Around the country, but mostly in small towns in the West, hundreds of professional rodeos were cancelled this summer. However, this week I got to spend some time in Eastern Oregon, watching slack and attending a benefit to encourage and support rodeo’s survival.
If you ask anyone involved in the rodeo world, “What is rodeo?” the first thing they will tell you is the origin of this event is the most unique in history. It is a sport founded on family, where good morals and manners are common, and a genuine camaraderie fills each rodeo arena.
The oldest sport on earth came to life from cattle ranching. While tending to the ranch, cowboys and cowgirls had to carry out daily chores in order for everything to run properly, including breaking wild horses to ride for ranch work and gathering cattle for doctoring, branding, and shipping. To settle arguments, neighboring ranches would get together and perform their cowboy tasks to see who was the top hand. Of course, this ultimately led to more friendly competitions, and over several decades, the sport of rodeo grew to hundreds of contestants competing for millions of dollars in arenas that hold thousands of people.
I met a lot of hard-working, dedicated people this week that are the backbone of any rodeo production. These people spend their time working behind the scenes, making sure the rodeo is a success. There are stock contractors who provide the bucking animals, the Board or rodeo company who plan and provide the volunteers, the clown who generates the laughs between events, the bullfighters who rescue fallen bull riders, the administrative team who keep track of the money and put out a variety of fires, and many others. I loved being behind the scenes and talking to the people who rodeo for a living, and those who just love the sport.
I need to note that animal welfare organizations and rodeos do not see eye-to-eye. There is next to nothing upon which the two sides agree – except perhaps, they would both say they care for animals.
However, the horses there were some of the most beautiful animals I have ever seen. The horses were toned, not just tuned. They’re athletes, and are kept in excellent condition.
The one-time-only rodeo event didn’t happen without concerns. Some major adjustments were made to adhere to COVID-19 regulations and smoke from local wildfires blanketed the area.
Most of us are still figuring out how to live in this new world and it is completely understandable that many are tiring of restrictions due to Covid-19. However, this weekend there was a feeling of getting back to a degree of normality, a time where we were prior to Covid.
One final thought and I quote “When I am at rodeo I find it difficult not to root for the animals.” – Demetri Martin