|Waiting in line.|
Dozens of horse trailers lined the muddy shoulders of Boerne Stage Road near the San Antonio Rose Palace that foggy Friday morning. Dozens more occupied the grounds behind the fence. Most of those trailers contained living quarters, all belonging to the 583 teams registered for the 34th annual George Strait Team Roping Classic (GSTRC).
By the time Lucy and Ethel arrived at 6:40 a.m. on March 11, at least a dozen vehicles were already ahead of us. The gates open at 8 a.m., and there are no reserved seats, so folks line up early to get a good one.
|An early sighting of The King.|
Inside, a sea of middle-aged and older women was sprinkled with some younger ones, their male companions and a few children. The women kept their eyes peeled on the glass-fronted announcer’s booth, hoping fora sighting of The King of Country Music. When he stepped out onto the balcony, it was difficult to say which was loudest: the clicking of telephoto lenses or the swooning of the women behind them.
|Elaine & Annette|
There was great camaraderie among those women. Many had “known” each other for months or years via various George Strait fan pages on Facebook, so when they met each other, it was like running into old friends. With Strait’s music playing in the background, they compared digital photos, swapped email addresses with the few who didn’t bring cameras, and talked about their love for George. The old-timers, i.e., those who had attended the event before, tipped off the newbies as to when The King would be making his rounds via horseback and where to stand at the rail to touch his hand. It’s a wonder Facebook access wasn’t jammed, with all the postings going on. Ethel, a.k.a. Annette, posted a few shots for a Facebook buddy in Germany, who hopes to attend the roping next year.
Once the calves started bolting out of the chutes, the guys watched the roping while the gals continued watching George and his family in the announcer’s booth. I did find one woman actually filling in her day sheet with scores, but she was the exception. With so many husbands accompanying their wives, I wondered how they felt about their spouses’ obsession with George. So I asked one or two.
"I don't care," said Clarence Cranford of Pontotoc, MS. His wife, Norma, chimed in, "He says I have more pictures on my phone and Facebook of George than I do of him."
Bill Arlitt first said his wife's life-size George Strait cutout in their Poteet, TX, kitchen does not bother him. Then he admitted, "I do get tired of it sometimes."
The first day’s roping went on until after midnight, with the teams who garnered a score on their first round qualifying for a second go at another calf. Lucy and Ethel left about 4:50 p.m. and went next door for a meal at the Scenic Loop Cafe. Each of us selected a “mini meal” so we’d have room for dessert and the Cafe’s famous Snake Bite Margarita. The latter consists of Jose Cuervo Silver, Grand Gala, lime juice and “snake venom,” (prickly pear juice). We shared a serving of Banana Enchiladas for dessert. They reminded me of a cannoli: chocolate-flavored “tortillas” wrapped around a cream-cheese filling, topped with slices of banana and drizzled with chocolate syrup. For someone who wasn’t very hungry, I ate well.
I must admit to my irreverence during the opening ceremonies Saturday morning. I wanted to get a shot of George without his hat. He took it off for the prayer and the singing of the national anthem, so instead of bowing my head like a good Southern Baptist, I trained my eyes on him. I wasn’t alone, though, because once again, the sound of clicking camera shutters was almost deafening.
By the time he rode around the arena high-fiving everyone, many of us had been standing at the rail for an hour. Most folks wanted to touch his hand. Honestly, all I wanted was a photo of him touching Annette’s hand. What I got for my effort was her hand in the foreground and a blurry George Strait in the background.
|Dustin Egusquiza (left) and Kyle Lawrence |
made up the winning team.
Second-day rounds went much faster than the first, because only the top 50 teams qualified. By 2 p.m., it was all over but the shouting. The winners were Dustin Egusquiza of Florida and Kyle Lawrence of Andalusia Alabama, on a three-head average time of 13.99 seconds. Each received $115,500, plus a 2016 Chevy Silverado dually truck and a trailer. The latter were painted up one side and down the other with George Strait photos and logos. George personally congratulated the winners and presented the awards, autographed the dash of each truck, and posed for photos with the team. For many present that weekend, that alone was prize enough.
The last three days of our Texas Road Trip was anti-climactic. But I’ll tell you a little about it next week. That’s assuming I have time to write while packing for Las Vegas, where Lucy & Ethel are going to see The King in concert — twice. Don’t expect me to write much about that adventure. Remember, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!