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Poplar Talks

That was my first rodeo

By ZOË HAGGARD - zhaggard@t-g.com
Posted 2/8/22

I’ve always been a western fan (like Cheyenne Bodie, Marshal Matt Dillon, The Virginian to name a few). But watching the black-and-white old Hollywood versions of handsome men on horses shooting revolvers is completely different than the live action of one’s first rodeo. 

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Poplar Talks

That was my first rodeo

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I’ve always been a western fan (like Cheyenne Bodie, Marshal Matt Dillon, The Virginian to name a few). But watching the black-and-white old Hollywood versions of handsome men on horses shooting revolvers is completely different than the live action of one’s first rodeo. 

 Sitting in the front row at the Calsonic Arena and watching the Lone Star Rodeo’s 32nd annual event this weekend, I was up-close and personal with the “good, the bad, and the ugly” sides of a rodeo.  

 Sitting up close you can hear the heavy breathing of a bucking bronco and feel the thunder of its weight hitting the arena floor. You can see the faces of cowboys turn bright red under the strain of holding on for just a few more seconds, the thick neck of a Braham bull bulging. And you can smell the pungent odor of every piece of livestock.... manure.  

 My first reaction—like many others—was why would anybody want to compete in this for fun?  

 But about 15 minutes later, you bet I was rooting for every competitor like I was the biggest PBR fan.  

 “Now how in the world could he not stay on for just two more seconds?” I’d say, with a cheeseburger in one hand and a Coke in the other.  

 Rodeos are fast paced. You barely have time to blink before the cowboy is bucked from a bull or horse. And in between the events you’ve got the clowns pulling stunts like Charlie Chaplin as they dodge two-ton horses running at full speed.  

 Before you know it, three hours have passed.  

 By far, my favorite rodeo event was the calf roping. When the calf is released from the pin, the cowboy must rope it, tie it to the saddle, jump down, pick up the calf (that weighs as much as full-grown man, mind you), throw it down on its side, then rope the front and back leg. The horse then backs up to straighten the rope and then comes forward slightly to slacken it.  

 If you’re good, all that happens in eight seconds or less. Talking with Lone Star Rodeo’s communication manger, Rachel Boyd—the granddaughter of Preston C. Fowlkes, Sr., who started Lone Star in 1949—she said it’s all in muscle memory. If you think about what you’re doing, it’s too late because it all happens that fast. You just react.  

 I also loved the cowgirls barrel racing. They maneuver those tight turns with as much grace as if they were riding bicycles around their neighborhood.  

 I’m just glad if I can maneuver my shopping cart around the isle at the grocery store. I can’t imagine trying to control a horse.  

 Most cowgirls did the barrel racing in 17 to 18 seconds. But the crowd probably cheered loudest when the six-year-old cowgirl riding on her miniature Shetland pony raced around the barrels. It took her over 30 seconds to complete the course, but it was one of the best (and cutest!) highlights of the show. “Ha-ha! Look at her go!” 

 You never know what’ll happen. And that’s part of the fun, especially since we all have short attention spans nowadays. 

 More than anything, the rodeo is a tradition that’s been passed down for decades. It represents a time when families pushed west across the American frontier to pursue a calling that required grit and skill. A time when men were men—and so were the women.  

So, I am very much looking forward to the 33rd annual Lone Star Rodeo event next year. At least I can say, truthfully, it won’t be my first rodeo.  

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