The warm dust of the prairie gleams golden in the light of the early evening sun, disturbed only by the tramping steps of heavy cowboy boots, accompanied by the clanks of their spurs.
The air is filled with the sweet smell of old leather and anxious horses.
Inside the arena, cowboys are limbering up their horses. They are swinging their ropes, spurring their horses or leaning against the fence while chatting to the arriving audience.
Everybody knows everyone. Everybody is palavering. And everybody is wearing hat. Cowboy hat.
We are right there! Me, a German city girl and my roommate Kelly from New York City.
“This is soooooo crazy!” she exclaims and I can only respond with a big grin and a nod.
No doubt, here in Shoshoni, a small town in the heart of Wyoming we are the only tourists and everybody can tell from a distance.
And then the rodeo starts. According to the motto “Ladies first!” it starts with the so-called “Barrel Racing”. Cowgirls maneuver a horse through a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels.
The men then compete in “Calf roping”. The cowboy catches the calf with a rope, dismounts his horse and throws the calf onto the ground so that he can bind its legs. Really I have seen this scene one hundred times already… But in cowboy movies only!
The highlight of the night is, no doubt, the so-called “Bronc Riding” and the “Bull Riding”. This comes down to what I always thought to be a Rodeo: Riding a wild kicking horse or bull by holding on to it with one hand only.
And this event is really as wild as it sounds!
After the rodeo, on our way back home to Lander, a small town in North Western Wyoming, we don’t talk a lot. There is so much to take in.
I try to make up my mind about what to think about the rodeo. But I am unable to arrive at a conclusion:
Are rodeos the last daring sport for “real men”? Or is it a breakneck act of show-offs at the expanses of good-natured animals?
And even the cowboys themselves have no answer to this question.
“I used to do bull riding when I was young… and stupid!” an elderly cowboy told us.
Still, while speaking these words, a proud smile flickered on his lips.
And of course the two of us responded by praising his courage and admiring his daringness.
Nevertheless, one thing is for sure:
I had never seen anything similar.
And this rodeo is certainly no silly tourist attraction. It is a part of the region’s culture, an event that brings together locals to keeps up the myth of free cowboys and never-ending adventures in the West.
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