Sunday, August 2, 2009

101 Rodeo 50th Anniversary Queen's Trophy

Finishing the Saddle Blanket

Over time, I am sure that I will get faster, but right now I am pretty satisfied. The saddle blanket I have been working on is finished. Best estimate I have on time to from start-to-finish is close to 112 hours. That translates out at about 6-7 hours a day for 16 days. It took a bit longer in actual fact, because there were a couple of days I was ill and wasn’t able to work. Weaving always reminds me of my connections with weavers through time. Weaving this blanket has taken me back through my own times.

The blanket is 35 inches wide and 72 inches long. It is meant to be folded in half under the saddle. The half that will go next to the horse is a lovely rich gray color – the natural color of the sheep the wool came from and therefore undyed. That way the horse will have no dye next to its skin. The other half, the half that people will see, has six colors, all hand-dyed in natural substances. The dark blue and the light blue are both done with indigo. The color of the dark blue is so rich it almost glows. Red comes from cochineal and cactus tunas (fruit). Both the yellow and the orange are done with Bidens coreopsis but with different mordants. These colors are light fast. The red will last longer than most red dyes, but really, no red dye is permanent.

The doubled blanket will cushion the saddle for the horse. This will help prevent pressure sores. Wool breathes better than any plastic-based fabric, which will prevent over-heating. It will be cooler than “store bought” blankets in the summer but warmer in the winter. The wool also wicks away moisture, taking up to 31 percent of its weight in water before it even feels wet. This will help a lot when it comes time to cool off the horse after work.

The blanket was woven for the 50th annual 101 Wild West Rodeo Association’s Queen’s Trophy. The lucky winner will also receive a saddle – but that’s just a detail so far as I am concerned! The 101 Rodeo is so-named because of the legendary 101 Ranch that used to be just south of Ponca City. Established by Colonel Joe Miller in 1898, the ranch was named 101 because it supposedly held 101,000 acres. The actual ranch, at its height, was much larger with leased land from several Indian nations.

The 101 Ranch was the home of one of the most well known traveling “Wild West Shows.” It also began the rodeo tradition. One of the greatest cowboys of all time, Bill Picket, worked for the ranch and show. He started the sport of “Bull-dogging,” now called “steer-wrestling.” In this event, a cowboy jumps from the back of his running horse onto a running steer and wrestles it to the ground. This doesn’t hurt the steer – but it can be hard on the cowboy.

Weaving this saddle blanket was a tribute to my hometown and my history in many ways. Some of my earliest memories are from the Rodeo. We went, as a large, extended family (except for one aunt who felt she was far too refined for such common entertainment). We ate corn-dogs and curly fries and cotton candy, snow cones and drank “ice cold” Coke. In those days the Rodeo was held in September, not August and no one had air-conditioning anyway. Some lady from a local church choir warbled the national anthem and we all stood up when the flag came in with the Grand Entry. We saw some of the greatest cowboys of all time, like Jim Shoulders, and some of the best rough stock ever. Both the great bull Twister and the saddle-bronc Widow-Maker came out of the chutes here. Back then, the 101 Rodeo was the highest paying rodeo in the country.

I grew up and grew away from rodeos. But now, having come full circle, I will be thrilled to watch those old, familiar contests and even more thrilled to see the winning young woman receive my blanket when she is crowned Queen of the Rodeo.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Gloria,
    It's great to see the blanket finished!
    A couple of points about the 101 Ranch. It actually had 110,000 acres at its zenith. The name came from a bar that the hands tore up while they were on leave in Texas. The Millers made "the boys" pay for the damage and named the ranch the 101 to remind them to behave themselves in public because they represented the Ranch!

    That's a lucky horse that will get the benefit of your work!

    --Beverly Bryant