As soon as I got out of the car at the Resistol Arena in Mesquite (Texas), I was assaulted by the pungent smell of horse urine stewing in the heat. For some reason I thought that was an indication of good things to come.
We bought our tickets and walked around the arena to kill time until the start of the rodeo. There was a merry-go-round with real ponies, a couple of food stands, and a stand where you could have your fingerprints taken (never figured out what for), a cowboy boot and hat stand and a barbeque restaurant. At one end there was a pen holding a few bored steers.
Almost everyone was wearing cowboy boots or hats or both. I tried to blend in and put on my beloved boots. I hope I succeeded.
The announcer asks everyone to stand up and bow their heads. I expected to hear the Star Spangled Banner but he started praying. For the members of the military fighting for their country, for those back at home and for the cowboys who were going to compete later. “Ave, Caesar, morituri te salutant“1. After the prayer the lights went out and a singer finally sang the national anthem. An amazon trotted into the arena bearing the flag. All very dramatic and patriotic.
By then I was ready for some action and I wasn’t disappointed. The first event was the bareback riding, in which, according to my program, “the cowboy attempts to stay aboard a high jumping horse for an eight second ride with only a leather circingle (surcingle?) around the horse with a built in handhold.” It was mesmerizing to watch.
The bareback riding was followed by the steer wrestling. Those bored steers were roused from their stupor into the arena, where a highly skilled cowboy riding alongside him dismounts and flips the steer as quickly as possible. This reminded me of a scene from an old film in which a gladiator breaks the neck of a bull.
Two more events involved bovines and ropes, the tie down roping (“allows the calf a head start as the cowboy follows closely and tries to rope and tie the calves three legs in the fastest time possible”, quoted from my program too) and the team roping. Every cowboy showed remarkable skill and great instinctive communication with his horse. Man and beast joined in an act of communion.
The saddle bronc riding was the second most exciting event of the night. Each cowboy tried to ride a bucking horse for eight seconds and in order to get the most points he had to do it while keeping his toes turned outward. It must have seemed like eight hours, what with all those spins and jolts and bucking. No one got seriously hurt tonight and no one got trampled, although it looked like some cowboys are going to wake up to a bruised body and joint pain. The star of the night, the event I was looking forward to was the bull riding. I could feel the sheer, unbounded physical strength of those bulls. It was scary and thrilling.
1 Hail, Emperor (Caesar), those who are about to die salute you.Mesquite Arena 1818 Rodeo Dr., Mesquite, Texas Mesquite ProRodeo Series Every Friday & Saturday June 1 – August 25 at 7:30 pm