The Wild West’s Alternate Universe

Last week in Denver when the National Western Stock Show was circling to a close, I exited Interstate-25 at Park Avenue and crossed the bridge over the South Platte River into an alternate universe. This morning in a family text thread — a virtually fantastic way to corral your widespread clan when you want to feel like they’re all present in the room with you — I picked their brains for the scientific term that creates the space-time method of transference. “Was it a wormhole?” I asked.

Alternate universes are a favorite fiction schtick, and there is no requirement that the vehicle be manufactured in a science lab. A stainless steel DeLorean does the trick in Back to the Future, a troubled teenager’s mind confuses all of us with what’s real life and what is not in Donnie Darko, and poor Bill Murray relives February 2 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania for years in Groundhog Day simply because of his rotten personality. And there’s Alice who tumbled down a rabbit hole into an English tea party, where the practice of talking animals taking afternoon tea made it a certainty that there was no acceptable explanation for her whereabouts, except that it was not of this Earth. So we know that alternate living spots are possible, at least in our imaginations.

But my family’s responses to the question were lightening fast and to the point, which is that one needn’t trip into a tunnel between two worlds. Rather than define the process, they provided examples which were all too real to question existence.

Dr. K: “My clinic?”

Isabelle: “Freshman year of college.”

Dr. K: “Elections.”

Me (if you participate, it can spin out the conversation): “Ammon Bundy hunkering down in the Malheur Wildlife Refuge.”

Isabelle: “The Deep South. Duh.”

Dr. K: “Iowa before the caucuses.”

Harrison informed us we were all weird and offered to do a bit of research, providing me a link from dummies.com. I protested at the label, but thanked him for its forward motion. After reading a bit about Parallel Universe theories, and trying to digest the concepts inherent in both internal and chaotic inflation, as well as ekpyrotic theory, before drinking a drop of coffee, I gave up. I preferred their real life examples over science.

If anything is weird, it’s Colorado in January. The skies are blue and sunny, and yet the snow and ice on the ground won’t melt. Maybe it has something to do with the amount of sunshine we receive this month — a whopping total 6.5 hours, which is a fraction of the rest of the year’s ray allocation. But for whatever reason that caused it, it was obvious I had crossed into another universe the minute my front tires hit the Park Avenue Bridge. To my right, hanging directly over Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park, was a motionless helicopter.

I know helicopters can hover; that’s part of their design. And yet, this one appeared immobile, stationary, likely glued to the sky. Time was standing still.

Meet Remy, 2016 National Western Stock Show Grand Champion Steer, and sidekick Moses, Grand Champion Reserve. They spent the afternoon in a very posh Denver hotel observing tea drinking and submitting to well-wisher’s pats. Photo: Kathy Newman

I was headed to meet my aunt for lunch at the venerable Brown Palace Hotel, where we were to first say hello to the 110th Annual National Western Stock Show’s Grand Champion Steer. Ever since 1945 when two prize Hereford bulls graced the lobby, the hotel invites the rose-garlanded winner, and Grand Champion Reserve (because even winners need a buddy to calm them down when having high society social engagements), to strut their stuff down a red carpet and preside over afternoon tea in the nine-story atrium lobby. You’re probably saying, well, it’s Denver, the Wild Wild West, and of course there should be bulls in the drawing room. The streets aren’t even paved in Denver, are they?

Boulder County Fair and Rodeo Queen Mikaela Kugel smiles enchantingly for me at The Brown Palace.

They are paved, for the most part. Westerners have a more laid back take on the world, but there was nothing mellow about The Brown Palace last Friday. Lines of people snaked from the grand entrance around the perimeter of the restaurant where tea was being sipped and cakes nibbled, everyone waiting for a free photo op with the celebrities. You could pet the jet-black Remy, and his butterscotch colored buddy, Moses, the Reserve, both in their furry glory. I’ve never considered bulls to be one of the cuddly species, but these two guys were just too darned cute for their own good. I suppose that’s one of the reasons they’re champions. There were rodeo royalty from across the state, bedecked in their glittery best, a pianist tickled the ivories near the animals, and flashbulbs popped and blinded every minute. Gazers hung over balconies to frame the best photo, and above it all sparkled the Brown’s palatial chandelier, still bedazzling with Christmas ribbons and glitz.

It was all quite overwhelming and otherworldly until I noticed the two animals’ owners standing in contented modesty near their caged beasts.

Macey Goretska, age 16, Remy’s owner, and 14-year-old Jagger Horn, who had raised Moses, have spent a lot of time with these animals over the past eighteen months. Ninety percent of the winning bids, $117,000 and $70,000, respectively, is awarded to these kids, with the remainder going towards scholarships for students studying agriculture and rural medicine. It’s a relationship with a great cause, but one that must come to an end after the auction.

One of the hotel staffers moderating the line of people waiting for their photo-op told me that the Grand Champion Steer was purchased by the hotel for its 105th anniversary several years ago for $105,000. “And then they served him up in The Palace Arms, the hotel’s most elegant restaurant, decorated with a Napoleonic theme, the next night for dinner.”

It’s “a lesson in resiliency” for the kids who raise these animals, my friend Jill Andre told me. She grew up raising cattle and sheep. “We knew we could cry and then had to walk away.”

Heading northwards as I drove back over Park Avenue Bridge, the motionless helicopter was gone. The highway stretched out ahead of me, directing me home. Lingering rays of sunlight, now turning pink and purple over the snowy Rocky Mountains, helped warm what remained of that afternoon.

Award-winning author Emily Kemme writes about human nature, illuminating the everyday in a way that highlights its brilliance. Follow her on her blog, Feeding the Famished, https://www.facebook.com/EmilyKemme, or on Twitter @EmFeedsYou . Life inspired. Vodka tempered.


Originally published at www.feedingthefamished.com on January 29, 2016.

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