A Northeastern Rodeo

Rodeo is a brand-new sport to me. Before I saw one in person, I had a vague memory about it through American movies. I’ve heard of American cowboys and cowgirls. They are supposedly from the western part of the country. However, my first experience with a rodeo happened in upstate New York last summer.

The night was chilly. On a steep slope was a grandstand of wooden benches covered by a roof. We found seats close to the sandy enclosure. A whiff of manure wafted from the barn. Two dozen cowboys and cowgirls in distinctive outfits were behind the gates, getting ready for the show.

Many children, from infants to teenagers, were present. They had a grand time somersaulting on the grassy slope and jumping around on the benches. Some of them wore black or gray cowboy hats. Waiting for the show to start, I too felt like a kid.

The host riding on a horse spoke with a heavy western accent. My friend said he was trying hard to speak like a Texan. I’d rather he spoke with his normal accent or no accent. It was quite a challenge for me to understand his “Howdy y’all” cowboy English. I wanted him to be quiet for a minute but he talked throughout the show, non-stop.

What amazed me was the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner and the saluting to the U.S. flag at the beginning of the rodeo. How patriotic Americans are! They sing the national anthem before every sports game, including rodeo. Speaking of the U.S. flag, they are flying everywhere in the country. Americans even decorate porches and vehicles with the national flags. Wherever I go, the flag reminds me that I am in the United States.

Rodeo is a dangerous and cruel sport. The entire evening I was more nervous about the safety of the cowboys who fell off the wild horses and bulls than about how fast they could catch and tie a lariat around the animal. It saddened me that the cowboys beat and kick the livestock to enrage them. How could people seek entertainment from roping a lean and deplorable calf? Several times I yelled to the calf, “Run, run fast” when a cowboy or cowgirl on a horse chased it.

I was thrilled when the calf escaped.

Filed under: Prose, Songyi Zhang's America