I had to get out of San Francisco for a couple weeks while my house was on the market, so it was off to visit Dad in Fort Worth, Texas, a.k.a. Cowtown USA. If I can give you one bit of advice, gentle friends, it’s to plan your trip to Fort Worth for sometime other than the middle of July. Egads, it was hot, and the humidity had my hair looking like a tumbleweed. Dad repeatedly thwarted my attempted coups d’état on the thermostat control, but thankfully, there was a community pool exactly 263 steps from his front door. (I know this, because I counted them, and once I knew there was a prime number of steps, I couldn’t stop counting them every time I made that trek to or from the pool. It’s one of the more entertaining OCD manifestations I enjoy on a daily basis.) Mostly, though, I made pitchers of Mai Tais and tried to pretend we were in Hawaii.
The heat-induced torpor had us feeling fairly unambitious in terms of getting out to see the sights. I’m ashamed to say, I couldn’t even get it up to go check out what is supposed to be the largest Korean sauna in the United States, just down the road apiece in Dallas. I don’t know, there’s something about the Satan’s Breath that is the summertime weather of North Texas that just doesn’t make a visit to a sauna sound that appealing. It reminded me of last year when I was in Panama, and oh my gosh, it was hotter than the face of the sun. I had to stay a little bit drunk the whole time just to keep from crying. Anyway, the hotel had posted signs all over the place touting their brand new, state of the art sauna. I seriously thought it had to be just a fancy door to the outside, because there’s no way their newfangled spa sauna could have been more sauna-y than what was happening outdoors. But, I digress….
After about a week in Fort Worth, I had adjusted enough to insist that we get out of the house, so we wandered over to the Historic Stockyards District. It’s a renovated shopping and dining area now, but once upon a time, in the 1800s, it was the last stop on the Chisholm Trail for cattle drives to stock up on supplies before heading into “Indian Territory.” Later, after the railroads came through, and Armour and Swift opened packing plants there, Fort Worth became the biggest livestock market around, called the “Wall Street of the West.” When my dad was a kid, the Stockyards were still active, and he brought his farm’s calves to market here. Today, there are still a few active grain and livestock-related businesses operating in the Livestock Exchange Building that houses the Stockyards Museum, but mostly, the area is now a social gathering place, full of restaurants and shops and groovy old timey saloons.
Just to maintain the atmosphere, they actually have cowboys drive a herd of Longhorns down the middle of the cobbled streets every day, from the old railroad station to the stock pens behind the Livestock Exchange Building. Well, “herd” may be taking a little creative license, but it was at least a….gaggle. They don’t exactly stampede, either; it’s more of a shamble or a traipse. But still, those are some big cows, with some even bigger horns, and it was cool to see.
The Cowtown Coliseum is located right in the Stockyards District, and they have Championship Rodeo there every Friday and Saturday night. So, of course, we had to go. It’s attended by lots of tourists, because, I mean, come on, if you were from Denmark and you were taking a Wild West tour of Texas as your summer vacation, a real live Texas rodeo would just about make your head explode, wouldn’t it? And it is a real live Texas rodeo; the competition is no joke. The cowboys and cowgirls come from all over Texas and Oklahoma, and compete for jackpots and rankings. We got box seats, so we could be close to the action, and ended up sharing our box with a family from India, an even bigger family from New Jersey who could totally have been extras from an episode of The Sopranos, and what appears to have been a field trip from a school for kids with Down Syndrome. A colorful group, for sure. It was a hoot. At the beginning, you have to sing not only the real national anthem, but that sappy “God Bless The USA” song by Lee Greenwood, and then, of course, “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” They’re a patriotic group, those Texans, and they have some fierce Texan pride. I swear, if I had tried to reenact this scene from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, it would have worked just like this:
Next time, I’ll try it out, as well as the giant Korean sauna in Dallas, and will report back. But, I ain’t goin’ back until the temperature comes down a skosh. Or Dad agrees to an a/c setting at least starting with a 7.