The Northerners

Kathy Santiago, Featured Columnist

     The stench was intolerable. The pathways were trailed with splattered brown dung. Contestants wore tags representing their school and tailored uniforms showing their authenticity of being a true cowboy. We recently moved from New Jersey and for our first trip we stepped into the Fort Worth Stock show  wearing our Yankee’s ball cap and jean jackets, immediately all eyes were on us as if we were intruder’s entering into their territory.

     “I feel so out of place,” Robert said as he shoved his hands into his pockets.

      There were five sheds the size of apartment buildings labeled: sheep, chickens, cattle, hogs and horses. They were white and had chipped yellow paint peeling off the sides. From every shed, floods of people hoarded out with animals. I paused and felt a mushy feeling under my shoes; I looked.

     “Mom I stepped on crap,” I said as I tried scraping the mush off my shoe.

     From behind, I heard a couple of guys snickering as they watched me disinfect my shoe. They were tall, burly men that wore soot covered cowboy boots and red plaid shirts. They took a huff from their cigars and tossed them to the ground as if giving me a warning sign that this was their territory. We walked past the cattle shed and entered into a crowded building where the rodeo stadium was held. Every seat was filled with people stuffing their faces while others waved their hats in the air. I looked down to see white stallion’s striding around the court practicing their jumps. I looked to my right and saw a woman eating a baked potato covered in sour cream and cheese. I craved for one.

     “Dad I want a potato, give me some money.”

     “We’ll be waiting behind the doors okay,” he said as I got in line.

     I reached the window and the aroma from the potatoes teased my taste buds. The woman stared at me as if I were an alien invading their town; she spotted my Yankees ball cap.

     “What’ll like little lady?”

     “I want one baked potato with no sour cream and…”

     “Hold it! You need to order like it says on the menu,” she said as she pointed to a list.

     It was weird. The wordings were complicated with Texan phrases I didn’t understand. I searched for the order I wanted.

     “Uh I think I’ll have a ‘No Squeal’ and ‘I’m on a Date’ please?”

     “Coming right up,” she said as she yelled one order of ‘I’m on a Date.’

     How could that have possibly meant I wanted no sour cream? I was even more frustrated when I received my potato with a big ladle of sour cream and cheese all over. I was so confused.

     “Excuse me, but this wasn’t what I ordered.”

     “Sorry ma’am but there is no re-funs,” she said as she took the next customer.

     We entered into another building that had different booths of shopping merchandise. Still eating my potato I walked up to the saddles that were being displayed by the belt buckles. I stroked its smooth center piece where the design told a story. The brown and black patch made it seem even more ancient than normal. I tried lifting the rope handle. I almost dropped my potato because the saddle was heavy.

     “Wow dad, these saddles weigh a ton look,” I said as I kept stroking the saddle.

    “Hey, watch your food so that you don’t drop it on them,” my dad said.

     My older brother shoved me forward away from the saddles. I shot an annoyed look at him but stopped to see something wet slide off his cheek.

     “What happened to you?!”

     “I got spit on by some old cowboy,” he said as he looked back.

     “You got spit on? When did that happen,” I asked more confused of what was going on.

     “While you were acting all dumb stroking the saddle and waving your potato all over the place, the owner got mad and spit on me.”

     I was dumbstruck. I wiped off the spit on his face with my napkin and we headed out the door not looking back.

     “That is the last time I’m ever coming here,” Robert said as he touched his cheek remembering what just happened.

     “Yea, it wasn’t as I thought it would be,” my mom said as she loaded four bags filled with clothes into the trunk.

     “I just can’t believe you got spit on.”

     “You know what he said while you were touching the saddles?” Robert said as he stopped to see our reactions.

     “Those dang northerner’s.”