That WAS My First Rodeo
Growing up I lived in the suburbs. We often visited my cousins on their farm "downstate". I remember those sweet days as a free-range kid - running through corn fields and playing in the barns. But riding my cousin's cranky old-nag, Judy was the joy I lived for.
Judy was an ornery old thing, but I was smitten; I wanted horse of my own more than anything. I would even have settled of a large pony. I just needed an equine to call my own.
I was about 10 years old when I began working out how I could get a horse. I read obsessively, learning everything I could about horses and horse care. I made a little allowance by doing some chores around the house. A dollar a week times 100 weeks, and I'd be set. (I had no idea how much a horse cost, but I made a rough estimate).
I drew diagrams and figured a way to convert our two-car family garage into a horse stable. I didn't need the whole thing, I reasoned. I would rope off part of it, put the horse on one side and there'd be a little room left where Dad could park the station wagon. I thought about it for weeks, and finally shared my idea with my mom.
I was devastated when she told me about something terrible: zoning laws. Those two words crushed my preadolescent dreams.
Suburban living in the Midwest didn't offer a lot of exposure to some of the things we take for granted in Southeastern Arizona. The first time I went to the Sonoita Rodeo was magical. I wasn't sure if I'd like it, but the smell of the dusty arena, the sound of the cowboys and cowgirls encouraging their horses and livestock, the humor of the announcers and their banter with the rodeo clowns - everything about a rodeo is exciting.
I had to learn a whole new language. Everything is timed. Roped. Respected. Safety of the riders and animals is always forefront in everyone's mind.
On the surface rodeo clowns seem like goofballs. Their jobs are serious, though, and keeping bull riders safe is their main priority. The Pick Up Men who distract animals and get them out of the arena are talented and efficient. Barrel Racers are lightning fast, but they know they're nothing without the love and respect of their horses.
All the skills used in a rodeo are used on a ranch - roping, riding, rounding up livestock. The men and women who participate make it look easy, but they're always practicing, always polishing. If you're a fan of the show Yellowstone, you've seen a preview of what a rodeo looks like and the practical use of rodeo skills.
There's nothing quite like Bull Riding, though. Always the thrilling main attraction, it's always the most intense and exciting part. If you've never seen a rodeo, be sure to add to take advantage of the opportunity. The Cochise College Rodeo usually takes place in March on Fort Huachuca and it's always a great show.
And by the way, 10-year-old me finally got to live her dream. I now have two horses, both just as irascible as Ole Judy was. And I love everything about them!