Fall kind of closes in on us after Labor Day.  Of course, that means momma and I go over and sit on the bluff west of Clinton, Ark., on Dan and Peggy Eoff’s ranch to watch the National Championship Chuck Wagon Races. “Umpteen” other fans and I, are all shouting and cheering for our favorite wagon-teams to cross the finish line. Mark it down on your calendar for next year. It’s always racing time on the Bar Eoff Ranch the Friday, Saturday and Sunday before Labor Day.
This year was different. Folks brought some nice horses to the Saturday night auction and sold them. They were counting how many  $50 round bales it would take to feed them through the winter – selling the animals they could spare.
I talked to many ranchers who simply sold out their herds. That’s a pretty tough dose of medicine – folks work a lifetime to build a productive herd of cattle and then in just one day sell the entire lot of them. Many folks in the four-state area got enough rain to get some feed up, but when I left for west Texas I found things were a lot tougher out there.
In this area big bales of hay were reportedly selling for up to $70 a bale and if you could get 56 bales on a tractor trailer, it could cost $50 bucks a bale to have it hauled to the Fort Worth, Texas, area. It is lots of money for not so good forage. Of course some folks around here will bale more hay right up to frost if the rain continues. And there will be a market for any hay you have and don’t need.
The weekend after the races, I go to Lubbock down in southwest Texas for the Cowboy Symposium. Alvin Davis, a good friend of mine and a host of folks put this on the first Friday and Saturday after Labor Day. The civic center is a wonderful sprawling building with performances all over. There are as many as half a dozen different stages going on with entertainment from cowboy poets, singers and storytellers.
They have a large trade show with spur makers, hat makers, used book dealers, clothing; everything you could need or want. I have made so many friends over the years out there it is like a family reunion.
But this year there was an underlying silence, almost a whisper under the music and talk. That region has had less than three inches of rain since New Year’s Eve. There are no crops except for on irrigated land. There was no winter wheat crop last spring except the land with sprinklers and that looks to me to be less then 5 percent.
The overall crowd attending the event was way down both days and not many folks were spending money, which is understandable. There was competition across the street from the convention center by the chuck wagon cooking competition. As many as 30 to 40 original chuck wagons cooking lunch on Saturday were out there sweating over fires making mouth watering chicken fried steak, beans, potatoes, gravy and sour dough biscuits and cobblers.   

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Western novelist Dusty Richards and his wife Pat live on Beaver Lake in northwest Arkansas. For more information about his books you can email Dusty by visiting ozarksfn.com and clicking on ‘Contact Us’ or call 1-866-532-1960.


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