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DQ Blog

SEPTEMBER 2011. PENDLETON, OREGON

Horse named Chinook.  He's a black-and-white Paint, a gelding, owned by Rusty Black of Pendleton, Oregon.I've been living what feels like a Dream Vacation this summer: attending some of America's foremost rodeos.  In August it was the Omak Stampede in central Washington.  A week later I was at Crow Fair, in the town of Crow Agency, Montana.  Now I'm here, along with 15,000 exuberant rodeo fans, for the Pendleton Round-Up.   All the motels have been booked for months (I was lucky to get a room through the kindness of the Round-Up media folks), and downtown Pendleton looks like a cross between Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Beale Street in Memphis, and a Resistol Hats sales conference in, um, northeastern Oregon.  During the day, people actually go watch the rodeo.  That finishes in late afternoon, to leave time for partying.  Everybody is friendly.  The odd things about this particular Dream Vacation are that 1) it's not my dream (it must be somebody else's, misdirected to me through some neuro-ethereal mix-up), and 2) it's not a vacation.  I'm on assignment for National Geographic, researching a story on the role of the horse in Native American cultures.

The reason for attending those particular three rodeos has not been to see the bull riding and calf roping and barrel racing, etc., or to raise my cholesterol level on a diet of curly fries and pulled pork.  The reason is that Omak, Crow Fair, and Pendleton all feature certain equestrian events that are uniquely embraced by Native American riders today.  In Omak, it's the Suicide Race (or, as its organizers prefer to bill it, the World Famous Suicide Race), details of which I'll leave to your imagination, at least for now.  At Crow Fair, and also here at Pendleton, it's the Indian Relay, a wonderfully frantic race that involves three fast circuits of the track, dead stops, leaping dismounts and re-mounts, and nothing so superfluous as a saddle.  Again, more on that later, maybe, in the magazine piece.  My purpose here is merely to share with you the image of one magnificent horse I was fortunate enough to meet during these travels.

His name is Chinook.  He's a black-and-white Paint,

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