I like rodeos. Ever since I was a kid, I can remember going to them in Idaho Falls. The big one there was called the “War Bonnett Roundup”. It was a pretty famous rodeo, lots of fun and entertaining to go see. I always loved to see the “grand entry” of old glory, our beloved flag of these United States. Usually there were two riders in front. Sometimes they were cowboys, sometimes, cowgirls. I especially like watching the cowgirls. They were all dressed up in fancy clothes, silk blouses with pearl buttons and long silk scarves or bandannas, they had tooled leather belts with shiny oval belt buckles, fancy slacks with rounded standout seams down the outside of the leg- beautiful high top leather cowboy boots, with their slacks tucked in, so all the boot would show the colorful stitched designs. My favorite design was eagle wings. They had clean perfect felt cowboy hats on, they were all dolled up with red lipstick. Each girl carried a flag attached to a long flag pole, the bottom end of which was inserted into a rounded leather scabbard attached to the saddle or stirrup, so the pole would stay firmly positioned as she rode around the arena.
On a signal from the announcer stand the audience was asked to please stand. The riders came thundering into the arena, riding at full gallop on beautiful well trained horses, my favorites were palominos. Usually there were two riders in front, both carrying the American Flag, then behind them were two more carrying the Idaho state flag and the War Bonnett Roundup flag. They circled the arena at full gallop twice the flags waving magnificently, then they stopped at a designated spot in the center of the arena, and the National Anthem was played over the loud speaker as the audience all joined in singing “The Star Spangled Banner”. It was very impressive to me, I loved it. I can’t remember if the colors were posted or if they rode back out of the arena with them, but what I do remember I surely did love.
This presentation of the flags set the mood and excitement for the following events. Saddle bronc, bareback, bull riding, calf roping, steer roping (or team roping), barrel racing, gymkhana, sometimes mutton busting and calf riding for the kids, breakaway roping- bull dogging and sometimes wild cow milking. It was fun.
Sometimes they also had a pig scramble for the kids, chasing and capturing a “greased” pig. That was usually hilarious. The rodeo clowns always kept things interesting with their antics and jokes, but of course their main purpose was to keep the bulls off the bull riders, once they land in the dirt. This was dangerous work, and they were brave and quick, and sometimes they were injured saving the cowboy from injury. Even so, some riders exited the arena in an ambulance once in a while and sometimes the saddle bronc and bareback riders did too. It was a very rough sport.
One of my favorite things to watch was the “pick up men”. They would ride hard and fast after the eight second buzzer went off, and pull up alongside the still bucking, running bronc, providing the bronc rider a safe exit off the bucking horse. He would reach out and grab hold of the pickup man and hang on to him, after the pickup man had pulled the flank strap to release it and get it off the horse to stop it from bucking. The bronc and the rider would then part company and the pickup man would come to a stop still holding onto the bucking horse by his lead rope dallied to his saddle horn, so the bronc rider could have a safe somewhat soft landing on his feet to the dirt. Good pick up men were quick fast thinking skilled riders on fast well trained horses- they were a team that worked as one when watching them and their horses perform so well in their dangerous work. It caused a person to feel pride and respect for both the horses and men. Bulls sometimes had to be roped and dragged out of the arena- it took stout horses for that chore, and good ropers. It was all great to watch and enjoy.
I never thought that I would participate in a rodeo, but I did. I participated in several later in my life and really liked being there, but never the rough stock, just team roping and wild cow milking- but it was a hoot, I loved it. I never had a desire to ride bucking horses or bulls, but I did ride a bucking steer once, all eight seconds- no real big deal. I’ve been bucked off a few horses, not in the arena, but in the job of cowboying, I’m not a good rider when it comes to a bucking horse. But I love roping and have trained roping horses enough to have them do a good job, and I have enjoyed the satisfaction that comes from that, which is not a small thing to me.
The competition of rodeo is a rush. I like participating in competition. It hones your skills and makes you better. I always enjoyed being in the arena, especially at night. It seemed like it made everything more alive, more intense for some reason. The smell of the livestock and the smell of the dirt seemed more intense, stronger somehow. Better. I don’t know, that’s just me. I just like the atmosphere of a warm summer night, all the horses and riders, the cattle, the dirt, the crowd, the flood lights, the laughter and goin’s on with the announcer and the clowns. The smell of popcorn, hamburgers and hot dogs, the dust, the thunder of hooves, whinny and bawl of horses and cattle. It just scratched an itch in me. I like being down by the pens and chutes and all the talk goin’ on among the riders and ropers, bein’ part of it, having something to say once in a while too. I never won much money but I had a rich experience. I’m glad I did it. I only rodeo’d in Idaho and Wyoming as far as competing went, but my itch got scratched.