It’s Texas, it’s suppose to be 100 + degrees… right? Well, if that’s what brought me to Texas (which for the record it wasn’t) I would have been surprisingly wrong. One assumption I did make was that being in Texas, it’s basically the heartbeat of rodeo right? So that means rain, snow… the elements in general, should never be a factor in limiting my riding or rodeoing. And again, wrong.
In the past two weeks Texas has remarkably resembled Oklahoma in the fact that it could be 70 degrees one day and the next pouring rain or dropping snow by the buckets. Only to clear up and melt away the next day… followed again in the next few days with “winter-mix” as they call it down here, (freezing rain and sleet).
Needless to say, poor Pony has been standing in mud and muck for the past two weeks, my riding as been limited as my arena looks more like a lake than dirt and lets me honest, it’s never fun (or safe) to ride in six inches of mud and watery-slop. So, when my barrel-racing friend said to me “Hey, there’s a rodeo this weekend, books open Monday, you wanna go?” well, naturally I said ‘Heck yeah!’ and immediately thought ‘Ah man I hope Pony will be OK.’ Followed by: “I hope I’LL be OK.”
Now, you see where my concern was involved is the fact that in all honesty Pony probably wasn’t in as good shape as she should be, and although I’ve been trying to hit as many calf roping jackpots as possible, the last time I had the opportunity to rope a real-life practice calf… well that has easily been since before Thanksgiving! (I know! ‘Holy Smokes that’s a long time!’ is what you’re thinking, and believe me I was thinking the same thing.) But, when you have the chance to go rope some calves and try your hand at putting some money on the board for yourself, you go.
We both were entered for Thursday night performances, getting over my pre-entry anxiety I was starting to get stoked for a good ole rodeo perf. And then guess what happens. Wednesday night, the “winter-mix” rolls in. Rain, sleet, freezing temperatures, and I wake up to one inch of snow covering all that wonderful frozen slick precipitation. Oh, and to top it off I’m not sure what it is about living down here, but apparently there is no sand or salt to be found in Texas, because there was none laid down in advance or after for that matter. Road conditions were hazardous to say the least.
‘Perfect.’ I thought. ‘I’m going to be snowed in on rodeo day.’
Oh hey, remember me telling you Texas was acting more and more like Oklahoma the longer I’ve lived here. Well, about 2 o’clock the sun rises and all that pretty white wonderland slowly started to melt away. (Whoopaa!! Rodeo time in Texas!)
We left around 3 o’clock to give us plenty of time just in case the roads were difficult to travel and made it to the rodeo in plenty of time. Man, I can’t describe how good it felt to be at an actual rodeo. The Grand Entry (although Pony rarely gets taken through it), the prayer, the National Anthem, warming up in the backs of parking lots and in surrounding pastures, anywhere you can find a safe clearing to lope a few circles. Cracking open your rope can, breaking out the baby powder, watching your start, breaking it down to a science of figuring out the exact moment you should tell your horse to go, doing whatever your rodeo ritual is. Singing a song, praying, roping the dummy, stretching your barrel pony, putting on your “lucky” shirt (or any other symbolic accessory), blocking out the surrounding sounds, stretching, jumping three times on one foot… whatever it is that gets you ready, pumped, focused, in the mindset to go out there and give it your all. Man, that’s the best feeling in the world. I was warming Pony up out back, taking myself pretty seriously when all of a sudden I just had an overwhelming feeling of happiness and starting cheesing it from ear-to-ear. (Yep, I was that creeper girl riding around smiling for no apparent reason.) I was loping around a few rigs in the grass part of the parking lot after I had concluded it was the driest, safest looking spot in my opinion, and I just thought to myself, ‘Yep, this is rodeo. Warming up in un-ideal conditions, making it work, listening to the announcer and focusing on your game plan, and this is why I love the sport.’
Just that moment in itself would have made the night memorable for me, but obviously we’re there to do a job. If you aren’t planning on winning you shouldn’t even enter, right? So, when the breakaway started I headed up to the arena, I was the last girl out and stuck it on my calf in a 2.7. I was pretty stoked about the run. (And even though after all the runs were in the books and my 2.7 ended up one place out of the money, my experience at this rodeo made that fact a little easier to swallow.) Honestly what made the whole night even better for me was I felt welcomed and I was made to feel like they really wanted me to be there. I’ve been to a lot of rodeos, and I’ve seen good stock contractors and I’ve seen bad stock contractors. I’ve seen rodeos ran poorly and I’ve seen top-notch events. This rodeo was one of the best in my books, and for this reason alone.
As I was sitting behind the boxes waiting for the crew to run the breakaway calves in the chute, the stock contractor walked up to me and asks when I was out. I tell him and he says ‘Ok, well these are good calves. They’re old and have been roped a bunch, they’re real good, and the barrier is short. When you nod, go. And go out there and rope you one.’ Now, THAT folks, is what rodeo is all about!
I’m not from Texas and this is one of the very few rodeos in Texas I’ve been to. This kind of thing happened all the time in Oklahoma at the Loose Rowel open rodeos (they are some of the best people and best rodeo companies around by the way!) but to be down in an area where no one knew me from Adam. That shows the stock contractors and the rodeo association is in it for the love of the sport. They want everyone to be successful, they want it to be fun and they want people to get a fair shake and keep coming back to their rodeos. Believe me, I’ll be back. That simple little gesture filled me with confidence and probably contributed to my run. It’s the little things like that; small gestures and genuine honesty and kindness that make me love the sport of rodeo and love the people who are involved in the industry.
So, my hat’s off to the United Professional Rodeo Association for a great ran rodeo and to Champion Rodeo Company, Buffalo, Texas, for being fair people, giving everyone a fair shake and bringing some outstanding stock to the rodeo! You make our lives as contestants easier and more enjoyable! Thanks Y’all!