July 25: Republic to Omak, Washington - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

July 25: Republic to Omak, Washington

Riding, showing off a little, and heading for the next plunge into the river.
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TAKE 20 MEN each on a horse. Stand them at the top of a 75-degree slope that stands 100 metres above a river. Fire a gun and watch them plunge flat out into the water, arriving with a predictably vast splash. For added interest, turn the course into a funnel which simply doesn't have room for 20 horses and riders by the bottom.

The death plunge is a highlight of the Omak Stampede. "It's between the Natives," a friendly woman holding a wailing child said. "You never see a white guy do it."

I'm a white guy and you certainly won't see me do it.

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We are camped on the Stampede fairgrounds beside the river and we have passed some of the afternoon watching the lads practise and, I'm sure, show off. The stampede is a week away.

The plunge is across the river from us. The horizon is a line 30 metres long. On one side is a white, triangular chalet home which stands on stilts so that it extends over the valley. The other side is the roof, all we can see, of a more modest house. A small crowd has gathered at the top but a larger one is waiting on our side, where protective fencing has already been put in place. For a long time nothing happens. Nothing beyond several children playing in the water and a

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patrol boat marked "Enforcement" which keeps them away from danger. Then there's whooping and two, perhaps three, horsemen appear on the horizon. They look down and the horses look down and both get the feeling we have all had the first time we went up to the highest springboard at a swimming pool. Then they pull back out of sight again. Sometimes a horse has second thoughts and shies away.

A moment's silence and then louder whooping and suddenly the horses are over the edge and running, not just sliding or picking their way, down the slope of sand and earth. They plunge without inhibition.

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Their riders fight to control them and to control themselves, sometimes with an arm extended horizontally for added bravado. They hit the water with a splash that hides both man and horse. The winner shouts and waves his arms. It means something to him. The other rider keeps quiet.

They gather in the shade on our side, along with those whose great moment came earlier. And then they walk, slowly, all in protective jackets, one or two with helmets, along the path beside the river. They turn on to the steel and concrete bridge that brings traffic in and out of town. Out of sight, they turn off and start the rise behind the houses we can see on the ridge. And then once more there's a ripple of excitement and once more they whoop and do it all over again.

As free entertainment, it's pretty hard to beat.


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