Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Herd Poisoning

On Saturday night Christy and I went to the Pioneer Days Rodeo which is held annually in St. Anthony, Idaho. The grandstands were packed, overflowing with cowmen and cowwomen a half-hour before it was scheduled to start. A light breeze carried the smell of maneur, horsehair, and hamburgers. Sitting in front of us was a scruffy man wearing a black T-shirt, the back of which held the image of a silicon enhanced blonde bombshell wearing nothing but a black bikini, a cowboyhat, and chaps. Yup. I was home.

This was Christy's first rodeo, and I was curious how she would react. She loves country music, but I couldn't be sure she would love an old-fashioned country pasttime. All questiones were answered the first moment the gate was realeased and a wild bucking bronco broke loose into the arena. All rows around us could hear her gleeful squeals. She discovered one of the highest forms of entertainment: Man vs. Beast. The evening was electric. She was entranced, eyes fixed on the competitors and the stock.

Christy had never seen any of the various categories play out: Saddle Bronc, Barrell Racing, Team Roping, Steer Wrestling. I did my best to explain my elementary understanding of how each one worked and is scored and judged.

When the Calf Roping portion arrived the first cowboy chased the calf down nearly in front of where we were seated. He lassoed the neck of the calf, whiplashing its body to a screeching halt. He then dismounted, the horse still on the run, grabbed the calf, lifted it off the ground, then slammed it back down on its side. He then snatched up three of the legs and quickly tied them together, leaving the stunned animal laying there with its hooves in the air. Christy exclaimed audibly "Oooh. That poor little calf! What are they doing to it?" I hurried and put my arm around her and tried to shush her inquiries for fear of being surrounded by a mob of hicks and hayseeds who would no doubt pull our pants down and brand our bottoms for even symathizing with a lowly calf. Christy made no efforts to speak softer, however, and vocalized again that she didn't understand the point.

Honestly, I couldn't either. In retrospect, I just didn't want to draw attention. Strangely, I found myself really wanting to blend in with these folks, with the guy beside me breathing expletives and telling jokes about Utah, and the guy in front of me with the naked cowgirl on his shirt. Luckily, I was saved by a spectator behind us who piped in and explained the history behind the event, and why it was performed the way it was. This seemed to resolve Christy's concerns, but for a moment there I was taken with a short case of herd poisoning.

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