Rookie rodeo experience

Stock appeared to be getting best of cowboys, cowgirls

PASO ROBLES — I was raised in Atascadero, but I am not a country boy. I’ve never mutton busted, never lasso’d a fake bull, never jumped from the back of a speeding horse to put a cow in a full-Nelson, and never attended a real rodeo. I went to college down in Los Angeles and worked for a TV studio before eventually moving back home to take over the sports section that I grew up reading. My point is, I don’t know anything about the rodeo, but I went to cover the Country Rodeo on Saturday at the California Mid-State Fair.

Covering the rodeo as if I knew what was happening would be disingenuous and I’m sure most people around here would know in just a moment's time that I was a fraud. That is why I am going to cover the rodeo as the novice I was and maybe my excitement can encourage others to attend the rodeo next year.

The rodeo opened in what I can only assume is traditional rodeo-style, with a man jumping out of a plane with a 50-foot American flag tethered below him as he plummeted into the arena as if he were Captain America. It was truly captivating as the lady in front of me can attest to because I walked straight into her because I couldn’t take my eyes off the flag while I was still trying to make it to my seat.

The first event was called “Team Pinning” and it was wild. Basically, there is a herd of calves in this big pen and three cowboys (or cowgirls). There were 30 calves each one with a number attached to them from 0-9, making three pairs of each number (perhaps it was 1-10, I was overloaded with stimuli). A number is called at random and the cowboys have a certain amount of time to get the three corresponding calves through these cones, without letting any others through, and then must get them into a separate, smaller pin.

Well, apparently no one told calve No. 8 what the game plan was because he was busting off cowboys left and right, I felt like I was watching old Walter Payton highlights except he had four legs. I’m not sure who you are supposed to cheer for in these instances, but I’m considering getting a calve No. 8 custom jersey with “Allen” printed on the back because this guy’s moves were absolutely majestic.

Later in the rodeo, they had an event called “Barrel Racing” which, to my surprise, is essentially the three-cone drill from the NFL combine, but for horse and rider. I know the rodeo has been around a while and they have probably worked the kinks out, but I couldn’t help wonder how cool it would be to watch two horses race rather than making it a timed event. Everyone loves a photo finish, but there is probably logistical issues or something I am missing.

The rodeo clown was great. He was funny and had horrible dance moves. I don’t know why, but I had this image of him wearing a barrel with suspenders supporting it, a rainbow wig, and a honking nose, anyways he most certainly wasn’t wearing that, but he was wearing pink. He also wasn’t wearing cowboy boots so does that make him a fraud? I thought it was country law to wear boots inside of the arena, but it would be hard to run in those, but also funnier, so I don’t know.

One thing that was very obvious is that nothing, and I mean nothing, not free food, not money, not even a three-legged puppy can bring the masses together like a man with a T-shirt cannon. When the truck started driving around the rodeo launching shirts to the crowd, Paso Robles transformed into Miami Beach on Spring break as mothers and daughters alike clambered over each other for a chance at a shirt.

“Mixed Ribbon Roping” might have been my favorite event. The guys on the horse (is there another word besides cowboy I feel this is getting redundant) lasso a cow that has a pink ribbon on it and a lady that is standing next to the fence has to run out and grab the ribbon and return to the fence. Failure is what made this funny. Every single time the cows would spin in a circle like a dog chasing its tail and only one or two of the girls ever even grabbed the ribbon.

The rodeo ended, of course, with bull riding. To be completely honest I’m not the hugest fan, but only because I don’t get the practicality. I am aware that the rodeo keeps kids cattle roping and riding like their ancestors did, but the riding of the bull, to me, seems a little outdated and while I was happy the riders were wearing helmets I thought they were going to be waving their hats in air and yelling.

However, all jokes aside, it was a very entertaining time and I would recommend it to everyone, if for no other reason than to see all the babies in cowboy hats, boots, belts, and spurs because it will absolutely melt your heart.


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