Monday, May 6, 2013


Cheyenne Arena
Morgantown, WV.  5/6/2013:     If you asked a true Westerner whether he or she liked football or rodeo best, it's likely rodeo would be the choice.  Just look:  there are always two teams (in rodeo, it's cowboys and the animals), and statistics are kept on everything.  If a rodeo rider gets a certain bull, he can look up the critter's record just like a pro football player can scan his opponent.  Believe me, both sports are skill sports and both are really physical. 

  I've always been a western fan, but had never seen the "big show" until Mary Alice and I decided to take in Cheyenne during one of our trips west.  That was 2009..and we were hooked from the git-go.  

Flying Cowboy

  What's not to like?  For a photographer, it's non-stop action.  For the sports fan, both the cowboys and the animals are considered athletes.  Both are trained.  

  For spectacle, you kidding?  There are parades and clowns and colorful folks down in the arena and up in the stands.  Everybody's there to have fun.  Well, maybe the horses and bulls get a little ticked off, but they usually win.  The Cheyenne newspaper runs a daily box score over the nearly two week "Frontier Days" rodeo and it's usually something like Bulls, 19..Cowboys 10.

  There are a lot of big rodeos in the US..Houston and Denver come to mind..along with the season finals in Las Vegas, but for all around western fun, Cheyenne, "The Daddy of 'em All," is my favorite. For two weeks in July,  it's the place to be.  Parades in the morning, rodeo in the afternoon, music in the evening and   

Apple of his eye.
  It's great for families.  Folks dress up and go to town for rodeo.  And they follow the sport from place to place.  Individual riders become stars on the circuit and have their fans. So do the animals.  Not living in the region, we always tried to get to Cheyenne during the last couple of days before the finals..that way, we got to see the best of the best and enjoy the growing excitement.  

  And there's the shopping to do.  Any big rodeo has a festival area where you can get a new big hat, a belt buckle, boots or a saddle..and it's the real thing.  The locals buy it, why not try it?

  You can even get some free advice  (right).  Good advice, too.

  "Rodeoing" got started 'way back.  Cowboys would entertain each other by showing off their horse skills.  People gathered around the corral to watch and pretty soon somebody decided to put on a show.  I have no idea who first decided to ride a bull--it was probably on a dare.  For me, the bull is going way too far.  But, as a photographer with a camera that can shoot fast action..well, it's hard to beat.   Take a look:

  That's a thousand-plus pounds of bull..airborne.   The rider has lost his seat and is headed for the dirt.  The guys on the side are the clowns who'll distract Sir Bull when he comes down so he doesn't stomp the cowboy he just threw off. 


   This one has a different idea.  He just sits down..

..and the rider slides off.  Easier'n buckin'.  

 That one happened at the Tucson rodeo, which is usually held in February or March.  The weather's not so hot that time of year in Tucson.

This was also at Tucson.  Look at the rider's face.  Think it's easy?

The Winnah!!


  If you're a people watcher, rodeo's great..but don't forget to watch the horses and bulls, too.  You will get the sense that they know exactly what's going on and are actually competing.  I have seen horses take a victory lap with what looked like grins on their faces.  I have seen bulls refuse to leave the arena, having just finished their daily trick.  Horses who compete in the barrel runs are really trying to get just as close to the barrel in the turn as they possibly can--the footwork is wonderful.  Young bulls that run in roping contests know how to dodge or simply refuse to go down.  

  Funny thing: they don't feed the broncs and bulls until they've done their bit. When they finish up, they usually dash for the chute that takes them back to the pen.  If they misbehave, they're given "time out" without dinner for awhile.  Sometimes, the bulls are put in with horses.  It's insulting and they sulk.  These animals are raised for rodeo.  They're usually treated very well.  They're valuable.


   Oh..and rodeo riders start young.  There's usually a bit of "Mutton Busting" before the big show starts; little kids will ride a sheep.  Sheep are fast and hard to hold onto.

The bigger kids get sumpin' heftier.  Ride 'em Cabboy!


  If you're looking for some fun and you've never seen one, try a rodeo.  Bet you'll be hooked.  

Just don't forget your camera.