I love rodeos.
I love the environment, the throngs of people, the smell of cotton candy, popcorn, and beer overshadowed by dust and the faintly sweet aroma of manure.
I love people watching at rodeos. I love to see all of the rodeo royalty, the queens, the princesses, the rodeo princess want-to-be's. I love watching the old men, gristled and outwardly unimpressed with the excitement going on in the arena. After all, these old cowboys are the real deal.
What's going on down in the rodeo arena? It's mostly an expensive, addictive sport to entertain the masses of city folk who've ventured out to taste a little bit of the rough and wild West. Now, don't get me wrong, I love rodeos, and I love that they strive to give people a glimpse into the Western lifestyle, of cattle ranching, of independence, of riding the open range.
Yet, I often find it sad that a rodeo may be as close as most people get to the American cowboy and the ranching culture. I take my coworkers and friends, and often spend most of the time talking about the events, assuring people that the bucking straps aren't torture, and how steer wrestling came into practice.
My favorite events, the roping events are often sped through to get to the more exciting events of bull riding and it's more friendly, fluffy cousin, mutton bustin'. In Denver there is great competition to see who can get their kid entered into one of the mutton bustin' competitions.
Personally, I can't wait until I watch my baby boy cling to the wool of a sheep and ride out across the arena. (Take that as you may, no sarcasm intended).
If a rodeo really is the closest thing to a cattle ranch that the majority of people get, I hope that they really listen to the announcers, as they describe the events, the people involved, and the careful treatment of all animals. I hope people will get out of the bandstands and wander out to the corrals, to talk to the participants, to the stock handlers, to ask questions and then really listen.