OAKDALE — Here in the city that prides itself on being the Cowboy Capital of the World, the National Day of the American Cowboy stands tall.
"It's the fourth Saturday in July, proclaimed by President (George W.) Bush for the pioneering spirit of the American cowboy. Of course, I like to say every day is the day of the cowboy in Oakdale," said Christie Camarillo, executive director of the Oakdale Cowboy Museum.
To commemorate the official day, now in its ninth year, the museum opened its doors for entry without the usual $1 fee, even throwing in a free tri-tip sandwich lunch for visitors.
Housed in the old Southern Pacific Railway station in the center of town, the museum divides its cowboy memorabilia into rodeos and ranching, Camarillo said.
The rodeo section features celebrity saddles donated by some of the Oakdale area's 25 rodeo world champions and 10 Pro Rodeo Hall of Famers, she said, pointing out the wear points on a favorite.
Youngsters in the ranch section can dress up in a collection of boots, hats and chaps, while older generations reminisce about Cricket, the buckskin mare that watched over Highway 108-120.
A life-size poster of Bushwacker, the 2012 national bucking bull champion whose owners hail from Oakdale, looms large in one corner. Camarillo said she's rooting for him to buck off enough hapless riders to be the 2013 world champ.
"In this case, I cheer for the bull," she said.
Buckeroos got a chance to rope a tamer fellow outside, a horned devil someone with less imagination might mistake for a carpet-wrapped piece of wood.
Well-versed in ropin'
Cooper Brown, 2, landed his loop easily over the stationary neck before tugging it taut. Mom Blythe Brown said Cooper's grandfather is a rancher and roping is a regular pastime at their house.
"It's one of his favorite things to do. He and his daddy go roping in the back yard," she said.
At the edge of the lawn, 5-year-old Bobby Johanson explored the inside of a gleaming clean, three-level cattle transport. It and an early-day wooden version were brought in for the day by Rocha Livestock Transportation.
Bobby was about the 25th or so youngster to clamber up the cattle-friendly ridged ramp and through the spacious trailer with its airy, perforated metal sides, said volunteer Karen Willey-Terra of Oakdale.
The Day of the Cowboy "is a big deal for us anyway," she said. "It's what we do."
Oakdale Mayor Pat Paul said the annual rodeo is an economic powerhouse for the town. The city issued a proclamation for the Day of the Cowboy, of course. Back in 2004, every Stanislaus County city proclaimed the day but Ceres, whose mayor pooh-poohed it, Paul recalled. Camarillo packed the next Ceres City Council meeting with FFA and 4-H members, and their parents, and it was passed on the spot, she said.
She'd like to see Western-themed lamppost decorations and spruce up the "West at its Best" signs at the city's edge.
Just down the street, Paul stopped in at the Oakdale Museum, which offered canning tips Saturday to go with an exhibit about the commercial farming side of city history.
"There's a big surge in pickling and canning now," said Barbara Torres, showing off cannery-themed pieces in the museum donated by longtime families in town.
"That's what's unique about Oakdale," Torres said. "People come here and they stay here, generation after generation."
Bee staff writer Nan Austin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2339.