Of Cheerios and Rodeos

October 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Pauls Toutonghi blogs on the personal story that led to his brief literary nonfiction essay, The Last Best Rodeo?, in Brevity’s Fall 2011 issue.

Traveling with infants is never easy; on April 29, 2010, my wife and I had twins. This curtailed our travel plans, a bit. Now, any trip in the car was full of wild hungry fits, loud wailing, and flying Cheerios.

But it was summer, and my wife’s family was gathering in McCall, Idaho, to rent a house on Payette Lake. Her brother was flying in from Chile, where he lived, along with his entire family. There was also this: My wife’s father had recently been diagnosed with Stage 3 melanoma. Though we were hoping that he’d caught the disease in time — all of our interactions had an underlying awareness of the diagnosis. It was a luminous pulse beneath everything. It crackled at the margins.

The babies were four and a half months old. We got in the car. It was a nine-hour drive from Portland to McCall Lake, and by dinner we were in Pendleton. The babies were hungry. The babies were screaming. Cheerios rocketed around the interior of the Honda. In the vivid, bright yellow hills of Umatilla County — we took a surprisingly busy exit and left the interstate.

What we found was a shocking amount of cowboy pageantry: It was the 100th anniversary of the Pendleton Round-Up. We were so astonished that we had to spend the night.

The next day we drove on to Idaho. The water at McCall Lake was frigid — an icy bath that I took each morning after going for a run. The family spent ten days together — ten vivid days that were so important for everyone, even our little just-crawling twins. In the still beauty of the lakeside home, I wrote that essay, surprised by how vividly everything had caught in my memory.

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