Barbecue may not be the road to world peace but it’s a start.-Anthony Bourdain

Greetings once again from Uncle Tom’s Corner. Today is Martin Luther King Day so things are kinda quiet here on the corner…a few tumbleweeds blowing across the road as a snowstorm is threatening the area but that’s nothing new. After all, it is January.
Last December I told you I was going to take a hiatus until after the Stock Show. That didn’t exactly work out but that’s what this shoot-the-breeze session’s going to be about…the 113th National Western Stock Show, that is.
For starters, I signed up to judge at the BBQ contest on the 12th. This might be the 5th year of the National Western BBQ Showdown and it has grown in popularity each year. The first year several of us went down there just to nose around and see what it was all about. Skipped the second year; froze my butt off the third year when I hung out with one of the competitive teams (was it -4⁰or -14⁰? The story varies depending upon who is telling it); judged the next two years and table captained this year.
The competition is growing in popularity each year. This year there were a couple of teams from Texas, one or more from Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska and the usual suspects from the great state of Colorado. I think one of the teams from Texas took home the lion’s share of the $11,000.00 prize money…along with the bragging rights which, to a Texan, are more valuable than the check.
After the BBQ contest was over I took advantage of the opportunity to wander around and check out all the vendors and their booths. If there isn’t someone there selling it you really don’t need it…everything you ever wanted to know about our local institutions of higher education (mostly CSU because CSU used to be Colorado A & M with heavy emphasis on the A) and some really great young people from University of Wyoming, the Colorado Beef Council and every form of kitsch you can imagine. There were enough rhinestones to make a fat-Elvis costume. There were squeeze chutes and milking machines…anything you might need to set up a cow-calf operation or a dairy. And the ever-present smell of livestock. To some it’s a stench…and to others it’s the smell of home or the smell of money. Just a matter of perspective.
And the “people watching”. That is probably as entertaining as anything else going on. There are the men and women who dust off their hats and polish their boots for the first time since the same event last year…who would be absolutely mortified should they step in any of the stuff associated with the after-end of the livestock in attendance. And there are those men and women who, without asking, you just know they come by those boots and hats honestly…that this time of the year and for the next couple of months are their lifeblood because its calving season. And the little people shuffling along in their well-worn boots and hats walking around clinging to their mom’s or dad’s hands sorta in awe of it all.
Doubtless by now you’ve heard of the tragedy of the death of Mason Lowe, the 25 year old professional bull rider from Exeter, Missouri. There are risks in every occupation but it just seems to me there might be a few extra hazards associated with a career as a professional bull rider…but still a lot less than, say, a drug dealer.
My bride had a birthday this month and chose to celebrate by attending the Stock Show and rodeo with our daughter, son-in-law and grandson. Our son and his girlfriend were invited to join us but they declined due to a previous commitment. So prior to the rodeo we wandered around looking at “the stuff” and looked for the petting zoo. During the course of our wanderings we ran across Big Bubba’s Barbecue. I don’t know if barbecue envy is a real thing or not but I think I’ve got it. Big Bubba’s actual barbecue covered what seemed to be most of an acre. I mean, this thing was HUGE. They were pulling the racks of ribs off the smoker with a scoop shovel and they had a grill covered with turkey legs and that grill had to be 6’ x 15’ at least. Any thoughts of xeriscaping went right out the proverbial window…I’m turning our backyard into a grill and smoker. Ya’ll c’mon over…we’re gonna cook us up somethin’. By the way, we found the petting zoo and the line was longer than the checkout line at the Dollar Store at a half-price sale. Avery informed us that he had no intention of waiting that long to pet a lamb.
We made our way to the rodeo and had some really great seats about 3 rows up from the stock pens. As such we were kinda up close and personal with the calves and steers as well as the cowboys for the roping and wrestling. Gratefully the bronc and bull riding took place at the other end of the arena. I have no desire to try to snuggle up next to 2,000 pounds of angry hamburger-on-the-hoof that just might want to wreak revenge on me for all the beef I’ve consumed over the years.
As we were sitting there and sometime between the calf roping and the bronc riding these two very attractive young women all tricked out in the aforementioned rhinestone wear approached me and started asking questions. My first thought was that “maybe, even after all these years, I still got it”. My next thought was that one of ‘em had confused me with their grandfather. Turns out my wife had won a pair of boots and these young women were there to present her with a certificate for same. In the meantime I learned that I was in the presence of Miss Rodeo Montana and a young lady from Sheridan, Wyoming who was a graduate of the University of Wyoming. Charming young ladies both. There was a break in the action in the arena, the young women presented the certificate and we all appeared on the jumbo-tron. I’m now trying to get a new identity as my cover in the witness protection program has been blown.
And that about wraps it up for this time. Already looking forward to next year. See you through the smoke.


See you next time at Uncle Tom’s Corner.