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Monday, March 16, 2015

The Rodeo Imperative

Maybe somewhere in the West there’s someone (most likely a transplant from the Midwest) who utters the words “I wasn’t born yesterday,” but I have yet to hear our familiar Michigan phrase out here. Instead, from goofy celebrity talk show through serious political discussion to a couple of guys out on a sidewalk or standing around a pickup truck, whenever one person states the obvious or starts to give unnecessary advice or asks if the second person knows something that of course anyone around here would know, the laconic response is, invariably, “This isn’t my first rodeo.”

When we read a bare-bones announcement in the local newspaper – surprisingly, no times or schedule were given, no list of events or enticing photograph from last year – about a junior rodeo to be held March 14 and 15 out at Quail Park on the north side of Willcox, I put it on my calendar immediately.

“Don’t expect much,” David warned. The word “Junior,” to him, meant there would be no professional bull-riding, his favorite rodeo event. 

I didn’t care. “There’ll be plenty of horses,” I said confidently.

(There was to be a huge book fair in Tucson the same weekend, on the University of Arizona campus. Books in the city vs. horses in the country? I have books every day of my life! But I do have a kind of professional obligation.... Okay, a compromise: rodeo on Saturday, book fair on Sunday. My argument was that city traffic would not be as crazy on Sunday, and besides, David thought we might stay overnight near Tucson and ride up to Oracle the next day.)

There were horses and horse trailers everywhere. Every size and color and look of horse, and every make and size and age of trailer. We were surrounded by horsiness, immersed in an equine world. Immediately, before we got out of the car, the event had already surpassed my expectations.

(Look at background: Dos Cabezas!)

There were calves, too, ready for the roping.

There were a few dogs of appropriate cowdog appearance among the spectators, one almost as cute as Sarah. (Which one below do you think I mean?)

We arrived for the end of the “flags” event and the beginning of “poles,” the first poles competition for the “Six and under” age group, with older age groups following. I couldn’t help suspecting that for a few of the youngest competitors, this might indeed be their first rodeo.

The announcer was clear and encouraging. Here’s how she would periodically remind riders of their turns in the arena, after beginning by reading the complete lineup of competitors: “Next is So-and-So One, followed by So-and-So Two, and So-and-So Three, be thinkin’ about it.”

(Yes, there were young cowboys, too, but it was the girls who were living my girlhood dream.)

It was a very windy day -- consequently very dusty. Back behind the entrance gate, where horses stood waiting to be ridden and young cowboys and cowgirls warmed up horses for upcoming events or simply socialized on horseback, the dust was fierce, but the horsiness was intense.

We didn’t stay all day. The next morning, though, before getting on I-10 to Tucson, we stopped in again briefly for the beginning of the rodeo day. Again we were surrounded by horses, and again I heard the announcer’s voice pronouncing the names of kids I’d seen ride the day before, the same formula making the order of competition clear. “Next... followed by... and ... be thinkin’ about it.”

The rodeo imperative: “Be thinkin’ about it.” I was still thinkin’ about it halfway to Tucson.

Ride‘m, cowgirl! Live my dream!

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! Dare I confess that it was -- my first rodeo?!


BB-Idaho said...

We have a round up and rodeo in town each Fall, and though I went to the downtown parade a few times, I never got out to the
rodeo. I DID spend part of a night in a motel one time next to
a room of drunk cowboys, though.
Horses are a way of life for many in the west. The neighbor behind has a couple acres with a Pinto and Palomino and just finished a
training ring...and it is not uncommon for folks to ride up and down the street out front. Usually
cowgirls, sometimes a young mother
and 4 year old daughter. So imbedded is the culture, that many
college rodeo
teams offer scholarships. A few years back a Nez Perce friend gave me an 'indian dog', each eye a different color and inborn wanderlust. A coworker was married to a professional cowboy
who worked with a university cattle herd and offered to take the dog. Darned if that dog didn't become the star cattle dog up there, apparently better suited to rounding up cows than
pulling the old chemist through
the hedges in town. IMO, its a lifestyle you have to be born into.

Dawn said...

Beautiful photos. For some reason I like the first one best, the trailer, the two horses, both heads turned the same way. But I liked a lot of the others too! So glad you had fun!!

Karen Casebeer said...

Your excitement over the rodeo was palpable! I can see you were in horsey heaven. Wonderful images too; you really captured those moving targets so well with crisp, sharp images. This was fun to read!

P. J. Grath said...

Thanks for enjoying the pictures, you all. And BB and the rest of you, if you didn't see Sunday's NEW YORK TIMES, with a long story on a ranching/rodeo family, check that out!

BB, I wasn't born on horseback, but I was fortunate in being born into a railroad family. More on that another time....