By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
A week after being dazzled by a troupe of performing poodles, participants in the Atmore Public Library’s Summer Reading Program got a glimpse of what life was like in the days when cowboys drove huge herds of cattle across the plains of the U.S. West.
More than 80 youngsters and about two dozen adult chaperones heard stories, songs and poems of the Wild West while witnessing a display of several cowboy arts — mostly tricks accomplished with a rope and bull whip — that are quickly fading into oblivion.
Bruce and Vernelle Brannen of Pike Road have presented their 2B Ranch Wild West Show at the local library several times in the past, but the audience’s interest in the cowboy show hasn’t seemed to wane. In fact, former competitive trick-roper Bruce Brannen all but guaranteed audience members that they would enjoy the show.
“We’re glad you’re all here this morning,” he said. “I want you all to take a deep seat and long rein and get ready for some rootin’, tootin’ cowboy fun.”
One of the things that make the show so enjoyable for young and old alike is the interaction between the presenters and their audience.
The first such example came when two different groups of youngsters were called to the front of the library’s second-story children’s section to perform in impromptu musical groups that shook tambourines and maracas, clanged tiny cymbals and beat on drums to modern-era rock songs in a tribute to this year’s “Libraries Rock” theme.
The professional cowboy performer displayed his proficiency with a lasso, twirling the noosed rope in front of and around himself, and around another group of nervous youngsters, as the “Wild, Wild West” movie theme provided background. He also displayed his handiness with a bull whip, knocking several items from the air and cracking the whip to yank items from his wife’s — and his own — mouth.
“If I miss now, it’s a long ride home,” Brannen joked before slashing his whip across a flower held in his wife’s mouth.
Brannen also presented a brief yodeling demonstration and talked of the contributions made by black cowboys and those from several foreign nations, including Mexico and Scandinavia.
Later, other attendees were designated cowboys, cowgirls and cattle for the show’s finale.
A group of “brave and fearless kids” in straw hats directed their make-believe bovines, each wearing a set of “horns,” in a circular semblance of a cattle drive as the “Rawhide” theme played. The half-hour show ended with those in attendance singing a rousing rendition of the western standard, “Home on the Range.” Afterwards, attendees enjoyed a healthy lunch.
Grover Hall of Bratt, Fla., accompanied his grandsons, Ezra and Kaiden Hall, and a friend, Corbin Stacey, to the library. Hall said he was well pleased with the summer reading program and its special presentations.
“It’s a lot of fun for the children,” Hall said. “That dog show [from June 8] was just out of this world, and this was one was really good, too. Everything has been great. The boys have had a good time at the library this summer, and I’ve enjoyed it, too.”
APL Director Hope Lassiter was equally happy with the reception earned by the series of special programs.
“I was really pleased with the show,” said Lassiter. “[The Brannens] have been here several times in the past, and everybody seems to like their show. I’ve been pleased with every one of our Friday programs, and the children seem to have liked all of them.”
The special summer presentations will come to an end this Friday, when — beginning at 10 a.m. — youngsters will be treated to a portable petting zoo. The awards program will be held Friday, June 29.
News photos by Don Fletcher