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Core Samples

"I got a hot rod Ford and a two-dollar bill, and I know a spot right over the hill. There’s soda pop and the dancing’s free. So if you wanna have fun, come along with me.

–Hank Williams

It’s become the stuff of folklore. After the county had upped his overhead by requiring porta-pottys and security and the like for his in-house rodeos and demolition derbies, Ernie Scow decided that maybe it wasn’t worth all the headaches and that, quite possibly, the time for fresher digs had arrived.

As the myth has evolved, the old Defa’s Dude Ranch up on the North Fork of the Duchesne River came to mind. Thinking it a most brilliant replacement location for his quite out-of-the-box social gatherings, Ernie bought a jug of that stuff that turns your cheeks red and proceeded, shot by shot, to congratulate himself. He considered the bottle a finder’s fee.

The derby and rodeo wouldn’t survive this shift of landscape, but his annual parties have flourished even after Ernie left for that big corral up in the sky. Those who rode for his brand learned their lessons well. And here we are again on the cusp of yet another weekend go-around of tearing up the saloon dance floor to the great "Block and Tackle" band and swappin’ lies around trash-talkin’ campfires.

"An old cowpoke went ridin’ out one dark and windy day. Upon a ridge he rested as he went along his way. Then all at once a mighty herd of red-eyed cows he saw, just plowin’ through the ragged sky and up a cloudy draw."

This year the opportunity presented itself to get in some additional training prior to the actual bash up at Defa’s the second weekend of September. Although Heber Valley isn’t actually a dead-ringer for the south slope of the Uintas, we do have roadhouses within which to fine-tune dance chops. And this past weekend, Block and Tackle conducted drills.

They began Thursday as part of the free concert series with a mellow evening at Heber City Park. The lads ran through a couple of sets under somewhat overcast skies while the crowd, in lieu of dancing, treated the affair as a concert. There was, however, some top-shelf, head bobbin’ going on.

For those who will be participating in the shenanigans up at Defa’s, but who, for one reason or another, don’t make it out on local hardwood floors as often as true "blockheads" might, the twilight gig served as a refresher course in "Cowpoke Cool 101." For those who just wandered by, well, their inner compass sure is treating them right.

It would be the next couple of nights, however, out at the Other End of town where training for the Defa’s weekend would get down to the heart and soul of the matter. Most of the organizing committee pulled extended shifts upon the healing hardwood of the dance floor while Block and Tackle, with game faces securely in place, strutted their stuff.

"Well my rig’s a little old but that don’t mean she’s slow. There’s a flame from her stack and that smoke’s been a-blowin’ black as coal. Well my hometown’s coming in sight, and if you think I’m happy you’re right. Six days on the road and I’m gonna make it home tonight."

Dancing like no one was watching was far from the only acquired skill covered at the weekend training sessions. Hootin’ and laughin’ and shuckin’ and jivin’ like you were among family also received a going over. Huggin’ like you meant it and singing along like you actually knew the words were also popular classes.

Cantankerously adorable — that’s Block and Tackle. This is a longtime band of brothers who attend to their current mindsets without contrivance or caution. They look you square in the eye and call it as they see it. They have been there and done that, including a stint back in the day headlining "biker days" up in Sturgis, South Dakota.

"You walk into a cowboy bar, strung-out from the road and you feel the eyes upon you, just shaking off the cold, you pretend it doesn’t bother you but it makes you wanna explode."

When they get rollin’ onstage with one of their five-minute western novels, they’ve been known to make time stop and deserts bloom. Their themes can be as deep as a bottomless gorge: "Well it’s a hard life if you’re singing, singing’s a hard life to live, singin’ for your bottle of whiskey, sometimes takes more than it gives."

But it takes more than a bad day at Black Rock to knock them out of the saddle: "Bullet in the shoulder, blood runnin’ down my vest, there’s twenty in the posse and they ain’t never gonna let me rest."

This is not to say that there are no happy trails to this outfit. Their shows often become the stuff of joyous revival. In fact, most all "blockheads" speak in tongues. It’s just that these rowdies have learned that it’s not only in the dictionary that pilgrimage and pillage are separated by a pill.

"Well don’t it make you want to dance, don’t it make you want to smile, when you’re down, down, down in the country, pick and sing a while."

Parties at Defa’s have an option-rich logistic component with avenues of escape that include up-and-over West Fork, the autobahn that Wolf Creek has become, or, of course, you can always checkout the Strawberry Valley and Hanna by heading up Mount Tabby way.

And then, once you’ve arrived, if all the cabins have been rented out, there are sites a-plenty for the camper or tent. Knocking the back seat down and sprawling out in the rear of your ride has also proven to be a viable option over the years. Although leaving home without hiking boots for a foray into Grandaddy Basin doesn’t show broad insight, not bringing dancing shoes for the September 8 and 9 shindig would be totally frowned upon at least by Ernie.


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