Things Don’t End Well When a City Girl Goes to the Rodeo

Waiting for the rodeo to start at Ft. Worth’s Cowtown Coliseum, I had all sorts of romantic musings. I watched the young contestants in their teens and twenties pace before the competition, participant numbers blowing on their backs, Skoal tobacco rings in their pockets, spurs clicking on the cement–almost like tap shoes. They all had big belt buckles, and even if a shirt was worn untucked, it was darn well tucked at the buckle. I wondered if white and black hats still indicated good guys and bad guys like they did in the movies; and I was desperately curious to know if there’s a message sent based on the kind of hat you wear.

These lovely thoughts quickly ended once the violence, err, rodeo started. I found the experience so distasteful that you’re stuck with blurry pictures–I’m not spending time looking for good ones. If I didn’t like it, why am I writing about it, and why did I stay? Because it was an EXPERIENCE.

Bull Riding

The bull weighs one ton; the rider max 160 pounds. The goal: ride the bull for eight seconds. Why only eight? Because longer than that and the adrenaline would be too much for the animal. Well, at least they have some concern. What makes the bull buck? They tie a strap around its flanks in two places and it wants those things off–to be indelicate, it’s like having your panties up your bum AND your stockings are twisted.

Straps around the bull at the rodeo

The straps are tightened just after the rider sits down and right before the gate is opened

bucking bulls a the rodeo

Bucking bulls

Three clowns, one straw man, and one cowboy distract and control the bull

The bulls used for the rodeo are two and three years old; by age five they’re done with this nonsense and are more interested in cows.

If, after my delightful description, you want to see it in action–and it is something, I’ll admit, watch a video that I took. 


Who can do this the fastest? Lasso a running calf (who’s been prodded out of the gate) around the neck, tie three hooves together, and done. It’s rendered utterly helpless and hopeless. I asked a rancher in the audience if it hurts the calf to be roped around the neck like that. He looked at me like I asked when the aliens inserted the probe.

This comes from legit work, as do many rodeo events: there are times when a cowboy needs to catch a calf for branding or medical treatment. The rodeo makes everything faster–and heartless.

One rope loop is for the neck; the one in the rider’s mouth is for the feet

Pick up the calf and drop it on the ground, bind it’s feet, and done.

The ONLY Thing I Liked at the Rodeo

bathroom at the rodeo

A fun bathroom sign!

So, no. I didn’t like the rodeo. I may be able to dispose of my own refuse at the campground, but I’m not tough enough to handle anything remotely near animal cruelty. And yet I’m not a vegetarian. What can I say, I’m a complex woman.


Cowboys are considered such a romantic figure, yet their work can be considered brutal. How do you think they became so enchanting? Yup, it’s a tough one this time.

Disclosure: Thank you to the Ft Worth Tourism Bureau for complimentary passes to the rodeo.

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