Cowboys and Indians

When I was a girl living in the suburbs of Chicago, a special outing meant a trip to the Art Institute, or a concert at Orchestra Hall or a exhausting but thrilling circuit through the Museum of Science and Industry or the Field Museum of Natural History. 

We never went to the rodeo.

Yesterday my DIL Jessie, my cowboy grandson Gavin and I donned we all
our denim apparel and went to the Pendleton Round Up.   It was my first
professional rodeo.  Jess was the perfect companion and patiently
explained the rules, strategies, penalties, and points of each event. 
Gavin held his cowboy hat up and said, “Yee-HAW!”

There must be a rule: men can wear only Wrangler jeans.  Honest!  There were no Levis, Lees, Tommy Hilfiger, or Faded Glories.  It was Wrangler to a man. 

Behind the stands was a unique campground.  There were 100-150 teepees set up, teepees of all sizes.  It truly is a cowboy and Indian event.  Tribes congregate in their traditional dress (sometimes a little too traditional for my eyes – some of the men had precious little covering their hineys).  [All photos are from]

This event is officially called Steer Wrestling, but Jess called it Bulldoggin’.  The cowboy goes full speed on his horse towards this steer, jumps off the horse onto the back of the steer, grabs it by the horns and wrestles it onto its back.

If you go here and look at the video box, Rodeo Up, on the left, eventually you will see footage of this.  It’s unbelievable.

I’d never seen Barrel Racing, the one event for women.  I’ve heard of it though, and always pictured horses jumping over barrels instead of running around them.

Bull Riding seems to the be sine qua non of rodeo.  It is a remarkable feat of strength and balance.  Our seats, a gift from a co-worker, were just a few rows above the spectators in the picture above.  In other words, excellent. We saw an 87 point ride, which will probably win that cowboy some money.  He sent his hat spinning in the air after his dismount, exhilirated by his success. 

I felt like a foreign exchange student, a stranger in a different culture getting my bearings.  It must be a neighborhood in Lake Wobegone, because all the men are strong.  One might question the sanity of a person who wants to risk his life for the privilege of staying on a bucking bull, but his courage is unquestionable. 


7 thoughts on “Cowboys and Indians

  1. I know a young man (look in the dictionary under “idiot” ) who recently went to a rodeo and decided to try bull riding. His mother took it easy on him, seeing as how the young lady he’s courting has “never been so mad” at him, and she figured that was probably enough wrath for one 19-year-old to endure!

  2. My county fair has some of these events and I really enjoy watching them. Since, growing up, my brother was always involved in FFA (Future Farmers of America), we watched rodeos a lot on TV. I just can’t imagine what it takes for a grown man to get on an animal that just might stomp him to death once he falls off it, though!!! Looks like you had a great time. I would’ve enjoyed just watching Gavin, I think 🙂

  3. Wahoo! Welcome to the club! (not like I am a voting member )
    Our first family “rodeo” event was when Brian (about ten) and Isaiah (about six) decided that they were cowboys and as such needed to ride our first two (recently made) steers (which we had named Beef and Jerky and bottle fed from infancy). They just hopped on and Wahoo!
    It was quite the sight. Since then the kids have been regularly involved in rodeos and cowboy parades. Good stuff. I have yet to go to a Pendleton Round-up and am looking forward to the opportunity. I wish you could have seen Shannon barrel ride at Rodeo Bible Camp this year. She’s good on her little Nez Perce-Arab filly.
    Blessings to you and yours. Please tell your brother I have been locked out of the church web site and unable to up-load sermons. Long story. Very very sorry. Archie.

  4. Our boys used to ride the pigs we kept tfor StockShow.
    I grew up going to rodeos…I though I was related to Roy Rogers because my dad roped calves every Tuesday night… I had all the cowgirl duds and rode on my dad’s lap in the Oregon Centennial parade in 1959, as well as a few others. When dad became ill with Alzheimer’s the horses went.
    This summer we went to Chief Joseph Days. The Thurs. night performance with the little kid events. We took Rachel and her dad and sister along. Rachel had been to the Stockshow in Union one summer and didn’t seem to be too interested in going, but they all had a once in a lifetime experience. We had great seats! Very near the shutes. We saw in better detail than I have ever seen, the men(and kids) come out on the bulls!
    Kent and I took a Japanese exchange student to Pendleton in 1977. She got quite a kick out of it. As did we.

  5. I never went to an art museum or to the symphony when I was growing up, but I *DID* get an annual ticket to the rodeo. I enjoyed the clowns most; and I think their barrel stunts were probably more dangerous than many of the other events. My little brother was a “cowboy” back then. He was never seen without cowboy boots and hat. It doesn’t seem many little boys aspire to that anymore. Gavin is exceptional!

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