April in Glenwood: Not my first rodeo
The Carbondale rodeo on a Thursday night can teach life lessons. I’ve learned a few myself.
Just by sitting in the crowd.
Spending a fun evening watching the brave endeavors of national rodeo circuit athletes while the sun sets into the mountains has always been a favorite summer event of mine.
I still can hear the pound of the horse shoes hitting the dirt as they race around the barrels. I see the sea of felt cowboy hats moving around the arena in energetic waves. I see a strong work ethic that characterizes a ranching culture dedicated to showing respect, especially to elders.
I remember my first rodeo — even think I know the date, somewhere around July 3, 2003. It was part of my slow introduction to mountain life after moving to Colorado from Indiana. I’m sure I said silly quips like, “I guess I can start saying ‘This isn’t my first rodeo’ now.”
Which really wasn’t that funny.
I remember thinking the bull-riding competition was nothing like watching the tipsy people on mechanical bulls at country bars in Indiana. I also realized I had never seen a true cowboy in the flesh — just on ESPN. And that the Colorado sunset is amazing, as seen from the bed of a pick-up truck facing the Gus Darien Arena.
The deep blue in the night sky really seems to pop at the arena, too.
From those Thursday nights kicking up dust, I’ve learned culture matters. Meaning culture of all types. Rodeo folks, whether watching or riding, are dedicated to passing down the traditions of the old west. They work to continue the history of rugged ranching families who helped build the foundations of the Roaring Fork Valley.
I like to imagine I’m a morning person and can accomplish what they do by 7 a.m.
At my last rodeo I attended when back visiting Carbondale, I discovered fear is all relative. And that I have a lot of it. Staying atop a bull for eight seconds without toppling off is on my top 10 list of terrifying things I could do in life. Leave it a mountain girl to take that fear and laugh in its ugly face. During the bull-riding event a 13-year-old girl competed, and though I’m not sure how she placed overall or if she was close to placing first, she deserves the best rodeo belt buckle ever created. Actually she should also have all the opportunities her male counterparts are offered in the sport, a ticker tape parade, and a riding arena named for her.
Just for starters.
Whenever I attend a rodeo, it’s always been with a group of friends.
Like any spectator sport, there’s a bond that forms between the fans. Finding the perfect viewing spot from a truck bed, parking early on the day of the rodeo, and meeting up with camp chairs and coolers are all part of the Thursday fun.
One of the aspects of living in Colorado I always enjoyed was making friends with people from all over the U.S. At the rodeo, an Indiana girl can hang with a guy from Boston and his girlfriend from Florida and the geographical distances seem to grow closer the more they sit and enjoy the competition and the sunsets. If I can teach my children anything about life, it will be to treasure their friendships.
Friendship and rodeo go together like beers and boot-cut jeans.
From unbreakable bonds to a no-fear approach to bulls, the life lessons learned at the rodeo should resonate with everyone navigating mountain life. There’s that whole “you win some, you lose some” life approach that makes all those roller coaster moments a little less frightening.
And the mantra “practice makes perfect” that I take away from watching the rodeo up close for more than a decade while living in Colorado. Plus I can always say, “This is not my first rodeo” to show I know what I’m doing in life.
April E. Clark once went horseback riding in Colorado at Bair Ranch. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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