Independence Day has two meanings for me.

It’s the celebration of our country’s founding, of course. But especially in recent years, it’s the day when I carve out a little time to do something I want to do, even if part of the day involves work at the newspaper, chores at home or family responsibilities.

I spent my Independence Day afternoon Saturday at the Sumner Rodeo. It’s a 65-year tradition at the small town about 35 miles northwest of Kearney that is put on by the Sumner Saddle Club … in other words, all local volunteers and sponsors.

Barrels, Lexi Christensen, Lexington2-crop

The family that oversees the rodeo are great folks. They let me go just about wherever I want to go to take photos. This is one of the few rodeos that is in a small outdoor arena and has one of its two performances in the middle of the day. Those are required conditions for my basic camera equipment.

I love the time to just do what I want to do in the way I want to do it. Such times have become increasingly rare.

I loved the drive up Highway 40 past green corn and soybean fields, grazing cattle, and carpets of green pastures that were the recipients of wonderful spring rains. With a pretty good south breeze, the tall grasses and swaying crops seemed to be, as Willa Cather put it, as if they were galloping across the landscape.

NFPW member Mary Jane Skala went to the Sumner Rodeo with me the past three years. In 2012, she had been in Kearney and working at the Hub for only a month when I invited her to go.

She sat in the bleachers so quietly throughout the rodeo, I didn’t know what she thought. Then in late June 2013, she asked me if we were going to the Sumner Rodeo again.

Bull, Conner Halverson, Gordon3-crop

Mary Jane now works at the Ghost Ranch retreat in New Mexico, but still writes her Hub column each Monday. Part of her message last week was that she would miss going to the July 4 rodeo this year.

The events, as usual, included bareback and saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, barrel racing, and team, tie-down and breakaway calf roping. The rodeo always ends with the signature event: bull riding.

Bull, Garrett Stricklin, Ainsworth3-crop

The bulls, broncs and even the wily calves mostly won over the cowboys and cowgirls on Saturday. One bull rider had the wind knocked out of him and a couple others had a hitch in their get-alongs after being bucked off, but no one – and no animals – was serious hurt.

Meanwhile, I caught up with some people I know, drank the best iced tea I ever had about mid-way through the rodeo and drove home with the galloping landscape as my escort.

I told myself along the way that I MUST create more Independence Days just for me. I really couldn’t remember the last time I went somewhere or did something that didn’t have a work or other have-to component.

And for the next two months, whenever I get tired or feel there are too many demands on my time, I will remind myself that the NFPW Conference in Alaska is ahead.

It will be my 2015 Independence Week!!

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