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The Wedding at the Stock Show Grounds


Raye McDonald

On a late afternoon in August, just outside a small Texas town, and with the temperature at one hundred and five degrees, several guys and gals dressed in cowboy boots and hats, stood outside a big wooden barn on the stock show grounds and waited for a wedding to begin. The old barn had stood on the grounds for a long time, and many of the outside boards had  been replaced throughout the years. The tin roof was burnt orange with rust.

The sky was full of puffy white clouds and the weeds and grass all around the barn and the area were brown from the summer drought. There were a few remaining wild sunflowers interspersed among the weeds, whose faces drooped down toward the gaping cracks in the ground. A light breeze was blowing from the west, which was an encouraging sign of rain. There were some clumps of mesquite trees in an adjoining pasture, and the gentle wind caused some of their crispy leaves to float down toward the parched earth. 

All around the show grounds, there were pickup trucks with trailers full of screaming goats. Someone inside the barn, in preparation for the wedding, began playing a tape of the "Trumpet Voluntary," which, when merged with the bawling animals, produced a strange mix of rhythms and timbres.

The conversation among the gathering crowd was hushed. A couple of ushers
dressed in black tuxedos paced back and forth at the dusty front entrance to the barn. One of them was dipping snuff, and he periodically spat into a plastic cup. The other one had a red bandana handkerchief in his hand to frequently wipe his sweating brow, and an unlit cigar dangled from his mouth.

Other guests arrived, and the ushers took them inside to their seats, where they were greeted by three roaring floor fans, which provided more noise than relief from the miserable heat. An old upright piano stood against a back wall, and on both sides of it were some stacked chairs. To the left of the piano was an open door, exposing some ladies who were putting ice into a washtub that was sitting in the middle of a table.

And then the magistrate arrived, wearing a bright yellow necktie. He carried his coat on his left arm and in his right hand, there was a little white book. He spoke to one of the ushers and asked him why the goats were there and was told that there was a goat show going on in an adjoining barn, near the rodeo arena. The judge lit up a cigarette and looked up at the clouds, which were turning darker and gathering closer to the earth. The wind had picked up speed and was blowing dirt into the faces of those waiting until the last minute to go inside. The judge said, "Hey folks, looks like we might have some foul weather coming. We'd better get on with this wedding." He tossed his cigarette down into the dirt and mashed it with his boot.

The judge made his way into the barn and took his place. The pianist began the familiar strains of "The Bridal March" and the piano was so badly out of tune that the song was almost unrecognizable. The guests all turned toward the back of the room to see the bride enter on the arm of her father. She was dressed in a formal white wedding gown. She walked slowly down the dingy, scratched wooden floor toward the front, and took her place beside the groom. The bride could speak no English and the judge prompted her during the vows.

In a very short time, the judge pronounced the young couple married and just as the groom started to kiss his bride, there was a huge clap of thunder. And then it began to rain very hard, and the sound of it hitting the tin roof sounded like machine gun fire. The groom grabbed his bride, gave her a huge kiss and shouted, "Let it rain. Nothing can spoil this day for us." The crowd clapped, cheered, and whistled, and the goats joined their very high-pitched voices into the festivities.

Someone put on a tape of country swing music and several couples began to
dance. A man shouted across the room, "Turn off those dang fans. I can't
hear the music!" The ushers turned them off and brought forth the washtub
of beer and slid it into the center of the room. The ladies set up a refreshment table and soon it was filled with food. The celebration continued for over an hour, before the newlyweds appeared from a back room, all dressed in western attire and ready for their departure.

The little sunflowers, whose faces were now turned toward heaven, appeared
very content from the refreshing rain. The groom stopped, and picked a few
of them and gave them to his smiling bride. They got into their pickup truck which glistened with rain droplets, and we watched them slip and slide down the muddy road, until they faded from view.

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