I was gifted tickets to the Eugene Rodeo by a friend’s daughter. Now a rodeo in the “Peoples Republic of Eugene” is not the same as one might be further east in the state; couples of all types walk hand in hand, pink mohawks mix with mullets. For one day at least the hard-line that splits Oregon between Liberal cities and conservative towns blurs a little bit. My own home sits on the cusp of this divide; further south is Roseburg which protested Obama’s visit after a mass shooting, further North the aforementioned P-R-E. So far all things are quiet along t he front; my conservative neighbor and I chat goats and avoid politics.
Today though among all the signs of détente there were moments when the house tipped its collective hand; for there is no mistaking that the Horse world is Trump country. Lars Larson, Oregon’s own Rush Limbaugh, gets mentioned and The Lane County Republicans have none other than Art Robinson out shaking hands. To really understand this bit of local color one has to delve a little into the man; a well-educated former Reagan operative he runs a “research center” in Southern Oregon and espouses every aluminum-foil-hat theory that comes down the pike. He has asked for urine samples from everyone in Oregon and hypothesized that exposure to toxic chemicals is good for you (but vaccines are bad) for example. For the last decade his biannual loss has been as regular as rain in March here; a sign that forty-some percent of t he local electorate will vote for anyone who isn’t a Democrat.
In person though he looks small and deflated; the decade of loss seems to have left it’s mark on him. I mention to my wife that Art “send me your pee” Robinson is here and he looks at me with quickly and darts away… Many years ago I met Eli Kazan of the Hollywood Blacklist fame; like Robinson I felt I should hate him but he was so visibly broken at that point that all I felt was pity. He was a man who made his choice and was past the point or redemption or re-invention. I felt sadness that a man who had created great films would mostly be remembered for choosing hate and fear.
Art has a passion for pipe organs. The large instruments are in danger as churches close across the country and in between running a fake-science center and ruining the last vestige of honor from the party of Lincoln Mr. Robinson collects and restores them; it is unfortunate that few will remember him for his good work.
The Rodeo goes on; the bulls win and only one rider makes his eight seconds; my host an accomplished barrel racer herself says that most of those young men will be retiring at thirty. After she guides us through the warren of stalls to see her horse Junior who despite the fire works is calm and gentle; he reaches out with soft lips to feel my sleepy daughters hair and looks for treats. Horse country may be conservative but horses are non-partisan apparently.