This one hurt to re-read after certain events a few weeks ago. You're missing part of the story so I'll quick fill you in. I'm in Wyoming. I'm in a band. We're broke. And Chance is happier than I think I ever saw him, ever. I'll never forget the childlike enthusiasm he had while watching the bull riding that day. It was infectious... Miss you buddy.
Progress north is still... well... progressing. Sometimes in leaps and bounds but often in jerks and stops. Interstate twenty-five has had a wide open right lane to cruise Kelly down for the majority of the trip. One can only hope for the same passage during the return to Texas. Ah, Texas. For those that are from there know the feeling. Those who have visited usually think they get it but they don't. And from what I am encountering on this trip, people who have never been either hate the thought of it or wear outlandish shit like giant cowboy hats and bright flag colors for some reason. Wait. People from Texas do that too. Nevermind. Anyways, Texans have always had this mindset of being our own country. A land locked island in a sea of bullshit. WE have the best footballers. WE have the most guns. WE created the "cowboy" etc. etc. While the second part is definitely true, a step outside of the hallowed borders will allow a shocking truth that these other people really don't care what we think. I am not exactly the most worldly man, but I appreciate calling bullshit on some one. I have stood corrected many times and will hopefully stand again with a drawn brow many more times.
As a West Texan raised near the New Mexico border just west of Hereford, I was exposed early and often to the rodeo. I have never partook in anything other than shoot-doggin' a lamb or a goat (look that up city slickers) but know the routine and atmosphere well. Always the one to cool down or warm up the horses that my older brother competed on may have left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I don't like bitch work. Of course I could have easily picked up the trade and got in the show myself but for some reason I just didn't. Could have been the nasty divorce my parents went thru when I was seven, or the absence of any real direction at an early age. Or more likely it was my indifference. Properly "stickin it on" the roping dummy three out of ten times is just enough for me to say I know I could do it if I really wanted to. But I digress, this isn't about me. Just setting the scene.
Cheyenne, Wyoming. Home to the most famous rodeo in North America. Or so that's what I've been told. Being at big time rodeo events is much like a wrestling match/monster truck rally/rock concert all rolled into one. High octane events such as bull riding and steer roping are enough entertainment to warrant the price of admission alone. But it doesn't stop there. Concerts by everyone under the sun, cold beer usually Coors Light for some reason, girls dressed up to the nines and kids. Yes, kids. I said it. The pure joy on kids faces at these things as they watch their dads or brothers battle horned, frothy beasts is something to look forward too. I remember when I was in awe. I also remember when I stopped caring.
Tonight, I care again. With three of my best buds I get to go to the Frontier Days rodeo. Pulling into town and seeing the arena packed gave me chills! The smell of dirt. Corn dog stands. Cow shit. (yeah, I know. I've got a weird sense of nostalgia) And the sound of hooves beating the earth into submission is something I've longed for with-out even knowing it. It has it's own language, the rodeo. The barrier, header and heeler, saddle horns, piggin' strings. The words "yonder" and "ma'am" and phrases like "shake my hand or I'm gonna kick yer ass feller" all make up a special vernacular that excites as much as it does annoy.
I've only been to a handful of out-of-state roping or rodeos, that I can remember. And I know that this part of the country ie: Montana and Wyoming. Are home to what we now consider the modern day cowboy. I'm excited to see how the spectacle measures up to our Texas-sized traditions. By the feel of it, it's going to be awesome. I may do a second part of this story tomorrow or when ever the muse calls me to rise from whatever shitty motel bed I'm laying on and write. Or I may not.
It's been a few days, maybe closer to a few weeks, since the Cheyenne rodeo. Probably would have done more justice to recount the event say the day after or something like that. But if I remember correctly, a pretty intense few rounds of Uno took place that night. I'm convinced Mike Reeh is cheating. We went on to Laramie the next day. A much nicer town in general. Much quieter. Not as many diesel trucks and dumbass kids around! Which pretty much sums up the outside the arena experience of the rodeo. A medium sized county fair and carnival populated mainly by local town folk and families. Not my slice of Americana. But! With water bottles full of vodka tucked into each of our boots we were determined to make the best of it. Tickets to the "Daddy of Them All" were priced accordingly. Somewhere around forty dollars apiece... Luckily I had my ear to the ground just long enough to catch the sounds of young adults wanting to scalp their tickets for more beer money. Score. Two tickets for twenty-five bucks! We bit the bullet and bought the other two.
Finding our seats was a breeze. We just walked up to where there was no one around and sat where ever we wanted to.
The scene was different than any rodeo I'd ever been to. It was the first round of the Bull Riding Championship. Arena was closed down to about less than a quarter of it's full potential. PA system was at FULL blast. My ears are still ringing. And Tuff was there. Tuff Hedeman introduced the young riders and said the blessings. I was in awe and I'm rarely star struck. A name from the past and a face that has always been associated with one of the Baldwin brothers. It was him. Gruff. Glowing. Commanding. He worked the ropes and chutes just like everyone else. That was the coolest part. The "Pride of the Navajo Nation" won the first go and eventually the round that night. I don't remember his name.. Shoulda done this the night after!
So after the big show.. We went to get a closer look at the action. Very light security so we just kept walking and made it look like we were gonna help out. And we would have if someone would have asked. But we just wanted to feel the dirt! And we did. Chance got in one of the chute gates. We stood approximately where Lane got bucked. It was a chilly night. I should have taken my jacket but the vodka kept me warm.
That's about all there was to it. Would have been nice to go all week long with back stage passes to curb some of the price. But... the show must go on. Onto Laramie, Wy where I met an up and coming country singer out of the blue. To Torrington, where near disaster did strike. Up to The Devils Tower. Where my story got weird. I'll eloborate later!