It was sunny, hot and windy, but few seemed to mind. There were some serious glitches, but not many folks were bothered.
There was a decent turnout for the inaugural five-day Meeker Classic National Cattledog Association Finals Cattledog Trials in Meeker running Wednesday through Sunday, and the spectators and contestants seemed to enjoy themselves.
A good sidelight to the event was the food vendors did well, especially those who sold lots and lots of cold water, iced tea, cold lemonade, sno-cones, root beer floats and icy soda pop.
Contestants from Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Canada, many towns in Colorado and from many other states were repeatedly heard praising the virtues of Meeker’s merchants and its beautiful surroundings. All that despite the timing clock that put the competition well behind on the first morning of the time trials, a horse and rider accident that ended up with the rider being airlifted to Grand Junction when his horse rolled over on him after stepping into a hole. The horse is OK, but the rider, Tom Blasdell of Oregon, remains hospitalized in serious condition. A gofundme.com page has been set up in his name. There were also several ornery cows that jumped over or ran through the fence barrier, which caused several long delays.
In the slack times, however, there were several other diversions available for the handlers, their families and the spectators to take in during the delays and between the classes of competition.
There were food vendors selling hot dogs, hamburgers, lamb gyros, steak tacos, a couple types of fajitas, and nearly every imaginable Mexican-style food that can be carried in a box, napkin or tortilla. Every imaginable non-alcoholic beverage was also in evidence as well as beer and wine showing up for some of the special events.
There was also a large arts and crafts tent on premises which included the seasonal return of long-time Meeker artist Andy and Susie Goettel, who now live in southeast Colorado after just moving there from Wray, which is in northeast Colorado. They are reportedly doing well, she is working at Otero State College while he said he spent the winter doing his pottery and playing golf.
There were several other crafts people on hand including three Navajo women from Arizona selling jewelry, a representative of a national company with an incredible assortment of knives mostly for use in the kitchen, goat milk soaps, other lotions, straw and felt cowboy hats, gift baskets, wood carvings and leather work and saddle making by Meeker locals Bob Klenda and Mike Brennan.
There were some great people and new friends to meet. All of the handlers I had the chance to speak with—with one exception—were absolutely thrilled to spend their five (or more) days in Meeker.
They were impressed with the number and the quality of places to get good food for the size of the town.
They were impressed with how friendly the locals were in the stores and the restaurants and that they had received very good to excellent service in the stores and restaurants.
And they were definitely impressed with the beauty of the area—even those from Colorado who had never been to this part of the state—and most commented on how nice it was that there were a couple of the higher mountains to the east of Meeker where snow was still visible when it was 90 degrees at Ute Park.
The one exception to all the good, and the only negative I heard over the five days was from one man and woman I overheard telling another couple, “I hope I never see Colorado again!” They didn’t go on to elaborate to their listeners what it was that turned them so sour on Colorado, but the next thing she said was, “I just want to be home on the good ol’ grasslands of Oklahoma. I know now why I have never left Oklahoma before.”
Well, folks, I have been through Oklahoma before on many occasions and even lived for a while in Fayetteville, Ark., for a while, and that is less than about 30 minutes from the border with Oklahoma—near Siloam Springs—and I will take just about any one of Colorado’s 64 counties over any one of those counties I have visited in Oklahoma.
I was born here, raised here, left here for roughly 40 years, and I am back—because I want to be and because Colorado, from border to border, has just about any other state in the lower 48 beat hands down.
Those who are understandably familiar with the Meeker Sheepdog Classic would be surprised to see the difference between the sheep trials and the cattledog trials. There really isn’t much of a comparison between the two except the bottom line is to get the animals from Point A to Point G, winding through the other points.
How they go about it, the different routes the dogs have to take and the dogs’ treatment of the sheep or cows are quite different.
And within the cattledog trials, there are different routes, differing numbers of cows and different times required depending on the class of competition. There are the Nursery, Intermediate and Open classes for the foot-bound handlers and Intermediate Horseback and Open Horseback classes, and these each offer a different look at the roles of the dogs, the handlers and, in some cases, the horses.
It was also nice to see a fair contingent from Rangely during the five days of the trials.
I spoke to three couples who came over together to watch the cattle for a couple days. They said they had really enjoyed the sheep trials last year and wanted to come over and see the how the dogs work the cattle.
They were evenly split three and three as to which trials they enjoyed the most. Two men and one woman preferred the sheep trials and two of the women and one guy preferred the cattle.
Rangely was also represented at the chuckwagon dinner on Saturday night as the food for the fundraiser for Meeker’s new Heritage Center was prepared by Giovanni’s and county commission candidate Jeff Rector of Rangely was assisted by Meeker School Board member Bud Ridings in making Dutch oven apple, cherry, peach and raspberry cobbler for the same meal.
I spoke to a couple from Rangely as well who said they had lived there for four years and never had been to Meeker. They were impressed with the downtown, the neighborhoods and the residents, who, they had been told, weren’t very friendly. They pointed out how friendly the people had been and how good the service was in the store and one restaurant (Mexican House) they had been to.
Nothing makes the wheels spin smoothly at an event of this magnitude as much as the volunteers who help at every level. Numbering in the several dozens if not roughly a hundred of them, they do what needs to be done from helping with parking, recordkeeping, taking photos, emptying trash, keeping the tables clean, making certain the portable toilets are clean and had toilet paper to every imaginable job you wouldn’t want to do, these folks carried out their duties well and, amazingly, with smiling faces.
They said they were well fed and well hydrated with help from other volunteers and I didn’t hear a single complaint although several did say they felt it was pretty hot (90 on Saturday and 93 on Sunday) and that winds were good and bad. Kudos to them.
And lastly, something has to be said on behalf of trial director Maym Cunningham and the rest of the 2016 Meeker Classic Cattledog Committee, particularly Cunningham and Regas Halandras, who was in charge of setting up everything. These people are either outright crazy, severely masochistic or just plain dedicated. And while it is easy to picture the crazy and masochistic, I do believe the dedication is there, and a big thanks and kudos go out to them, for truly the whole cattledog trials and even sheepdog trials would likely not be held without them.
“We had a few glitches, but you always do when you do something big for the first time,” Cunningham said. “We’ll work those problems out and learn from what went wrong so we are just much better off next time.
Great job, all!!!
Just a quick reminder to all of the Republicans in Rio Blanco County that Tuesday is election day and that all of the ballots have to be in the hands of—not postmarked by —election officials by the end of the business day on Tuesday.
This year’s races, particularly for the Rio Blanco County commissioners, are of utmost importance so, please, turn in your ballot.