ro·deo (rō′dē ō′): a public exhibition of the skills of cowboys, typically involving competition in broncobusting, lassoing, etc.
What can be said about the rodeo way of life? A good bit. But as a “city girl,” living in a northern suburb of Atlanta, I wanted to write a bit about an American icon, the cowboy, and share a few shots from my time spent shooting out in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Starched long-sleeve shirts, creased jeans, perfectly shaped Stetson hats, well-worn and comfortable boots, a silver belt buckle, an oiled saddle, and a dependable horse are usually what you’ll find when you find a rodeo. You’ll casually stroll by little tikes in, again, starched shirts, jeans, a silver belt buckle, a rope in their hand, and a make-shift bull where they will spend hours practicing their roping skills, some hoping to follow in their daddy’s footsteps and become a rodeo cowboy.
This is a culture, this is a way of life. These rodeo cowboys are out there risking their lives, making a living, traveling from one venue to another, and doing exactly what they love. But there is a price to pay, both physically and emotionally, and these cowboys deal with the ups and downs (no pun intended) every day. Travel expenses, long days and nights on the road, entry fees, and time away from their families a large part of the year are just some of the things these cowboys face. But the rodeos are packed with lots of fans of all ages just waiting to see the most dangerous eight seconds in sports!
But when it comes to bull and bronc riding, I found that the hands of these riders are very fascinating. Most of bronc and bull riders wear a glove only on their riding hand. This glove protects their hands and makes it easier to hang on to the bull rope, the only anchor that these cowboys have for the duration of their ride. Gloves are often taped on their hand since the amount of friction and force generated during the ride could easily rip a glove off of a rider’s hand. And just a note here, there is a “draw” where each cowboy will draw the name of the bull they will ride, and the largest wild card in a rodeo is the bull. These riders draw and mount an adult bull which often weighs between 1,300 and 1,700 pounds!
Most of you reading this probably don’t follow the rodeo circuit closely, but many of you know about the untimely death of Lane Frost, who was killed at Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on July 30, 1989. Lane was only 26 years at the time of his death. He had completed a successful ride on “Taking Care of Business” and dismounted when the bull turned on him and hit Lane in his side with a horn, breaking several ribs which punctured one of his lungs and severed his pulmonary artery. Lane would place third in the event post-humously. Later, in 1994, a movie was made based on Lane Frost’s life entitled “8 Seconds” where Luke Perry portrayed Frost.
I can state one fact for certain and that is that rodeo is more than just a sport. These riders hoist themselves upon the back of a bull or bronc and bust out of a chute on a mass of muscle determined to throw them facedown into the arena dirt. But once they are off the back of the animal, it doesn’t end there. A rodeo clown must divert the bull’s attention to allow the rider to exit the arena safely. Now, that being said, how many of you are ready to “cowboy up” and learn to ride that four-legged, 1,500 pounds of muscle that’s just on the verge of being a little angry? Any takers?
Until next time . . . Happy Trails!