PALESTINE — The sharp crack of a gunshot slices the air, startling two mules and a mounted horse to take off in a dead run. Deterring the mules ever so slightly is a 300 lb. wagon, in which two passengers hang on for dear life and hope to be the fastest across 600 feet of pasture.
The clouds of dust and anxious commotion are attributed to the “Oklahoma Land Rush” – one of many western sporting events that took place this past week during the second annual 1836 Chuck Wagon Races at the Diamond B Ranch in Neches. Events will continue today and tomorrow.
The local Texas-sized celebration of western culture takes place annually on Texas Independence Day Weekend and throws wagon racing, bronco riding, cowboys, clinics and more into one smorgasbord “Wild West” week of activities. The event draws contestants and spectators from across the country, and some from around this neck of the woods – like Edith Cook and her neighbor Nancy Pruitt.
Cook made the trip from Athens with her friend, and the two parked themselves on the sidelines to watch some of the commotion Thursday and Friday.
“It's exciting seeing the mules and the horses,” Cook said, calling the whole event “quite different.”
“This is a good family event for everybody to come out and enjoy, from young to old.”
As she says it, the Oklahoma Land Rush is wrapping up with its final team, and a new crop of cowboys are preparing to compete in the pasture team roping event – up next.
“Now as I mentioned earlier to you ladies and gentlemen, we've got cowboys and cowgirls from all over the United States with us this weekend,” an announcer booms over the loud speaker. “We've got some that's even from other countries, ladies and gentlemen. They're competing to make it to the National Finals Championship races that will be held in Clinton, Ark. on Labor Day weekend – better yet known to us as grandaddy of 'em all. They'll have over 150 teams up there, over 30,000 people and 6,500 horses and mules.”