Wednesday, July 22, 2009


One of the drawbacks of living in the best city in the nation (no, I'm not biased) is that the entire country comes to your doorstep to vacation. This spring, as I walked home from the store, a tour bus shaped like a boat drove down our street honking duck callers, as the numbed tourists stared at me like I was in a fish bowl.

As hard as it can be to watch people turn their brains off and go into vacation mode (especially
when they're driving in the bike lane), I admit that it is entertaining to play "Guess the Home-State". Occasionally, Chris & I enjoy going to a tourist trap like Fisherman's Warf and people watch, imagining where each family has come from. The tourists stand out like soar thumbs.

Lest I sound judgment
al, I'll humble myself to share that I had the privilege of being on the flip side of that experience when a group of Californians left our conference for the day, and took a quick day trip up to Wyoming to attend the Cheyenne Rodeo.

Now, to my recollection, I had never been to a rodeo before (although my mom claims she took me as a kid), and I really wasn't sure of what to expect.

As about 20 of us filed up the bleacher seats, we were met with strange stares, and a stage whisper of "They ain't fru-um Wyoming" (yes, "From" was two syllables ). Most of the girls in our group were wearing sun dresses & flip-flops (although one wisely paired her cowgirl boots with her dress), and the guys wore surf T-shirts and baggy shorts. The rest of the entire audience had on tight jeans, long sleeved work shirts, cowboy hats and boots. We looked absolutely ridiculous.

Every time someone from our group got up, it seemed like the attention went from the rodeo to "the city folk". We passed messages back and forth, sounding absurd to the locals: "Okay, so I heard they're supposed to stay on the bull for 8 seconds", "Apparently, they tie a
rope around the horse's privates to make him buck", "Does anyone know the point of this event?", and so on.

At one point in the rodeo, a horse went completely insane, diving
over the stage with the announcer, landing (with rider in-tow) on it's head. Then, it got up and charged full speed into the rail, ramming it with it's head before passing out. Another horse sprang out of the gates, landed stiff as a board, then teetered over onto its rider like a tree, never moving again (it was hauled off in a horse ambulance, which we joked was sponsored by Purina). The spectacular finale was a rider that was pitched off his horse, but whose arm got stuck on the harness. He flailed around for an eternity, and literally had his chaps and jacket stripped off of him as he was tossed like a rag doll. I have never seen anything like it.

The rodeo reminded me of stories of the Coliseum under Caesar, and part of me expected lions and gladiators to come out after the bull riders. It felt a little morbid and wrong, watching people & animals get hurt like that... and yet it was thoroughly entertaining-- one of the best days I've had in a long time.

And I have to say, it was awesome being a tourist-- a completely ridiculous outsider who didn't get it and never would. Some of the highlights we heard at the rodeo:

(insert thick accent here)
  • "That horse was chargin' like my wife at WalMart"
  • "He was hotter than a two dollar gun"
  • "He fell apart like a $19 suit"
  • (my personal favorite) Tom Morrow... the name of one of the rodeo contestants (for real).
Whether it's Africa, London, Tijuana or Wyoming, it is such a wonderful experience to be immersed in (and stand out in) another culture. It was the best $9 I've spent in a long time (plus the $7 lemonade I bought in a commemorative Cheyenne Rodeo cup).


Anonymous said...

Your brother just got back from the OC Fair where he watched a demolition derby of motor homes. And you thought they were rednecks.

Anonymous said...

Next stop.....ultimate cage fighting! YAHAAA.
By the way, what's wrong with motor home demo derby????? Don't knock it until you tried it!(it's a real art form)

hanagrace said...