I have read almost every novel by Louis L’ Amour, the prolific western novelist. His stories are a great escape for me into a world of the rough and tumble old west. The easy to read books are predictable with always a ‘tougher than the other guy’ main character and I always appreciated his treatment of women in his stories which was respectful and dignified.
That being said – I have never had a desire for the western lifestyle. I love horses – but really am uncomfortable riding them. Once at Disney World we did a trail ride on probably the most docile horses on the planet and I was scared to death. Furthermore – I have never really looked good in Wrangler jeans and those giant belt buckles just seem awkward.
So going to the “Andy Devine Days Rodeo” here in Kingman over the past two days was an experience I was really looking forward to. People here are a mix of cowboy, heavy metal rocker, and sixties throw-backs. Walk into any restaurant and you would be unsure if you were in the wild west or a ‘Metallica’ concert. But upon arriving at the rodeo – Lisa and I knew we were really ‘out west’. A co-worker of Lisa’s invited her to go and support her daughter who was in the ‘Barrel Race’ competition. Always looking for that unique experience in our travels – not going to a rodeo while in Arizona seemed practically sinful.
We took our seats on Saturday about the same time everyone else was standing up for the opening, patriotic ceremonies that included a girl in a sparkling red, white and blue outfit riding around the dirt arena carrying an American flag. She was followed by a parade of all the rodeo participants including one handicapped person riding his horse proudly on a special made saddle. There was a recognition of a local soldier and then a stirring rendition of the national anthem by a local girl who works at the “Boot Barn”. It is hard not to be impressed with the love of country and western culture here in this little town of Arizona that we have called home since June. These are hard-working blue-collar folks who should be admired for their love of a way of life quite foreign to Lisa and I. Making jokes about my observations of life across the US is never intended to disparage a community. We love these people. This is the essence of small town ‘Americana’ – western style.
The rodeo clown was introduced to the crowd and began telling jokes between the different events. Rodeos have a lot of set up delays between events and it was apparent early on that the clown would be busy most of the day trying to keep everyone engaged. His best joke of the day was about shopping with his wife who told him he could not buy the ten-dollar case of beer but insisted on her own purchase of some beauty cream for twenty. When the husband complained about her purchase she argued that with the twenty-dollar cream she could make herself beautiful for him. He countered that the ten-dollar case of beer could do the same thing. (Ba-boom!)
The first event was the bronco riding and most of the riders were thrown off practically before they got out of their “shoot”. We hardly got to see any action until one rider managed to stay on for about five seconds and win. I did notice that every rider limped after each attempt. Thank goodness they had two ambulances waiting in the wings and the EMTs stayed busy all afternoon.
One of our favorite events was the “Mutton Buster” races where little kids were invited to try to ride sheep. The kids were fitted with protective vests and helmets. One of the riders was three years old (that’s right – three years old). Most of the kids flew off in just a couple of seconds but one managed to cling to the sheep wool with all his little might – eventually sliding toward the side of the animal and hanging there for several seconds as the sheep scurried across the arena to the cheers of the excited crowd. I admit that I do not understand animal husbandry – but they had a stubborn ram on a rope in the center of the arena during this event – I suppose to entice the sheep out of their pen. When the event was over – Lisa and I laughed out loud at their attempt to drag the thing away. It looked liked the ram had no front legs since they were tucked underneath him as they dragged it across the dirt. Again, the crowd went wild.
One thing we have learned about Kingman is that beer is available everywhere except maybe the Baptist church (and I am not sure they don’t serve brew during their pot-lucks or communion). The rodeo was no exception. This is beer guzzling country if ever there was one. People were up and down buying brews throughout the two and half hour event and by the second hour I noticed more ‘hoopin and hollerin’ than before.
The barrel races were enjoyable to watch as the girl riders were impressive in their ability to maneuver their horses around the three barrels and then sprint to the finish. I am always impressed with people who can ride horses – since it is so traumatic for me. And these cow-girls could really ride.
During the second hour – we were entertained by a one-armed cowboy herding a couple of enormous bison onto the top of a tractor-trailer that had been moved into the arena. (I had to go back and re-read that sentence – yes that is what he did). I was just glad PETA wasn’t anywhere near this place – they would be going nuts. Of course, out here a person can buy a gun without any waiting period or background check – so I doubt PETA wants anything to do with these folks in Kingman. I am quite certain everybody here is packing – all the time.
Calf roping was another big hit with the crowd and impressive rope work and physical strength is required for this event. Unfortunately, one participant did a great job of roping the calf but could never manage to lift him off the ground and tie up his legs. He strained and strained to lift the beast but never succeeded before the thirty-second horn sounded. I have to say that maybe the most entertaining moment of the day was when one of the calves broke free and refused to go into the holding area. After about fifteen minutes and about ten cowboys – he was finally dragged away. The crowd cheered when they finally shut the gate!
The final event of day was the bull riding and I have to say that was something to see. Every rider got thrown and trampled by these 2,000 pound animals and every rider was limping or holding something that hurt after each attempt. They finally moved the ambulance to the rear of the bull riding area – just to save time. I am fairly certain one of the riders either dislocated his hip or broke his pelvis – but he was able to wave to the crowd as he dragged his leg behind him on his way to the ambulance.
The event ended with one final parade of horses and riders to the cheers of the slightly tipsy crowd and we made our way home.
Mark rodeo of our list of things to see before we die. We can’t wait to see what happens on day two.
Ride ’em Cowboy!