Today was the first day of the rodeo. This is probably my favorite weekend of the year. I brought Isaiah with me tonight and my mom met us there as soon as she got home. The rodeo committee asked me to take pictures for the rodeo calendar in exchange for free admission all three nights. Since I take a few hundred pictures each night that I’m there, how could I possibly pass that up?
We got to the rodeo grounds in time for the free barbecue. I got us each a sandwich and some chips and we sat down to eat it, while I started taking pictures of people arriving. Isaiah really liked the meat, but didn’t eat much of the bread. When he was done eating, we went over to get rodeo t-shirts. I always buy a t-shirt. This is Isaiah’s first rodeo shirt because it’s the first time he’s really attended. (Last year he came for a very short time with my mom.) I changed him into his rodeo shirt right away because I wanted him to be wearing it for pictures.
I walked back to where the trailers are parked in the hopes of getting some pictures of competitors getting ready. Isaiah spotted the horses immediately and started waving and calling them. One cowboy noticed him and said he could come over and pet his horses. Isaiah was thrilled! He was too nervous to really touch them, but he loved getting close. He kept trying to go back and visit them again after we moved on.
Isaiah is buddies with Meghan and was thrilled when she came out of a trailer and called him. He raced over to see her and spent a while following her around. They admired the steers in the pen, talked to some cowboys and explored the rodeo grounds. During the rodeo, he had fun talking to Meghan about what was happening. I’m so glad Isaiah has such good friends!
Before the rodeo, on the first night, there’s always a rodeo queen contest. The part that we get to see is a trail type competition, where the girls must ride their horses through an obstacle course of sorts. The girl must have her horse has to weave through cones, walk across “water” (a blue tarp on the ground) and pick up a flag and ride around the arena with it. This year, there were only three girls competing. One girl was riding a three year old that she’d trained herself.
Finally, it was time for the rodeo to begin. Isaiah went to sit with my mom so I’d be able to follow the action. The timed events happen at one end of the arena and the broncs and bulls are at the other. I went over to one end of the arena and climbed halfway up the fence so I’d have a good view as the flag was brought in. Everyone stood for the national anthem as a cowboy rode around the arena carrying a large American flag.
First up were the bronc riders. I love taking pictures of them, but they really scare me, too. I’m always afraid the cowboys will get hurt. Today, two of the three riders walked away with some minor injuries, but nothing too horrible. The horses were extra grumpy today because it’s insanely hot and humid. They didn’t want to be ridden at all. Honestly, I don’t blame them!
I really enjoy the timed events. A few years ago, I found the perfect spot for taking pictures and watching them–I climb the fence in front of a light post, so I can stand on the fence and lean back against the post. It holds me perfectly in place and gives me the perfect angle for pictures. The ropers today had some really good times. Some of them caught the calves practically before they were out of the gate. The team roping especially fascinates me. They have to rope a steer by the horns, then by one hind foot. Not an easy task!
For the last several years, I’ve been a little disappointed with the steer wrestlers. It’s an interesting event because the cowboy throws himself from his horse, onto the steer and pulls it to the ground. It takes quite a bit of strength to do. A few years ago, the rodeo started using a different livestock company. This companies stock is huge! It’s a lot harder to bring these steers down. One guy today, though, brought his steer down with almost no effort at all.
I saw something absolutely incredible tonight. During the steer wresting, one of the horses took it upon himself to make sure the steer went where he belonged. His rider was still on the ground, but he knew exactly where the steer belonged. He herded the steer all the way across the arena and into the pen without a rider! The other cowboys in the ring didn’t have to help him either. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. That is one insanely well trained horse (and probably one who actually works cattle when he’s not completing)!
Barrel racing is my favorite event. I would give anything to learn to do it. Today was not a good day for the barrel racers and it made me a little sad. Between the insane heat and the fact that it rained a couple hours before the rodeo, conditions were less than optimal. None of the riders wanted to risk their horses slipping and falling in the mud, so they didn’t cut their turns nearly as tight as they usually do. That resulted in poor times for them and less appealing pictures for me. Hopefully, tomorrow will be better.
Something happened tonight that hasn’t happened in the last thirteen years that I’ve been going to this rodeo. The power went out! Of course, every event in the rodeo is timed, so there’s literally nothing that can be done without power. All that was left was the bulls. With no sound system, there was no buzzer to let the cowboy know that he’s allowed to bail after his eight seconds were up. So, we waited. The power company came and fixed it fairly quickly. While we were waiting, the rodeo clown climbed up on the fence and talked with the crowd. He seemed to have a good time teasing the kids in the front row and the kids loved the attention. Soon enough, we had power again.
On to the scariest event of the rodeo: the bull riding. I do not, for the life of me, understand why any sane person would get on an angry bull. I’m sorry, but I just don’t. It scares me half to death every time. I’ve seen so many bull riders get injured over the years. The bulls tonight were the meanest I’ve seen in a long time. They were out for blood. Judging by the dialogue between the clown and the announcer, they’ve been that way all summer. Every one of them attacked the clown’s gear or chased after someone. One even tried to take on a pick up rider’s horse! One was kind of funny, though. He decided he didn’t want to go back into his pen, so he lay down in the middle of the arena! He knew the horse he was tied to couldn’t possibly drag him. It took quite a while to get him back on his feet and into the pen.
The rodeo came to a close with a short show by one of the rodeo clowns (you know, the guys who distract the bull after the cowboy gets off?) with a Mexican fighting bull. The bulls the cowboys rode were mean, but nothing like this bull. He’s bred to go after people! One of the clowns does some stunts with him every year. Last year, they told us that he has to get a new bull every year because they learn his tricks and it gets too dangerous for him to keep using them.
It was a good night at the rodeo. It lasted about two hours, three if you count the queen contest. Isaiah had a blast watching the horses and talking to some of the kids he knows. I had a great time taking pictures and taking a few breaks to check in with Isaiah. The horses were all beautiful, as usual. I can’t wait to go back tomorrow night!