Community Recovery
7:23 am
Mon April 14, 2014

For Oso, Returning To Normalcy Means Chainmail And Jousting

Yellow ribbons are tied around each post you pass as you drive into the Rhodes River Ranch just outside of Oso, Wash., a town still recovering from the devastating mudslide on March 22.

Bonnie Rose does just about everything at the 200-acre ranch, which is spotted with horse stables, shoeing barns and a restaurant built to surround a large equestrian arena.

Her first job there was pouring concrete. In the years since she has worked her way up to executive chef and restaurant manager.

She said she has been in "hyperdrive" in the three weeks since the mudslide.

A large tribute board leans against the wall of the restaurant at Rhodes River Ranch in Oso.
Credit KUOW Photo/Daniel Berman

"We're in emergency mode still and a lot of crisis mode,” Rose said. “I have great days and then there is some times when a little kid can draw me a picture and I'll just start falling to pieces and I'll be crying.”

The Rhodes River Ranch has been helping in any way possible since the mudslide: They provided refuge for horses when the surrounding areas were first evacuated, their storage space is currently brimming with donations of food, and two weeks after the mudslide they held a benefit auction.

But on Saturday, the staff was preparing for something different.

A troupe of local performers called the Seattle Knights has been doing regular shows at the ranch for nearly two years. The group was originally founded by Dameon Willich in 1992.

Dressed as maidens and scribes, performers wander between the tables encouraging diners to pick a team to root for while chainmail-clad knights prepare their horses for jousting.

Almost every seat in the house has a view of the arena. More than 60 people came for the show – the first by the Seattle Knights here since the slide.

The teams of knights battled for points in staged combat and horse jousting competitions. The blue team seemed to be favored by the crowd, but the red team ultimately was victorious.

Families from Marysville celebrated birthdays and three of the tables were taken up by residents of the Redmond Senior Center, but none of Saturday’s spectators lived in Oso.

Horses relax in the sunshine at Rhodes River Ranch in Oso, Wash.
Credit KUOW Photo/Daniel Berman

The Seattle Knights offered to cancel the contract for this performance, but Rose said she didn’t want that. The reason could be summed up in one word.

"Normalcy,” Rose said. “We thought about it: Would it be too soon to have a happy, exciting event? And I don’t think so. I think we need to have happy and exciting. We’ve had enough sad right now.”

Rose plans on holding another benefit for the victims of the mudslide soon, but for now she wants to move forward and get back to normal. There will be free bingo on Wednesday this week and music with cowboy poetry next Saturday.

And soon, the Seattle Knights will be back too.