A few weeks ago I wrote about how I grew up as a very risk-averse boy. Well, earlier this month I met my polar opposites in risk aversion – rodeo clowns.
My family and I went to a rodeo in the town of Dayton on Sept. 2. Dayton is a small town of about 800 and located 15 miles south of Fort Dodge, but on this day it was anything but small. The streets swelled with cars and horses as the attendance at the rodeo rose to 5,000.
We soon found out what all the fuss was about with the very first event, which was bucking broncos. As soon as the gate opened, the horse flew out of there like a bat out of you-know-where. I was certain the riders would suffer whiplash or some kind of head trauma the way their heads went up in the air and then came crashing down on the horse’s back only to bounce up again and repeat the process. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt by the broncos or by any other animal that night, as far as we in the audience could tell.
The craziest event that night featured teams of men who tried to saddle wild horses and ride them across a chalk line in the ring. It was a hoot. Some of the teams took ages to secure the saddle on their horse. Many men were dragged around the ring as they held on to the rope around the horse for dear life.
Our collective disbelief in the evening’s proceedings grew more intense when we observed a 16-year-old boy ride a bull without a helmet, the only junior bull rider to do so. My mom was especially aghast that a parent could let their child mount a bull with no protective headgear. My dad explained that some bullriders think helmets are dangerous because they add weight to the head which can lead to more serious neck injuries.
The adult bull riding was fun to watch but unfortunately very few of the riders could stay on their bulls for the required eight seconds necessary to score. We enjoyed the rodeo clowns who run around the ring, trying to distract the bulls once the rider falls off. I’d hate to make a living taunting a bull to chase me.
My dad was the instigator of the trip since he loves rodeos. He is the only one in the family to have grown up on a farm, and I think this has a lot to do with his love of ranching culture and rural life in general. When I walk in the living room and I see Professional Bull Riding (PBR) on television, I know who’s holding the remote.
The main event of the evening, and the one Dad had been building up prior to the rodeo, was an act put on by John Payne, a.k.a. “The one arm bandit.” Payne lost his right arm 40 years ago when he was electrocuted tearing down a house. Payne was determined to continuing riding horses. In fact, he bought a wild one to tame while he was still in the hospital, confident he could return to form.
Payne surprised the entire crowd when he rode a horse onto a trailer. The trailer held a platform about 10 feet in the air that was sloped at the hitch to allow a person to climb up. Payne not only got his horse to climb onto the platform but, once there, turned the horse in circles as the pickup truck drove the trailer around the ring. The event that took the cake was when they brought out two buffalos and Payne led them onto the trailer as well.
I’m trying to be more adventurous as I get older so I can experience more things and have more stories to tell, but I think I’ll leave the bull riding and the buffalo herding to the professionals.