Wednesday, May 04, 2005

And she's off! the rodeo, that is. Blog entries will be sporadic at best over the next few days since I'm taking some vacation and heading to the old home town. This weekend is Pioneer Days, the biggest town celebration in the Oklahoma Panhandle. It's bigger than Beaver, Oklahoma's cowchip throwing context or Liberal, Kansas' pancake flipping race. Nearby Hooker, doesn't have anything special, but I just thought a small number of you would appreciate knowing I grew up within an hour of Beaver and Hooker, Oklahoma. Every year, Hooker High School would go to Washington DC and students would take extra shirts and logo items. They were always in high demand in the big city.

The Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo is the largest small town rodeo on the country with nearly 900 cowboys competing in 7 posted events. (There are usually a group of kids who show up for Mutton Bustin' before the show -- this is where small kids, toddler-size, don helmets and grab on to a big handful of wooly sheep. If they stay on the sheep's back for long enough, they win a prize. It's pretty hysterical to watch.) Even without the sheep, the Guymon rodeo is known as the Saddle Bronc rodeo to win although there's nearly always good bull riding, too. As far as pro rodeo goes (it's on the PRCA circuit) it's the number 10 purse in the country.

Riding rodeo is a hard life taken up by lots of young men in the late teens and early 20s taking it up. Many of these kids will ride in prelim rounds (called "slack") at various ranch arenas around the area during the week. Others will ride in the evening performance on Friday night, then pack up, ride in another rodeo on Saturday, and come back for the finals (called the "short go") on Sunday. Given the number of points needed to compete in the national event and the number of times you're likely to win or even succeed on any start -- say stay on the bull or keep your horse from breaking the barrier in a speed event -- it becomes clear that these young men have to ride in up to 100 or more events a year. It's a tough life with money problems, fleabag motels and vet bills, but they love it.

Rodeo is big business. The bucking horses, bulls, steers and other cattle come from stock contractors. Plus there are professional announcers, rodeo clowns (one of whom is called a "barrel man" and specifically is out during the bull riding events) and all kinds of cowboys. Sponsors, vendors, vets, hands, and even the rodeo queens are all part of the package.

So, if anyone needs me, I'll be home for a long round of BBQs, picnics, wagon trains, horses, fireworks and the parade with family and a few old friends.


At Thu May 05, 10:28:00 PM, Blogger Erudite Redneck said...

Have fun! I'm jealous. I haven't been to a decent rodeo since I left Texas.


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