What do you live for? Do you live for Friday happy hour, your son’s weekly football game, date night with your wife or eating three pizzas?
Of course, those are all precious moments but I live for something more and that includes moving moments. And this past week, I got them in spades.
I was in Pendleton, Ore., at the Pendleton Round Up taping for “Special Cowboy Moments” on RFD-TV, and, if you haven’t been there, I strongly suggest that you put it on your bucket list.
It features horses bucking on grass and jumping wildly over small fences, bareback races, which are phenomenal, spectators on the infield who race out of the way when a bucking horse rounds the corner, 17,000 boisterous fans and a 300-tepee Indian village.
It’s one very big party and, in the midst of that party, you suddenly find yourself in a particularly unique moment.
The first one happened on Saturday morning prior to that day’s final Pendleton Round Up performance.
In downtown Pendleton, there is a bar where a lot of rodeo fans go for breakfast and a Bloody Mary prior to the rodeo. It’s called the Rainbow, and it’s a long, cowboy bar featuring classic rodeo photos of Pendleton Round Up legends lining the walls.
There that morning was a particularly creative and gregarious young man who, the two days prior, had dressed himself up like the Woody character in the movie “Toy Story.”
The best part of that was, when people looked at him oddly, he was somehow able to keep a straight face, as if he couldn’t imagine what they were looking at.
Of course, I called him Woody but his real name is Jered Gesler and, in the moment at the bustling Rainbow barroom, he suddenly stood up and began singing the national anthem. Soon, every one of the hundreds of other patrons were also singing, and not timidly. They were really belting it out. Real Americans loving that moment at a uniquely American event and so proud of the country for which they sang.
Not long later, at the Pendleton Round Up opening ceremony, rodeo queens, and others, on horseback jump a fence and then ride around the outside dirt track at breakneck speed. It fires people up.
Soon someone sings the national anthem and two military jets fly over the huge arena with a deafening sound following behind them, with 17,000 fans cheering nearly as loud. There it was, a second uniquely American moment that left almost all 17,000 fans with moist eyes.
Those are the moments that America regularly gives to us that I hope we’ll never take for granted.
Meanwhile, President John F. Kennedy once said that he looked forward to a great future for America — a future in which our country will match its military strength with moral restraint, its wealth with wisdom and its power with purpose.
I don’t care what any of those kooks out there say, we’re there and we have been for a long time.