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"-Stampede"- By Richard Hirschhorn  The county is rural and modest. We have no big towns. A refugee from megalopolis, I perked up when they strung the banner across Main Street. County Fair!  For city folks, the best way I can explain a county fair is that it's like a big block party with rides and livestock. Like most things in the country, it's all about good clean family fun.  Behind the big barn-like building where the third graders were very serious in promenading their goats around the sawdust-filled ring, was a small outdoor arena no larger than a little league field. On the near side of what amounted to a large corral were two sections of seats partially shaded from the Texas sun. They provided a viewing area for the casual shifts of people who drifted in, never numbering more than fifty. 

The act I caught consisted of a competition between teams of five cowboys who traveled the county fair circuit. Four were well mounted, and one man from each team was on foot. Each team entered the arena leading their horses from left to right as the hokey MC cracked corny jokes.  When they reached the far right fence, they were guided through taking off their clothes by the man with the mike. They unsaddled the horses, and took off the saddle blankets, leaving just one girt. They took off their boots and socks. They took off their hats, chaps and shirts. Then they laid down and pretended to go to sleep. From the opposite end three head of cattle were let in. When the field was clear, an "official" shouted "Stampede" and the clock started. Up jumped our sleeping cowboys, hopping about on one leg as they slipped on their boots, finished re-dressing, saddled their mounts and came charging out from their corner whooping and yelling  This event was designed to recreate what cow-punching was once like on the range. Each team had four "cowboys" that could really handle a horse, and the fifth man opened the gate to allow the "herd" to be corralled. When the gate closed behind the three head, the clock stopped. If it wanted to win, the team had to complete the whole process in little more than one minute. Stampede" That's what they called this part of ranch rodeo.  Stampede. 

Back home, in New York City, at the same time as I was watching this ranch rodeo, our Treasury Secretary had corralled all the top financial and political heads.  Not a representative rodeo but a rodeo of representatives.   When I was a little boy I was taught there is no such thing as the perfect crime. I had better be a good boy and had better watch out, because the FBI always got their man. The legislature decides what is legal and what is not. If you don't commit a crime, if your behavior is sanctioned by law, the FBI won't even bother with you. The perfect crime is that crime which is legal. This isn't the first time our representatives have been herded together. Whenever the caper required legal cover, the herd was assembled. The greatest non-violent crime in the history of the world began with getting the cowboys to go to sleep, the sentry to desert his post. This was called "de-regulation". With the foul deed done, with the loot safely stashed away, the scum that wrecked the American financial system needs just one more favor from the herd.  

On the real range the idea is to quiet the cattle, to sing to and soothe the little doggies, and to prevent a stampede. If we imagine the herd as a flock, and the cowboy as a shepherd, he protects his flock from rustlers and desperados, from roving bands of young braves seeking to extract a tribal toll, from coyotes and lobos eager to snap off a stray.  This week, they are singing a different tune. On the corner where George Washington was sworn in as our first President, our current leader has sent his man to bellow out: "Stampede!"  In the town where Alexander Hamilton figured out his young republic must have a central bank to bring stability to its finances, his descendants now assemble and cry Stampede not to calm but rather to encourage a panic in the herd. 

This is the overture to the final act of the greatest swindle ever.  Once total panic has been achieved (and that is easier in an election year) the final line will be delivered. It's the same line highwaymen have delivered for ages.  Give us your money. Give us all your money. Or rather, all the people's money. A nice tidy sum. A neat seven hundred billion dollars. It must have taken at least an hour to come up with that figure. Stand and deliver! Right now.  In a crazed panic, in the oldest republic on earth, the robber barons will of course not be punished. They will be rewarded.  Back on the range, that kind of thing isn't likely to catch on. Real life is not the county fair. After all, cattle cost money. Money doesn't grow on trees down here. If you want to go around yelling "Stampede" in order to rob us during the panic you ought to keep one thing in mind. We work hard for what we got. It ain't fancy, and we don't have solid gold parachutes or toilet bowls, but we do have a little put aside.  And it's enough for rope.    

BIO: Richard Hirschhorn was an entrepreneur in Brooklyn, New York, for close to two decades and now resides in Texas.  You can reach him at  


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