Monday, January 25, 2010

Jentel, Day 11

Current word count per day ratio (WCPD): 567.

Sheridan, the closest town to Jentel, is still a good 20 minute drive, mostly along a winding road up and down the Wyoming hills. The whole gang ventures out every Thursday to provision up for the week, but today, we smaller group of 4 headed into town to enjoy civilization, other people, and blazing high-speed Internet. The Internet came courtesy of Java Moon, the independent coffee shop on Main Street of downtown Sheridan, and when we arrived at noon, almost all the tables were occupied by the lunch crowd. There seem to be a large number of entrepreneurs in the area, because I always see someone sporting a business plan in a manila folder or a start-your-own business book. Laptops open with bar graphs and metrics mapped out one after another. Men huddled conspiratorially, smiling their way to a prosperous future. And while my companions used their quick Internet -- quick in comparison to the satellite-based Internet Jentel employs -- I watched Dionne Warwick sing "Walk On By" on YouTube again and again.

The downtown of Sheridan plays up its frontier trappings: boot stores, a Wild West mall, and, best of all, King's Saddlery, a shop that specializes in rope and riding equipment. The helpful ladies at the counter showed me the correct placement of a cowboy hat (down low on the forehead, just above the eyebrows) and how it should feel (tight, to prevent it from blowing off). My hat size: 6 1/4 to 6 1/2, depending on the manufacturer. Further back, the store sold a glitter-spray for horse manes and a mega-sized Furminator, made especially for livestock. Or, in my case, for one of my cats.

Across an alleyway, King's Saddlery continues into a warehouse-sized building that specializes in rope. Rope of all sizes, of all materials, wound up on huge spools and tended to by genuine-looking cowboys. And just past the rope depot, to the left, is what can only be described as a Saddle Museum. I learned the difference between the Sheridan-style floral leatherworking (tight florets, a single connecting vine weaving through the flowers, concentrated design) and California-style floral leatherworking (larger flowers and more space between them, open design pattern). Usually when I think of the smell of old leather, I imagine English Leather aftershave -- I attribute that to my father's moustache-trimming days -- but inside the museum, the scent had an oily tone to it. The tannins were weathered, but not musty or smoky. For a town that's known for its polo as much as its rodeo, there was something joyously authentic about seeing rows upon rows of saddles, with their attendant spurs driven, prong-deep, into the wood of the staircase.

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