Experience Small Town Rodeos
“Ladies and gentlemen, let’s give that cowboy a hand -cause that’s all he’s going home with today.”
A drawling announcer’s voice can be heard saying those words at any small-town rodeo–acknowledging that, for this moment at least, beast has beaten man. And after the smattering of applause fades, bruises are the only memento that cowboy will have of this weekend. Unless tonight’s dance turns out the way he hopes!
It took me awhile to appreciate the evening’s entertainment at a rodeo. Not something a six year old gave much thought to, growing up next to Hienz and Ziggy Ruckman, whose mother, a German immigrant, ran a small herd of dairy cattle. By herself. I wasn’t really a country kid though. The Ruckmans’ hay barn and a good game of gunfight was as close as I ever got to living on a farm. Somehow though, the love of simple things – of dirt and straw, farm animals and those who work with them – got ingrained in me. I blame my dad.
Each year he would drag me off to one horsey event or another. Races or rodeos. Maybe a fall fair. I didn’t know it, but he had grown up with horses. But what kid knows such things about their dads? Dads just are – timeless and ever-present. So it always seemed a bit strange to me how much delight my scrupulously clean chiropractor father found in quarter horses, or a plowing competition at the fall fair. It was another side of the man, and one I came to appreciate after the third or fourth time we went to the Falkland Stampede.
Held at a wide spot on the road, the town of Falkland, British Columbia, more than doubled in size each rodeo weekend. Spectators sat on flat board bleachers that gave new meaning to the term “hard-ass.” But you were on top of the action, and both you and your hotdog were slowly coated in the dust kicked up by the bulls and horses and cowboys just a few feet away. It was visceral. It was real. It was authentic.
The Calgary Stampede was also part of my childhood. But as exciting as the midway, animal displays, and mini donuts at the stampede were, the rodeo itself could never compare to my experience of small town rodeo.
And the good news is, such rodeos have never gone away. I got that same sense of visceral connection recently, standing by the rail of the clubhouse turn in High River when a clod of mud thrown up by a horse’s hooves hit me in the face as the chuckwagons pounded by. Now THAT is being part of the action!
It ain’t rodeo unless you can taste it.
By: Allen R Gibson