There was a town. It was a while ago, and I'm sure it's still there, if you want to go find it. It might have died by now, turning into one more lost stretch of gloomy buildings that children swear are haunted. A dusty little hole-in-the-wall place in the Dead Zone of Oregon thats main attraction was the huge log and mud general store that sported a ten point rack of antlers from some long forgotten Elk over it's front door. The Dead Zone (as I named it) is a 200 mile stretch of amazing high desert landscape that runs from the Eastern corner of the state bordering Washington all the way down to California. To normal people this is 'Eastern Oregon', or 'Southern Oregon' depending on where your feet have taken you, but to me, it's a Dead Zone.

It's not dead in a depressed macabre teenager sort of way, but in a quiet, endless sort of way. It's brown, and green, and the wind can howl or do nothing at all. It's hot and dirty and cold and soothing. It stretches on forever and looks alot like a sunset would, if a sunset was land. It's like walking through an automatic door to a lush air-conditioned grocery store on a hundred degree day, passing through the Gorge into the Dead Zone. You go from endless trees spotted mountians to endless sagebrush living on painted rock that conjours up images of stagecoaches and indians in a few blinks. It's like magic, sometimes.

You can go for miles, from towns like that one, bordering on the edge of becoming ghosts, and not find anyone or anything but chewing cows and cattle fences. It took ages to get there, over potted roads that were obscured in either direction by the dust we churned up and the only thing to look at was the browning sagebrush. We traveled in a bus you know, a converted one, it amuses me as much as it did then now. The town was called Fossil, one of the most extraordinary ironies I've ever encountered in my life. It was one too, an aged fossil, sporting not much more then the store. There was a small school, abandoned thanks to the summer months, a car repair shop (Something very familiar in that country. Breakdowns in the Dead Zone can lead to very unhappy adventures.) and the fairgrounds.

That's why we were there.

Rodeos are a common summer occurance in the Dead Zone. Most of the bodies that inhabit it are Ranchers, or the tired low men who work for the railroad. In a world where you travel two hours in one direction to reach a town slightly bigger then your own to watch a movie, you have to have something for entertainment. I have millions of memories from my life and the things I've done, and the ones from that single hot summer in the Dead Zone are some of the sharpest. I spent lots of summers there, some of them in a house, some of them traveling, but there was just something about that summer that stands out. I think maybe, if I ponder at it, it was because of the people. After a long time, I've found that it's the people I remember the most, and there were so many people that summer....

The Dead Zone is very different then the Valley. The Valley is lush, green, wet, busy. Cities and people and noise somehow manage to blend perfectly with the forest and mountains and water. The Dead Zone is the other end of that pole, it's like going backwards. Not in society or how civilized the people who live there are, but in thoughts. Sometimes tt's hard, and dirty, and rough. It's spending hours herding cattle or riding rails, spending days away from your family and traviling hours just to get anywhere. It's 120 degree days and not being able to move. Sometimes it's like music though, in hills and the wind. You just slow down, out there, at least that's how it is for me.

We sold jewelry at fairs, rodeos, festivals. We got it from a dealer in Portland who sells to nation wide 'fine department stores'. His name was Veranazan, and although I never met him, I did love his warehouse. The Rodeo, I don't even remember the name of it, had clogged the little town with more traffic then it had probably seen in decades. It was a trip, in these little towns, watching them pop under the hot sun with hot people waiting for the dust to fly. It was a freedom other kids my age didn't have, these little towns, being able to go anywhere and do anything and not have anyone worry about where I was or who I was with. The fact that there was, in reality, noplace to go didn't stop me from making a place to go.

It was amazing, the change that took over during the infest of people. Booths lined (all four!) of the towns streets, banners waving, people shouting. The fairground would be jumping with Cowboys and Trainers, with Ranchers stowing their animals for the shows, it's like a sea of trailers and dirty pickups.

You'd make the rounds first, check out the other sellers, the layout of the town, who's going to be where and who you know. It's like a family, this crowd that travels from little place to little place, you find Buddies, you have to, because it's lonely life. It's what you look forward to the most, those few days after you've set up and done your booth duity when you can go act your age with other kids who are doing the same thing you are and understand. They made the whole trip to that overlooked little town, those Buddies.

You stay out late with them, drink bad coffee just to drink coffee, purchace bad trinkets. You run seller duity at each others booths, so you can have the night off together. You play cops and robbers in the schoolyard, and buy junkfood with the gift certificate someone won in the pie eating contest. You root on the cowboys, flinch when they fall, and stalk the one that has the name of your brother for an autograph. You play, and you have to play hard, because in a few days you'll have to exchange addresses with your new (or newly refound) Buddies and pack it up because it's time to move on. You cling to a hope that somehow you'll track of them, and knowing like most seller-formed friendships, you most likely won't. You'll travel to the next Rodeo, watch the next magical transformation of a sleepy desert town, find the next buddy to play with and maybe this time insted of watching Cowboys you'll swim, or borrow a bike. But, like the others, you'll lose track, and with time all those friendships will color with a form of nolstalgia.

Every now and then, when the sun is just right in the sky and makes the shadows of the trees in my yard look like desolate tumbleweeds, I wonder what ever happened to the one girl who was with when, or the one guy I did that with that one time, and if they ever forgot that little town called Fossil and the Rodeo that went there once.

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