Sunday, November 4, 2012

Let's Rodeo!

The concept of attending a rodeo was never in the forefront of this writer but when invited, we had to go.

It was the right thing to do!

I have seen numerous bull fights in Spain and Mexico but have never agreed that these are 'macho' events but more acts of human barbarism (a topic for a later date). On the other hand, having ridden horses for years as a teenager I knew that taking a full grown horse at a high speed in a small dirt arena and then throwing a rope from saddle to steer horns and jumping off was something only a few could do. I wanted to see it. So, given the chance we went.

At J & L we believe being a cowboy and participating in a rodeo is an old and honorable profession. We respect the hard work, dedication, and plain old 'go get 'em' attitude these guys and gals in tall hats have within them.

So, that chance came when the team were invited for an evening in Devore, California to witness the last night of the 2012 season of the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association) being sponsored by the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department. It was the thirteenth annual event and the grandstands were jam-packed with roping loving spectators.

The weather was amazing for this last bout of the season with the modern day knights ready to do battle in the oval arena to entertain the cheering crowds while trying for themselves to earn a spot for the finals being held in Las Vegas later in the year. This was the last chance for these athletes to enter into the cherished top 15 positions available so they could saunter into the never sleeping city in Nevada and possibly walk away (or limp) with trophies and prize money in the hands.

It should be noted that no animals were injured and we believe after walking around the pens all those creatures are very well taken care of and looked after as though they themselves were just as much an athlete as were the cowboys partaking in the rodeo. In fact, numerous times during the evening the famous rodeo announcer, Jody Carper, would have the crowds give a round of applause to the animals in the arena. We are not sure the horses and cows understood the adoration from the clapping and cheering but the spectators knew and that is what counted on this rather warm but clear fall night.

An exciting evening where cowboys would leap off their galloping horses after lassoing a sprinting calf and within seconds throw the animal to the ground while all the time getting the rope looped around three legs of the bovine trying to beat the next contestant. Moments later another rider would emerge from the chute with dirt flying behind his steed trying his hardest to defeat his opponent by mere tenths of a second. And we are discussing seconds here which means the difference between going to those nationals in Las Vegas or going home with a sore bum and ego to boot.

The opening ceremony included thundering horses being ridden by colorfully outfitted girls carrying tall flags attached to long wooden poles as if the riders were making haste to do battle. It was awe-inspiring to watch as nearly a dozen riders atop their steeds tore up the dirt while circling the arena time and again to the loud applause of the audience. These flags were in dedication to all the sponsors who had donated time and money to the rodeo including the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department, Burrtec Waste Industries, Matich Corporation, and many more individuals and corporations.

One rich and touching moment was when, after the first galloping horses had left the arena, ten year old Brice Lore casually and calmly made his way into the west end of the field of glory and belted out the National Anthem which brought tears to the thousands of spectators watching. This young boy with a golden voice knocked the notes out into the early evening with uncanny professionalism. Our readers should remember Brice's name since we at J & L don't believe we've heard the last of this young singer.

The night was full of cowboys riding bucking horses and bulls, this is where the great 'eight seconds' to glory originated which is the time it takes a rider to have 'broken' the ride. Very few of the cowboys were able to stay mounted that long and it was easy to understand why when the metal gate swung open and the grimacing riders held on with one had for dear life while what appeared to be a pretty angry animal below them did their best to be rid of the offensive human on their back. Rider after rider spilled off the saddle sideways, over the head of the animal, or narrowly missed getting their head splintered by the rear hooves of the animal of their choice while being tossed to the rear as unwanted garbage. The rodeo clowns came to the rescue distracting the frantic animals allowing the cowboy to walk or more than once limp away from where they had eaten dirt in their attempt to best the beast.

Speaking of clowns, one of the greats in the rodeo circuit, Robbie Hodges, was on hand to stimulate the crowd with his running comedic routine when the action dimmed a bit within the arena, usually as the events changed, and he would walk the area discussing this and that to the entertainment of the crowd. His actual title is a 'barrelman' who takes shelter within a huge barrel placed within the arena during the most dangerous cowboy events so as to, like the other clowns, take the attention of the animals off of the fallen cowboys. Standing in or on a barrel while two thousands pounds of angry bovine stomp by looking for something to impale is either pretty brave or pretty dumb. In Robbie's world it's just his job and because of that dedication the cowboys can at least leave the arena physically attached if not emotionally.

Event after event sped by and the hours clicked by like minutes with the Norco Cowgirls doing a half-time show dancing and cavorting with their horses in routines which marveled even some of us older cowboys who had not ridden a horse in over twenty years let alone having horses follow trained orders. It was enough to stay on a well traveled path at a slow trot let alone tearing around a dirt arena with a dozen other riders close enough to reach out and touch one another. It was a sight to behold.

The female barrel racing showed the precision in which these young women trained as they brought their mounts dangerously close to three barrels while maintaining a speed most people would not want to ride in a straight line. Around and around beating the seconds on the clock was what called for and these gals never lost stride as they delicately but firmly made their way from start to finish to thundering applause.

As the rodeo wore down through the evening the excitement of the spectators did not as we all yelled for more speed, more danger, and more events but all good things must end as did this rodeo in Devore on this cooling Fall night.

One particularly momentous thing did arise from this visit to the rodeo and that is this writer now can proudly and honestly state:

"This ain't my first rodeo!"