I have a confession to make. When I was younger I was mad at my parents for being city folk. All throughout my childhood I was plagued with the feeling that I was a country girl being forced to live an urban life. In particular, the cowgirl in me desperately wanted a horse. But but since we lived in town, there was no place to keep one.
As a result, I grew up rather jealous of my friends who lived in the country. I thought they were living my dream, with horses to ride and barns to play in. Yet, I soon found out that I was living theirs. While they were stuck fifteen miles from town with parents who weren’t interested in being their personal chauffeurs, I could go wherever my feet or bike would carry me.
With all that freedom and opportunity, I really couldn’t hold a grudge against mom and dad. This was Montana after all. Even though we owned neither horse nor steer, there were still plenty of things to do to nurture the cowgirl in me. One of those was a big event that I looked forward to every year with much anticipation -the College National Finals Rodeo. It was held in my hometown of Bozeman all through my growing up years, and I would beg my folks to take me.
Even after I grew up, I remained a dedicated fan of the CNFR. It was a very big deal in our little town and was held at the Montana State University’s version of the Superdome. In preparation for the event, they would haul loads and loads of dirt inside to cover the floor. Outside, tow rigs and horse trailers would come rolling in, with license plates from nearly every state in the union. Finally, when everything and everyone was all set, the rodeo of all rodeos would begin with a great big collective… “YEE-HAW!”
My favorite part of the rodeo was always the very beginning. A rider from every college would enter the arena at a full gallop, flying their flag while a peppy country tune blared through the enormous speakers suspended from the dome ceiling. One after another they would race around the arena urging their steeds on to keep the flags flying strong. I loved that part so much that by the time the riders had reined in their horses and lined up in formation, I would be choked up with emotion. I can’t explain it. Rodeos just do that to me.
Although I moved away from Montana over twenty years ago, those rodeos are the gold standard of rodeos. Nothing can compare and nothing ever will compare. Even so, last weekend the cowgirl in me decided to give the Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo in Central Point, Oregon another try. Decked out in my cowgirl duds and with my daughter in tow, I parked myself in the arena bleachers and tried to keep an open mind.
I don’t know if enough time had finally passed, or if this rodeo had improved in recent years. Either way, both myself and my daughter had to admit that it was a pretty darn good rodeo! In fact, it even inspired us to consider attending the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. That is, until we found out the tickets start at $200 a pop! I realized, then, that I am just a rodeo junkie wanting to re-create the high from my CNFR glory days.
Instead, I think it’s time to grow up and enjoy the rodeo that’s in my own backyard of Southern Oregon. It may not be the CNFR, but since its home to the only 100 point bull ride in rodeo history, maybe I could learn to get choked up about that… just for old time’s sake.
Note: this story appeared as a newspaper column in the Mail Tribune. Read it here.