Sentimental Journey

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I just got home from attending the 60th National Appaloosa Show in Oklahoma City. (I didn't go to show, but to take in the scene and catch up on activities in the Appaloosa breed.) With its history reaching back to the 1940s, the National Appaloosa Show is the longest-running single-breed horse show in the country.

And coincidentally, it's also the first major show I ever attended. I couldn't help reminiscing about that while at this latest version. The show was nowhere near its 60th anniversary then, though. My first-trip year was 1970, when I was 16 years old. And things sure have changed since then.

Back then, people showed their horses outdoors, not inside an air-conditioned coliseum, and thought nothing of it. They slept in tents or pickup campers, and thought nothing of that, either. No one had any notion of today's luxurious living-quarters trailer with five- and even six-figure price tags. At the 1970 National Show, my family (and many others) lived on peanut butter or bologna sandwiches, or else on hot dogs and burgers cooked over charcoal. I saw little evidence of that at the 60th show I just attended. But I did see some long lines at all the popular restaurants.

In 1970, I wore outfits sewn by my mother and grandmother, and was proud to have more than one. I won a spot on the national queen's court while wearing those homemade clothes. Last week, I saw little in the way of homemade couture. In its place were exhorbitantly expensive designer duds, even on the littlest kids. Fake tails that swept the ground? We didn't have those 37 years ago. Instead, we shortened our horses' tails with pocketknives, and showed them with roached manes. It was a simpler time for equine hair care, that's for sure.

During that long-ago show from my youth, local people treated it like a circus or fair, and turned out in droves to see it. There were fewer entertainment options in those pre-digital days, so it was notable when a big horse show came to town (Huron, South Dakota, in this case). Last week, the stands were largely empty. Exhibitor clans and their trainers watched the classes, but that was really about it. The townspeople were tuned in elsewhere.

I'm glad I've gotten to be around long enough to have witnessed such an expanse of change. But I also can't help wishing that a few things hadn't changed quite so much.