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Montana's cowboy Mardi Gras, Bobs get their due, cars are the stars in Northern California.

Pamplona has the running of the bulls. Rio de Janeiro has Carnaval. And Miles City, Montana, has its annual Bucking Horse Sale, May 19, 20, and 21, when nearly 10,000 travelers, rodeo contractors, and cowboys crowd into town for one of the largest stock auctions and cowboy Mardi Gras in lane state.

The sale is an outgrowth of the 1914 Miles City Roundup, where wild mustangs were sold as bucking stock. The Miles City Bucking HOrse Sale started in 1950 in response to rodeo's growing popularity. The wild three-day weekend of riding and partying has been a tradition ever since.

The prelude to this year's sale is on Thursday, with a 2-mile horse drive from State Highway 22 to the coals at the Miles City Livestock Commission. En route, paints, pintos, bays, and buckskins whinny and prance down Main Street, past Range Riders Bar, Bison Bar, Montana Bar (with a stamped-tin ceiling and glass-eyed longhorn cattle heads), and the 1899 Olive Hotel. As the horses thunder past Riverside Park's water tower, which is emblazoned with a bucking bronco, spectators in cowboy hats, shirts, and boots whistle and hoot.

Street dances, barbecues, and ice cream socials are held during the next three days, but the real action is 1/2 mile west of Main, at the bronc and bareback riding contests on the Eastern Montana Fairgrounds. Over and over again, the chute flies open and out comes a cowboy - a professional or amateur daredevil - riding one of the sale's nearly 400 horses. Rodeo contractors gather under the announcer's stand and begin bidding on the horse as rodeo judges rate the cowboy's ride. The rides vary wildly: there are horses that buck, horses that jump straight up, horses that run for the fence, and horses that simply lie down in the chute. The wilder the ride, the higher the bid. Bids in 1994 ranged from $300 to $4,000.

Other events include wild horse races, bull riding, and bullwhip demonstrations.

For a glimpse of the days when Miles City was a hub for cattle and cavalry, head to the Range Riders Museum, across U.S. Highway 12 from the fairgrounds. Relics include cowbells and angora chaps from Texas cattle drives in the late 1880s and a brass lunch box given to a Union soldier by his mother. (The town was named for U.S. Army General Nelson A. Miles in 1877.) The museum is open from 8 to 8 daily, April 1 through October 31.

For more Western experience, turn right off U.S. 12 on Water Plant Road (west of the museum) and follow signs to Custer County Art Center, housed in the 1914 Miles City Water Works building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Western Art Roundup. April 27 through July 9, features the works of 10 Western artists. Gallery hours are 1 to 5 Tuesdays through Sundays.

For tickets to the Bucking Horse Sale ($7 to $10) and lodging information, call the Miles City Chamber of Commerce at (406) 232-2890. Accommodations in Miles City have already been filled for the sale weekend, but the chamber can direct visitors to other areas. Miles City is 146 miles east of Billings on Interstate 94.

RELATED ARTICLE: Purple haze in Southern California

Though jacaranda trees are native to Brazil, it's hard to imagine spring in Southern California without them. Every May, these graceful shade trees with the finely cut fernlike leaves explode in a profusion of purple blooms.

For homeowners and city maintenance crews, they are labor-intensive trees with a tendency toward heavy aphid infestation above, sticky messes of flowers and petioles below. But for jacaranda fans, these trees are a delight. They cause drivers to crane their necks, pedestrians to look to the sky.

Some jacarandas bloom in midspring, others flower through September; but most are at their peak now and will be through June. Here's a rundown of some of the best plantings in the greater Los Angeles area.

Los Angeles. In many Southern California cities, public works departments prefer to plant trees by genus - to plant not one jacaranda but at least a block of blossoms. Los Angeles is full of such streets, but just as striking are the jacarandas in Elysian Park. The Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park has sponsored three plantings of jacarandas over the years. One group was planted 15 years ago along the Avenue of the Palms, and it's been lush and flowery every May. Last year, committee members planted 19 jacarandas around Angel's Point. They are expected to bloom this year despite their youth.

In Westwood, look for jacarandas in the 5-acre Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden on UCLA's north campus.

Beverly Hills. People take their street trees seriously here. The showiest jacarandas are on the 500 to 700 blocks of Palm Drive and on Oakhurst Drive. These 40-year-old specimens form full canopies over the streets.

Pasadena. In northeast Pasadena, the city's best trees are on Paloma Street, east of Allen Avenue as you head toward Altadena Drive. There you'll find five blocks of 40- to 50-year-old trees. At the northwest comer of Lake Avenue and Del Mar Boulevard, you'll see the city's only (public) white-flowering jacaranda. - Ellen Melinkoff
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Author:Patterson, Caroline
Date:May 1, 1995
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