Rain can't wash out Marabou's Mountain Roundup

Country western star Clay Walker must think guitar picks grow on trees

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— After attending Clay Walker's concert at the Marabou Mountain Roundup Saturday night, I'm just grateful I don't have to write the check for that man's monthly guitar pick bill.

That wasn't my first rodeo, so I know better than to squat with my spurs on. I also know Walker is a multi-platinum country and western star.

But, I'll put more Tabasco on the gumbo if that fella didn't toss 15 or 20 perfectly good guitar picks to the crowd at Marabou.

Now, I can usually make a guitar pick last for several years. So, the only thing I can figure is that Mr. Walker was paid handsomely for his set out in the hay meadow Saturday night.

I should explain that Marabou is a luxury home subdivision approved this spring by Routt County. When complete, it will include just 62 homesteads on more than 1,800 acres assembled from several historic ranches. Marabou is situated on a hill overlooking the lower Elk River Valley. It's just a few miles west of Steamboat. The managing partner for Marabou is Jeff Temple who, in the late 1990s, had the vision for the successful Storm Mountain Ranch closer to Steamboat.

This isn't just any luxury home subdivision -- the amenities will include trout fishing, horseback riding, a swimming pool, yoga studio, theater and more. The price of a 6-acre building lot will be as high as several million dollars. The listing real estate broker for Marabou, DMB Realty of Scottsdale, Ariz., wanted to send an unmistakable signal at the Marabou Ranch Roundup during the weekend. Everything will be first class at the ranch. That explains how a top country band like Clay Walker's found itself playing to several hundred people on a stage in the middle of a hayfield.

Walker acknowledged this was the first time he'd been booked to play a picnic, at least since he played for his own family reunions on their ranch outside Beaumont, Texas.

"My family made a bigger crowd than y'all," Walker quipped.

He turned out to be a really personable guy with a quick wit.

"I'm looking at The Sleeping Giant over there and wondering if there's a big sleeping lady lying down just out of sight," Walker said as a pale sun set behind the brooding rain clouds that dominated the weekend.

Walker captured his audience with a clear voice, strong songwriting, a catalogue of hits and a tight band. And then there was that schtick with the pick.

Using an inside-out snap of his wrist and forearm, he flung his guitar picks 50 feet into the crowd. I don't know how he made those little plastic triangles so aerodynamic.

Cute little girls in straw cowboy hats frantically scrambled through the straw bales the audience was seated on to retrieve the picks.

I wanted one of those picks real bad, and even thought about shoving one tyke out of the way in an effort to snag one. But I held off lest I make a spectacle of myself and never be invited back.

Walker has sung about rain a fair amount in his career with lyrics like: "I'd say that's right as the rain on a tin roof Texas night" and "She's right as rain on a thirsty cornfield" or "The rain beat soft against the window as the night turned into dawn. As I looked into your eyes, I knew where my heart belonged."

When I awoke to the sound of rain on Sunday morning, there was just one thing on my mind. I needed to learn how to fling a guitar pick like Clay Walker. I gathered up a few varieties of picks, walked into the backyard and began flipping them into the wet grass. My best effort might have traveled 13 feet.

I modified my technique to no avail.

Then, I had an inspiration. Walker was wearing a big black cowboy hat when he flipped those guitar picks such great distances during the concert. That had to be my problem -- I was bareheaded.

I returned to the house, grabbed a straw hat out of the closet and jammed it on my head even though it was two sizes too small. Returning to the yard, I tried a modified grip, holding the pick between my thumb and forefinger. The first flip traveled maybe 6 feet. But the second toss went spinning into space and landed on the roof.

Now I'm a "hat act" just like Clay Walker. By the way, Walker is more than a talented performer. He's a man on a mission.

Walker was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis in 1996. He has continued to record and tour while leading an active lifestyle. And he's also committed himself to educating and raising awareness about MS. You can learn more about his foundation at bandagainstms.org.

Tom Ross is a longtime Steamboat resident. His column is published every Monday in Steamboat Today.

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