With the Pretty Prairie rodeo just around the corner, I began to think about my first memories of going to a rodeo. My Dad loved the rodeo and when I was three he took me to my first one. We lived in Medicine Lodge and we went to the rodeo there.
The arena was about the same size as most arenas. Around the arena was a fence and then a 5 foot wide area, then another fence around that, both were 7 foot high and the wire was made in 6” squares. Some of the livestock for the events was run down this alley to the shoots.
Our seats that night were on the front row of the bleachers and right in the center of the arena. We had great seats to see the livestock coming out of the shoots.
The grand entrance was very exciting to me and I stood up on the bleachers and danced to the music, holding on to Dads shoulder. I loved all the colors the girls on the horses were wearing and the precision riding, waving at them when they came near the fence.
Next came the saddle bronc riding and I was very excited to see the cowboys stay on the horse and stood on the bleacher and applauded and waved at each rider as they ended their ride and tipped their hats to the crowd.
After the saddle bronc riding was the bareback riding. I didn’t know there was any difference in the two events; I was just excited to see the horses bucking and trying to unseat the cowboys. Then yelling and clapping at the end of each ride.
The barrel racing was up next and I remember the beautiful outfits the women wore that matched all the gear on the horses. The manes and tails of the horses blew in the wind as they sped around the barrels. The whole crowd would applauded when they made the ride clean or a loud groan of disappointment was heard when a barrel was knocked over.
The intermission was a big thrill because they had the Budweiser Clydesdales perform. They were the biggest things I had ever seen and I was in awe of them. I was hanging on the fence with my face plastered against it, with the square opening encircling my face. I must have looked like the prisoners you see in movies with their hands on the bars and their face stuck through the bars.
I remember the ground shuddering when they trotted by and I would reach through the fence trying to touch them, even though I knew I couldn’t reach across the alley between the two fences. Dad finally peeled me off the fence and put me on his shoulders so I could see and I bounced up and down as they performed in the arena.
The next event was the steer wrestling. This was something I wasn’t sure I liked. Everytime they twisted the steers neck and he was thrown to the ground, I asked my Dad if it hurt him. Dad tried to reassure me that they were okay and that they were big enough not to be hurt. But I wasn’t really sure and I didn’t like it.
But when the calf roping came along I could not be consoled. When the first little calf came bolting out of the shoot and ran down the arena, I watched as the cowboy circled the rope around his head and then threw it. When the rope landed around the neck of the little helpless calf and jerked him around to face the cowboy with a snap, I began to scream. “He is hurting him, he is hurting him!”
When the calf was allowed to get up, I subsided into choking sobs; still not sure he wasn’t hurt. Dad tried to calm me down but then the next calf was turned loose. Each calf that entered the arena made me scream and cry louder.
I could not be convinced that the calf was okay. Finally, Mom took me to the refreshment stand to get a snow cone. We did not return to the rodeo until the calf roping was over.
The last event was the bull riding and I loved to see the bulls chase the clowns. I was again standing on the bleachers, jumping up and down laughing and clapping with each ride.
The last bull was a huge Brahma that stood almost as tall as the fence. He ran around the arena scattering the clowns and tossing the barrel around like it weighed nothing even though there was a clown inside.
Then he decided to take a short cut back to the holding pen. He jumped the inside fence around the arena, almost in front of us, and began to run down the alley toward the holding pens. Then about 12 feet to our right he jumped over the outside fence, scattering spectators in all directions.
But this huge bull was not interested in anything but getting away from the crowd. He ran down the fence, ignoring everyone, on his way back to the pen they were held in. Once back at the holding pen he just stopped and waited outside the gate to be let in with the other bulls.
The first memories of the rodeo stayed with me and they could never convince me the little calf was not being hurt so Mom and I always left the bleachers just before the calf roping, but I loved the rest of the rodeo. To contact Sandy: [email protected]