I would say this ain’t my first rodeo, but that would be a lie. Last week, I covered, and attended, my first rodeo. As someone who loves basketball and football, I wasn’t expecting much. I’ve ridden a horse one time. I’ve never tied a goat or wrestled a steer. I have watched people try to hang onto a horse as it’s trying to throw them off, but I could never watch for more than eight seconds.
So when the week-long National High School Finals Rodeo came to Gillette, Wyoming, I was expecting horses, denim and country music. I got all that, but there was a lot more.
There were over 1,600 competitors from all over the country: Colorado, Missouri, Ohio, Florida, Louisiana, Canada, Texas, Michigan, Australia, Washington, California, Hawaii, etc. And they brought their families and friends and stayed in RVs and trailers.
I got to walk through the campgrounds in 100 degree weather as the sun tanned my sunscreen-less arms. I talked with some of the temporary residents and had a good time, learning a lot about Canada in the process. I met some parents from Alberta who were soaking their feet in a pink kiddie pool. The conversation was hilarious and weird at the same time, and at times it took an R-rated turn, but it was great.
The high school rodeo crowd has some of the politest people I have ever met. All the competitors that I spoke to called me “Sir.” Everyone, from the kids to the parents to the babies in strollers were nice. The same goes for the volunteers. Smiles everywhere. I went to a college that had some pretty nice students, but compared to the rodeo people, Cedarville University looked like a state school. If I had a six-year-old daughter, I would feel comfortable with her walking through the campgrounds at night by herself. That’s how upstanding I found the rodeo people to be.
A lot of the kids I saw were very mature for their age. They may have been in high school, but they were a lot more mature than a lot of the “adults” that I’ve come across, especially the ones on social media who think it’s their civic duty to be idiots and deride anything and everyone with no regard for human life or dignity. I guess taking care of a horse makes a kid more responsible. It’s like having a dog, only horses take a lot more hard work, dedication, and they don’t collapse when you try to ride them. If I was rich and I had kids, I would get them horses, just so they could learn to be responsible human beings so that they don’t end up on reality TV.
Now, a lot of the competitors were driving around in golf carts. Some of the vehicles had six or seven kids on them, and a lot of them were going pretty fast. This didn’t sit well with some people, but I was fine with it, as long as they didn’t run me over. I’ve never driven a golf cart, but I imagine it’s just like driving a Ferrari, only cheaper, quieter, and without the nagging thought that you shouldn’t have spent $250,000 on a car that gets 10 miles a gallon and can hold two gallons of milk in the trunk. So I don’t blame the kids going crazy with the golf carts. If I were their age, I’d probably do the same thing.
I also got to walk through the trade show, which had over a hundred vendors selling Western things, like saddles and hats and roping dummies. I never knew how much a saddle cost until I looked at the price tag on one of them. Those things cost $3,000 on average! At least, the ones I saw. I think I saw one for as much as $6,000. I’m not judging or anything – if you want to spend that much on a saddle, go ahead. I’d prefer to use that money to pay off college loans or buy a used car.
I ended up buying nothing because everything was either too expensive (I saw a t-shirt selling for $130) or too foreign to me. If I bought a cowboy hat, I’d feel like a poser whenever I wore it. A fake cowboy wannabe. I’m more of a backwards fitted baseball cap kind of guy (but I’ll wear a snapback if my life depended on it).
I didn’t get to watch much of the actual rodeo because I was working all week on not watching the rodeo, but I got to watch a little bit on the last day. The most interesting event was goat-tying, which involves, you guessed it, tying a goat. The rider comes in on a horse and gets off while the horse is still moving, and there’s a goat waiting for them. The kid flips the goat over onto its back and ties its legs together. It’s harder than it sounds and looks.
If you’re one of those people who screams “THAT IS ANIML CRULTY! THOSE KIDS SHOULD BE PUNISHED FOR THEIR HORRIFFIC ACTS OF VIOLENCE TOWARDs ANIMALS!!!1!! #goatlivesmatter”, please go away. And go back to elementary school and learn basic grammar. And turn off your caps lock.
I’ll admit, when I first saw it, I was surprised, because it looked like it would have hurt the goat, but then I remembered that many of these kids spend a lot of their time taking care of animals. They probably love animals more than I love Napoleon Dynamite and apple fritters. They wouldn’t do something if they knew it would cause permanent damage to a creature. So don’t worry.
All in all, I had a great experience at my first rodeo. I was introduced to a lifestyle that I’d only heard about in passing. I met a bunch of nice people, all of whom were very different from me in terms of race, hobbies and other meaningless categorizations. Rodeo is an expensive sport, with the horses, traveling and stuff like that, but from what I saw, I think it’s worth it if it turns the children into responsible adults. You can’t put a price tag on maturity and good character, two things that seem to be missing from many people in my generation.
I couldn’t think of a good way to end this, so here’s a picture of a bright tennis ball.