This is a long story, so catch up with the first part of this story here.
So it turns out, the rodeo actually has a schedule that is followed very closely: Riding the bulls first, then a little tie-down roping, followed by some fun for the kids.
As we took our seats, there was a rodeo clown behind us – dressed in shredded overalls and face paint and a crazy hat – eating chicken fingers and hanging with his family before he had to run out and do his job. OF DISTRACTING VERY ANGRY BULLS with his body.
It’s worth noting: The cowboys riding the bulls are wearing lots of protective gear because, as the guy on the megaphone that makes announcements throughout the evening keeps reminding us, this is the “most dangerous sport on dirt.” Yet the rodeo clowns wear no protective gear that I can see. Maybe some knee pads, but that’s it.
I guess because they’re just running around near the angry bulls instead of getting bodily thrown off of them?
I dunno. I’d wear somethin’. Maybe I’m just not tough enought to be a cowboy.
So it turns out there’s actually tiers of bull riders – like heats in gymanstics and swimming, where the best ones are saved for last. So we sit through a lot of guys getting thrown off the bull like three seconds in, kinda figuring, oh, I guess this is just the way these things work.
I take a swig from my Coke and look around at all the groups of hoodie-wearing high schoolers sitting in groups, the handful of families hanging out, the mom holding a baby and handing a toddler some crayons, while they wait for big brother to ride a bull.
There’s a group of giggly girls all done up with big hair and beautiful cowboy boots taking pictures on their cell phones and waving to their bull-riding boyfriends as they wait at the gates.
And it hits me… This is a regular Saturday night for everyone here. The way that a swim meet or a gymnastics competition or anything else is for everyone else everywhere else in the country: This is the sport the kids do and the families come and suffer through an hour and a half of other people’s kids doing their thing so they can cheer for their kid to do his thing.
Except instead of perfomring a minute-long floor routine or swimming a 30-second race, they’re clinging to the back of a furious bull for 8 seconds.
Everything’s manlier in Texas, that’s for sure.
As more and more riders go, they get better and better, and it’s fun watching these guys actually hang onto the back of a bull. I feel like you get jaded – I certainly have – about how hard something like this is becase you see mechanical bulls in bars or on movies, and it’s always funny because the hot girl in the movies with barely there clothes on manages to stay on and everyone’s impressed.
Yeah, it’s not like that. There’s an actual giant animal beneath you that wants to kill you and is trying to kick you off it’s back so that you can leave it alone for once in it’s dang life.
After the bulls have been riden – Number 704 did a great job, thank you very much – it’s time for the second event of the night: Tie-down roping. I DO NOT like this part. Cowboys – and these guys are much older than the bull riders for some reason – ride horses out and chase down a calf that’s been released before them. They do a whole lasso thing, rope the calf, jump off their horse, and pick up the calf and slam it down on the ground on its back.
That’s the part I didn’t like.
They rope up the calf’s feet and step away and the rodeo clowns wait 3 or 4 seconds or something, to ensure the calf can’t get away – then they free the calf and move on to the next guy. The whole thing is timed.
I understand no one’s getting harmed with all this, and this is probably the most accurate thinkg I saw all night, in terms of what rodeo cowboys do versus what actual cowboys in the west did, but I still didn’t adore it.
Then it’s halftime! And they invite all the kids onto the field (is it a field if it’s all dirt and no grass?) All the kids run out and they let a calf loose in the arena with a pice of duct tape on its back and the kid that pulls it off first wins. I find wince for a solid five minutes because I cannot imagine how terrifying it must be to be that calf and see two dozen little kids running STRAIGHT AT YOU and cornering you so they can give you a quick wax job.
Then they do the same thing with younger kids and a sheep.
Then they call for volunteers – female volunteers, to be specific. Female volunteers specifically in the age range of “We came here to see the hot cowboys” variety.
So… My demographic, is what I’m saying. I don’t volunteer so much as my friend volunteers for me and shoves me into the ring. I, along with 9 other 20- to 30-somethings get lined up in the middle of the ring and blindfolded. I ask Mr. Rodeo Clown – much more handsome up close, by the way, when you can see beneath all that maekup – what’s going on.
He leans in and whispers in my ear, “We’re gonna let the bulls out and whichever girl stands her ground the longest wins, darlin,” he whispers. I shiver – because I’m a sucker for a good “darlin’.” But I know he’s joking.
I also, it is worth noting, plant my feet and cross my arms, completely, 100% intending to win, no matter what. I may break every bone in my body, but I’ll have a great story. Besides, there are two girls in front of me that face the chute and they looked like wimps, so they’ll run screaming and take the bull’s attention off me.
I’ve mentioned being competitive to the point of self-injury before, yes?
Anyway, when we’re all blindoflded up, the grand master of ceremonies dude announces that it’s a dance competition. “Okay, ladies, show us what you’ve got!”
I’d like the record to show that I am an experienced dancer with years of performance experience. But I doubt the crowd at the Coliseum would be interested in a classical ballet interpretation of SexyBack, so I’m like… Okay… I guess I’ll start doing a little, conservative booty shake. I feel like the natural inclination for Justin Timberalke music is just a lot of hip shaking, and throwing your arms around, so I do that.
I’m going for silly, but also kind of hoping this ends quickly. Because I know they put the blindfolds on us to trick us. It’s only a matter of time before they start thinning out the herd, so to speak, and leave one of us here, dancing alone.
Please don’t let it be me….
Fortunately, it’s not, as Rodeo Clown who “darlin'”ed me came and pulled me out, pulling off my blindfold and whispering I should be quiet. If he noticed that I had fully braced myself to take a hit from an angry bull after our last conversation, he’s polite enough not to mention it.
One by one, I see all of the girls pulled to the side, save for the one who was clearly drunk as a skunk when she got out there. Which of course makes sense, she’s gonna be the one who really goes for it, dancing-wise.
Dude with the megaphone announces that it’s down the three dancers, so dance hard! Girl rips off her jacket and waves it over her head. Down to just two! Girl gets on her knees, in the dirt and who-knows-what-else, and starts twerking.
They quickly announce her the winner of the dance off before it can go any further, and she rips off the bandana, completely astonished she was alone out there.
They usher us off the field and I take the opportunity to find the nearest restroom before the rodeo resumes. In my search, I accidentally open the door to the cowboy’s locker room not once, but twice.
I promise it was an accident the second time. But I understand why you wouldn’t believe me.
I get back to my seat and the rodeo continues. We eventually get to see cowgirls racing their horses. They fly – and I mean fly – out of the gate, loop around three obstacles and then FLYYYY back into the gate and they do it it all in like 10 seconds. It’s insane how fast these ladies are.
But no matter how fast they go, they never lose their hats. Also, their hair is all down and flying behind him like they’re freaking supermodels. It’s amazing. Some of the cowboys hang out on the sidelines and cheer them on, which I find adorably supportive.
Then wer’e back to the final round of bull riding ,which seems to be the worst cowboys, but they’re being mentored by the guys we saw ride in round one. Including #704. Heeeeey, 704.
The rodeo ends and the lights come on and we all slowly file out onto the streets of the Stockyards, acting like groupies for every cowboy we see for the rest of the night.