Once again, the Custer County Fair comes rolling in, and with it the wild fun of a ranch rodeo and the adrenaline rush of bull riding. The phrase “nothin’ more fun on dirt” still stands true, of course. Clean, wild, country fun.
Ranch rodeos are practicality with a heavy dose of humor – You can’t go to an event with wild cow milking and steer trailering and range doctoring, and not expect a good amount of laughter. Because the cows don’t want to be milked, the steers don’t want to be trailered, and the animals don’t want to be doctored. The steers get into the game, giving the teams the runaround, racing like mad around the arena, nimbly dodging the ropes and the charging horses. Hats are flying, steers are hurtling themselves over 5-foot-tall fences, cowboys are wrestling with steers that somehow won’t go down, and really it is just plain fun.
Played out, though, are the real situations cowboys and ranchers face on a daily basis. Their stamina and strength are challenged, their precision and their patience are tested, and their hard-earned skills are on full display. Trailering a steer isn’t as easy as it might sound. Branding calves is a true team sport – in real life, as well as in the arena. Roping a steer while riding horseback full-tilt is an impressive precision skill. Sportsmanship is expected – from crowd and competitor alike. Nothin’ more fun on dirt.
And then there’s bull riding. A little less practical than a ranch rodeo. A little crazier. It’s an adrenaline rush. I sat myself down in the dirt right up by the fence – An excellent vantage point. If you’ve never seen bull riding, you’re missing out. I have a hard time understanding why people get worked up about baseball or football. But rodeo and bull riding? I get it. Mean bulls, bred to buck, with names like “Dreambreaker,” “Cigarettes and Alcohol,” and “Rattler.” Crazy cowboys, crazy enough to try to sit on a 2000 pound bull for eight seconds. Bullfighters, dipping and dodging and taunting the bull away from a bucked-off cowboy. Courage and crazy, guts and gumption, all in one. The cowboy gets himself situated in the bucking shoot, settling down on a bull that is already ready to buck but doesn’t have the room. Once the rider is ready, the gate is pulled open and those cowboys in the vicinity scatter, jumping up on the gates, getting out of the way as the bull explodes like hot shot from the bucking shoot. Whether the cowboy stays on for the full eight seconds or falls off in half a second, he is met with hoops and hollers from the crowd. He tried. That alone is crazy. One thing I particularly love about the sport of rodeo is that it starts in the right place – Love of country, love of fellow man, and (if the announcer is a Christian) unashamed love of Jesus, and a humbly eloquent cowboy prayer. That’s my kind of a sport.