Rodeo season is winding down in Houston. A friend shared pictures of her girls having the times of their lives. For the older daughter, the highlight was the concert, a performance by her idol, the current teen heartthrob. It was the first rodeo for the younger daughter, and I’m sure she will remember every moment, from carnival rides to animal smells, from chuck wagon races to Daddy carrying her to the car at the end of it all. At least that’s how I remember the rodeos of my childhood.
My Uncle Slim bought me a pair of suede cowboy boots for my first rodeo, and though I was only about 4 or 5, I felt pretty big getting to go out with the adults in my new boots. We cheered for cowboys performing amazing feats from roping and wrestling to riding bucking beasts for an eight second count. We laughed at clowns who could disappear instantly into barrels to escape angry bulls but would risk life and limb to save a cowboy if the need arose. We shared popcorn and peanuts. The musical entertainment was Jimmy Dean, famous for singing “Big Bad John” long before becoming the face of breakfast sausage. He rode out, in the spotlight of the darkened arena, on the most magnificent white horse I had ever seen.
The rodeo has evolved over time, as most things do. Events have been added: chuck wagon races, mutton bustin’, sharp shooters on horseback. The musical entertainment is no longer limited to country and western singers. On any given night you may hear pop, rap, R&B, Tejano, or rock and roll emanating from the revolving stage. You can still get popcorn and peanuts, of course, but you can also find gourmet burgers, smoothies, and craft beers. If you don’t have the best seats in the house, you can watch all the action on the jumbotron, and if you want to meet real cowboys, up close and personal, you can visit the Fan Zone for autographs. It’s all for the best, I suppose. It certainly gives the rodeo wider appeal.
Luckily, though, some things never change. The cowboys, not rock stars, are still my heroes. It still gives me chills to watch the American and Texan flags leading the Grand Entry and to see the crowd stand as they approach. And I still feel pretty big when I put on my boots and go out to the rodeo.
If you have rodeo memories, Houston or otherwise, please share them in the comments. I’d love to hear about your favorite events and performers!