We spent the Fourth of July in Rodeo, New Mexico. Once a whistle stop on the old El Paso and Southwestern Railroad, it now boasts a population 101. As the crow flies, it’s just southwest of the ranch on the west side of the Peloncillo Mountains. It was ninety-five degrees in the shade, so many of us stopped in at the Rodeo Tavern where they were serving root beer floats, iced coffee, and good, cold beer.
The thirty-ninth annual parade began promptly at six o’clock and featured the grand marshal, Shriners wearing funny hats in little cars, local folks toting flatbed trailers depicting ranching scenes and promoting local businesses, several fire trucks, pretty horses, and a decked-out tractor. Kids and grown-ups alike waved little American flags someone in the parade handed out, and we all raced to pick up candy tossed into the crowd by folks on floats that lined state highway 80. Traffic headed north and south was forced to stop and partake in the fun or find a dirt road around it.
After the parade, most everyone met over at the Rodeo Community Center for a BBQ prepared and served by local men and women. The meal included roasted beef, ranch beans, coleslaw, tortillas, and desert. My mom and Jessie, a great kid who helps out at the ranch, joined Ron and I. We sat with friends at one of the long tables covered in a red checkered table cloth, where we caught up on all the goings on in our lives. American flags hung from the walls and red, white, and blue decorations twirled from the ceiling. Following dinner, a raffle was held (my mom won a TV!) and prizes were given out for the best horse in the parade, best shootout (there was only one), and even the funniest float. We were too tired to stay for the cake auction and dance that followed, but I’m pretty sure folks had a good time.
If this sounds to you like the muse for a Rockwell painting, a chapter out of a Mark Twain novel, or a scene from an old Western, it should. People like my mom, who had taken the holiday literally, showed up in red, white, and blue, while others had dusted off their cowboy hats and donned clean shirts. People talked about the state of their gardens, the incredible heat wave we’re experiencing, and summer vacation plans. We all commented on the clouds building to the south, a sign of a monsoon storm we hoped would charge up the valley.
Through it all, I couldn’t help but think someone got it wrong on the campaign trail. It isn’t about making America great again. We are pretty great the way we are. Neighbors watch out for one another, churches look after their flocks, communities band together in times of need, and many people in local government do give a damn. Our greatness was felt throughout this country yesterday as we gathered at parades big and small. We ate hot dogs, hamburgers, and potato salad. We lifted our beer cups and wine glasses in celebration. We sat in awe watching star-spangled firework displays boom and crackle above our heads in city parks. Despite the current political climate, I am proud to be an American, and I look forward to waving my little flag on the Fourth of July again next year in Rodeo, New Mexico surrounded by friends a neighbors.
Photo courtesy of © R. L. Wolverton | Dreamstime Stock Photos