Well actually, it is. About a month ago, I saw an ad for a Professional Bull Riding event coming to the State Fairgrounds in Palmer, Alaska. I have always been interested in watching bull riding but I’ve never made it a priority. A self-description would likely be: A casual fan.
I didn’t act right away, but after a few days it was still in my head so I went and purchased a ticket. I have to say, the month-long wait has been tough and as the day approached, my inner excitement was barely contained.
Here in Alaska, summer is kind of an iffy business. I’m fond of telling folks we have two seasons – winter and the 4th of July. It would not be unusual to have temps in the high 50s and a notoriously brutal wind from the closest glacier for which Palmer is famous. I anxiously kept an eye on the 7 day “forecast” and it was showing clear skies and the highest temp so far this year for the day of the rodeo.
The rodeo was yesterday and damn if the weather Gods didn’t deliver. It was perfect. Absolutely gorgeous blue skies, 77 degrees and just enough of a breeze to make things bearable. Yeah, yeah, you folks in the tropics (Tropics = Lower 48) can laugh all ya want but 77 up here is indeed hot.
Since I’d never been to a rodeo before, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. I recognized the usual carnival attractions and the food vendors that are always at the Fairground events. What I didn’t expect was the wide variety of the people in attendance. There were certainly folks in all manner of western garb but the were a lot of backward ball cap types as well. For myself, a cowboy hat, boots, jeans and a white T shirt. Full disclosure: I am absolutely in the AHNC (All Hat, No Cattle) tribe, and do not pretend otherwise. However something happened several times that I did not expect. Gentlemen in cowboy garb – typically older guys – would catch my eye or he would catch mine and give just the slightest of nods. An acknowledgment perhaps that all cowboys – AHNC or not, share a certain kinship. I don’t mind saying it felt pretty damned good.
The rodeo was to be broadcast live on The Cowboy Channel and the announcer along with the handlers were true showmen. Highly entertaining and often hilarious. Also, there were times of being outright moving and serious. Being Memorial Day, the announcer gave a tribute and a prayer that had my eyes welled up (I’m not a particularly religious guy). The entire crowd stood, removed their hats and bowed their heads in silence. It was amazing. This is a good time to point out that there were families present. A LOT of families. Babies all over the place and many of the families were multi-generational.
As I said, it wasn’t all somber. As an example, the announcer had a bag of swag to give away. I thought. “Jeez, how is he gonna select the winner?” He asked 20 moms from the audience to come into the arena. Once there he had them each remove ONE shoe and toss them to him. The guy got walloped by about a half dozen or so boots, flip-flops, and sandals. Alaska women, I swear lol.
He put the shoes all in a pile and had the ladies form a line. They had to run to the closest fence, touch it then run to the pile, find and put on their show and then find the handler with the red shirt who was standing behind the line and high-five him. The thundering herd retrieved their shoes remarkably fast and when the first lady was almost at Mr. Red Shirt, he turned and ran. Then finally mobbed him and someone was declared the winner. I was laughing my ass off.
Oh, right. There was also bull riding. This was a professional event and decent money available including 20K in Bering Sea gold. That’s almost enough to fill both fuel tanks of a dually pickup.
The bulls were amazing. Feisty with attitude. The riders were everything you would expect: fearless, proud, professional. Some records were set and there was a scary time when a rider was thrown, the bull appeared to step on his head and he lay motionless from that moment forward. EMS of all sorts ran to his aid, and again the audience stood in complete silence as the announcer offered a heartfelt prayer. Ultimately, after about 15 minutes, he was able to stand and be helped from the arena.
The upshot here is that in these troubling times where our Country seems to have lost its way, get your self to a rodeo. And bring your family. Your spirits will be lifted and perhaps you will leave with the same impression I did: Perhaps there is hope for our nation after all.