"Beans, Ropes & Shania Twain" Mexican Hat by CymruPaul
Mexican Hat Travel Guide: 21 reviews and 49 photos
Having bounced down a narrow riverside track, past tall trees and taller tepees, our first decision was to choose sides for Cowboys and Indians. We could sleep beneath the conical skins of the large tepee, or in the large earth-covered igloo made of juniper branches, called a hogon. Alternatively, we could sleep under the stars like cowboys, either by the fire or on the trampoline (I couldn't recall John Wayne ever sleeping on one of those). Assuming the outdoor options would be allocated later on a first-drunk, first-served basis, I took the tepee.
Closely hugging the muddy river, Betty & Rusty's Cowboy Camp had a wooden coral at one end and a feeding station at the other. Alongside the chuck wagon, an open fire was surrounded by stones laid out to create a cooker and, rather cleverly, an oven. The larder area was accessed by swinging saloon doors, and faced out onto rows of wooden tables.
As you'd expect, dinner featured beans, black re-fried ones to be precise, along with Mexican enchiladas, rice and sweet corn. After the beans, we moved up wind as Betty and Rusty began the singing around the campfire. As night grew and the fire crackled, the two of them sang old traditional cowboy songs from the days long before Mr and Mrs Parton considered calling their daughter Dolly.
Now I should add that Betty and Rusty are no ordinary pair. Rusty is 94 years old and still riding around on his quad bike. Betty is his 5th wife, although he married the same woman twice for some strange financial reasons, and he has 12 children. And despite Betty only being in her 70's, Rusty still threatens to trade her in for a younger model during their well-rehearsed banter between songs.
By the time Betty's chocolate cake was doing the rounds on paper plates, the 'way out west' serenity had been broken by Shania Twain of all people! As she blasted from the speakers, car headlights were aimed and the evening challenge was laid down - drunken lassoing. The tour group of college girls, who were struggling to hold their drink or ropes by that stage, were first up. Arms, hips and ropes swung in random circles as the rest of us watched from the safety of the campfire. As more sober arms joined in, the ropes began flicking in and out of the shadows before splashing in the dirt or landing with a clink on the 3-foot high metal "bull". Once they hit home, there was a pause as the noose tightened, and then the bull was brought to the ground with a loud clank, a satisfying thud and a euphoric shout of "ya, bring it down!" Eventually I was up there myself, and after a couple of misguided efforts that came closer to my fellow ropers across the circle than to the target we were surrounding, I too was yee-hahing with success.
Early next morning, Betty was whacking merry hell out of a triangle bell. "Get you lazy people, you'll get bed sores". A huge white pot of coffee sat welcomingly on one of the stove's outer slabs, while Betty, having abandoned her audition for the dawn chorus, was busying herself cooking scrambled eggs, in a frying pan large enough to return most of Andre Agassi's best serves. With the eggs came potato slices and the traditional 'biscuit and gravy' - a hot scone (which Americans call biscuits, on the grounds that they call biscuits 'cookies'), covered in a white sauce made of milk and pork sausage. And judging by the volume of food, it would have appeared rude to not have seconds.
But the final word inevitably went to Rusty the 97 year-old cowboy, who rode up on his quad bike after an early morning chopping fire wood. Beneath his black leather trousers and rugged blue shirt, his white t-shirt read, "nobody knows I'm a lesbian".
I love this photo, no idea why! May be it's the memories, or the vibrant yellow of the eggs - whatever the reason, an enlarged version hangs on my wall so other people can puzzle over it too...!
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