Note: This post has an update at the end.
Friday evening, June 22
Our neighbor is an older gentleman. He has two tractors and a pickup sitting next to his trailer. Our paths cross in front of our campers. I’m curious. I tell him my name’s Sue, and he says his is Murdick, adding, “I’m an old Scot.” Later I look up the name on the internet. Murdick means “belonging to the sea; a mariner.”
Murdick’s sea was cattle. A while back he sold his ranch along the Little Laramie River over by Centennial. “All I have left of that are these two tractors,” he says, looking at them with a smile.
He guesses I’m wondering why he brings two tractors camping.
“There’s gonna’ be a tractor-pull here tomorrow,” he explains. “Over there in that dirt strip. . . around noon.”
I ask him what kind of cattle he raised. “Angus?”
“No, no, Charolais. They’re tougher (meaning for the climate, not tougher meat) than Angus.” He pauses. “Real fence sliders. They can get through hog fence. And once they calve, they get mean.”
Saturday morning, June 23
The air conditioning is divine. Other than walking the crew, I mostly stay inside. The dishes have piled up so that’s one job to do. I make some sun tea, setting the bottles in a sunny spot out by the crew’s pen.
The tractor-pull area is coming alive.
Racing flags are being strung and tractors are pulling in off the road from both directions. Most come on flatbeds. I see Murdick standing with some other men in western-style hats and plaid shirts, pointing at their tractors and talking.
Later I’m over at the drinking water pump, filling jugs.
Murdick walks by. He’s on his way back to his trailer.
“Are they about ready to start?” I ask. Several tractors are lined up, side by side.
“In about a half-hour. More’ll be comin’.”
“Do you know those guys over there?”
“Sure. I know them all. I belong to four clubs.”
“For tractor-pulling? Gee, it must be really popular around here.”
“Oh yeah, it’s better than rodeo.”
Murdick starts to count on his fingers. “One, you don’t have to feed them all winter. Two, they don’t sh#* in the barn. Three, there’s no vet bills. And four, no broken bones.” We laugh.
A train roars by on the other side of the road.
It’s pulled by three engines with BNSF on the side. I look down the track. The train is so long the end disappears from sight. Murdick heads for his trailer.
“Well, good luck!” I call after him. I don’t think he hears me through the whistle of the train. [slideshow]
UPDATE: Results of the Tractor-Pull!
Around 6 o’clock I walk the crew past Murdick’s travel trailer. He’s sitting outside with his Boston Bulldog named Spike and his “dingo” named Pecos.
“Well, how’d you do at the tractor-pull?”
“I did pretty good. Got two ribbons.” Murdick points at his two tractors positioned proudly at the hitch end of his trailer. “That one got first, and that one got second.”
“What? That’s great! Congratulations!”
Murdick elaborates on his wins. “I really shouldn’t have won. I was out of my league.”
“What do you mean? The other tractors were better than yours?’
“Yeah,” he replies.
I’m a little confused.
“You mean they were better than you and you beat them anyway.”
“That’s right. That one there . . . (He points to the one that won first place.). . . was up against a modified tractor. It shouldn’t have won.”
I understand his point and smile. “But it did, didn’t it.”
I ask Murdick if the town of Centennial has grown much over the past ten to twenty years.
“It’s shrunk. It’s a bunch of hippies over there.”
I laugh out loud. “A bunch of hippies?”
“Yeah, old, burnt-out hippies. If you don’t smoke pot, you don’t know anyone in Centennial.”
Murdick’s flat delivery makes me laugh again.
Pecos, Murdick’s Spike, and my Spike are going nuts, whining and tugging at their tethers. Bridget sits and stares.
“Well, I’ll go so these guys will settle down. Congratulations on your wins!”