Last week I got to take my buddy from New York and his Panamanian wife to their first rodeo. The night before, I took my two oldest boys. Entertainment wise it doesn’t get much better. There’s danger, speed, power, and finesse. Beer, bulls and BBQ. A dose of comic relief and Americana as well. Here are 10 reasons you need to check out the rodeo for yourself.
1. Bull Riding. Ken’s wife, knowing I’m a pretty typical Texan with rural roots, asked if I ever rode a bull. Of course not I told her, and she asked why. “I enjoy living.” After the first ride, she understood why. Still, its my favorite. Bull riding is really three events in one: 1) the challenge of getting the bull to behave while the rider mounts up, 2) the fight between brave, if not psycho, young men fighting to stay atop the spinning 2000 pound wrecking ball of beef, and 3) the battle between the raging bull and the bull fighters over the unseated rider. Heart pounding stuff.
2. Clowns. My all time favorite is Quail Dobbs. There are funny clowns and working clowns, and sometimes funny working clowns. Barrel-men have form fitting barrels they will get in to distract the bulls and be silly. Bullfighters are agile athletes who protect the rider once they dismount (elective or otherwise). The way these guys to jump in the middle of the bulls face is an art.
3. Vendors. The culture of rural Texas, and no doubt America, is on display at your local county fair and rodeo. Western themed artisans will be on hand selling you everything from bullwhips to rattlesnake skin boots, belts, and wallets.
4. Future Farmers of America. Most of the time, a livestock show will be held concurrently. The stock don’t look like the animals in your average pasture. A show steer is to a pasture steer, what an NFL linebacker is to an accountant.
5. Barrel Racing/Rodeo Queens. The rodeo isn’t only about men though. If the ladies in your life like competition, barrel racing features women on Quarter horses racing around three barrels for the fastest time. Definite athletes, there were also a couple women ropers. If Frozen is more your girl’s thing, a pageant of sorts is held and a local beauty is selected Queen of the rodeo. She often carries the flag and banners of local sponsors in between events. She has a court of princesses and gets to dress up in girly whatnot.
6. Carnival Rides. Yes, there are carnies…but as long as you keep your wits about you, a lot of fun can be had on the rides.
7. Food. I’ve been to many different county fair and rodeos, and each has its own spin on the food. All of them have funnel cakes and corn dogs, and at most of the Texas ones you’ll find BBQ, fajitas, and deep fried everything. Being a coastal county, Matagorda had a seafood truck and alligator as well. I even snagged a gyro one night.
8. Saddle Bronc and Bareback. Classified along with bull riding as a “rough stock” event, these are different than bull riding in that a cowboy has to “mark out” his ride. This means the cowboys feet are in front of the horses shoulders before the horses front feet hit the ground. If not, the rider’s disqualified or “missed him out.” These rides create a bunch of work for chiropractors so I enjoy them as well.
9. Horses. I grew up riding horses, so sometimes I find myself immune to their allure. County rodeos give you a chance to get up close, pet and talk to the owners about their prized steeds. If you know the dog family down the street, or the old cat lady next door, (or if you are the old cat lady– Hi Grandma!) horse owners are no less fanatical about their transportation pet and are happy to tell you all about them.
1o. Seating. It’s easy to get seats within inches of the action. I prefer near the chutes where the rough stock action takes place. Yet, there is a risk of getting dirt and other stuff thrown on you. Emphasis on the “other stuff.”
This year’s rodeo rocked. Before the last ride of the night, the bull wouldn’t cooperate in the chute. Alternating horns and legs kept hanging up and it took a good ten minutes to get him and the rider squared away. Each minute the bull stayed in the chute, the louder and more pissed off he got. Finally, pried free with a 4×4, away they exploded not 50 feet from us. Luckily, the rider was not hurt, despite his spur getting hung up in the rope.
If looking for something manly to watch, cancel that dinner and Rom Com date and find yourself a rodeo, Podnuh.