still work on their cars sometimes, but, after dark, in near-silence, like a holy order of monks. 

I read the recent TMI article about noise concerns with the nearby auto racetrack, and chuckled at the cryptic reference to "muffler-free vehicles". I decoded that one easily. 

In summary, the Millbrook Region's approach to a comparable social problem seems...verbose...

Tensleep, WY microbrewery

David Huber Photography