Our 45th anniversary date to Cheyenne Frontier Days (hereafter CFD) last Saturday found Tom and I with sister-in-law Connie, and thousands of others from around the country and world, enjoying the Daddy of ‘Em All rodeo. While watching the raw action in real time, I decided that life is essentially a rodeo, as cliché’ as that may sound.
Though my girlhood dream to barrel race and become a rodeo queen didn’t materialize, I do claim to have rodeoed in a different way. A mom of six children, I was released from the chute of our bed every morning, usually before dawn. I juggled hungry babies in one arm while cooking and serving breakfast, finding missing shoes and changing wet beds. The chauffer job was a split shift deal with morning, noon, afterschool, and night runs to and from everything and truly I did have to try not to knock down barrels, or in this case traffic cones in those countless runs.
Corralling the livestock is a must in rodeos, before and after the events. Sometimes a bull or bucking bronc gives those pick-up cowboys a run for their money before exiting the arena. Who else has children stories of trying to corral wild ones? When little Leslie was just a year and a half old, she loved escaping her stroller to dash away in stores and hide out under clothing racks. This happened in a California mall which scared us to death. That tiny precocious redhead kicked around her dads arms until he relented and let her down. Before our eyes, and Gramma’s and Grampa’s, she darted away, running into a store. It wasn’t her first time (rodeo) to hide silently as we searched and called with sunken hearts. That agile escape was like a happy calf missed by a cowgirl. We upped our game to the point of cruelty in some opinions. Leslie got to wear a baby blue harness on outings after that.
Another corralling feat was walking kids to school. I was seen descending our hill with a baby on my back or in a front-pack, a toddler in the stroller with a bigger one holding the side and school kids skipping down the street, promising to stop at the busy corner so we could all follow the holding-hands-rule as we crossed four lanes of traffic to the school playground. My trudge back up the hill kept my legs and core in ship-shape during those years — like a rodeo athlete – something I don’t expect to see again in this lifetime.
I don’t pretend to follow rodeo. Every year I actually pass up the opportunity to attend College National Rodeo Finals (CNFR), Indian National Finals Qualifying Rodeo (INFR) Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo, Professional Bull Riders (PBR), and the Wyoming State Fair Rodeo, all close at hand. This Frontier Day event was a fun reminder of days gone by and future dreams.
At CFD, In bareback, saddle bronc, and bull riding, the announcer introduced each accomplished competitor by naming their prestigious standings or in some cases rookie status. A chute number would be announced as staff readied in the arena. Horseback pick-up riders lined up in formation as closeup video of the ready rider In the chute projected from dual jumbotrons on either side of the arena. Loud dramatic music themes blasted from speakers to add even more intensity to the ride, for the crowd at least.
I’m not sure that my personal rodeos of motherhood were so grandly executed with sound effects for drama, but I do know that I had two drummers, a trumpet player, several guitarists and pianists, an occasional smoke alarm for a burned dinner, TV’s up and downstairs and squeaky door hinges when kids thought a late night arrival home might go unnoticed.
I didn’t keep exact count, but like last time I attended a CFD rodeo, the livestock won. That would mean that more horses and bulls bucked their riders off before the required eight seconds than cowboys clung on for eight seconds. Whenever this happened the crowd collectively sounded a long disappointed ooohhhhh in a descending musical fifth, followed by a gasp as the clown immediately jumped on scene to distract the bucking animal and assist the rider’s escape from potential trampling.
Hmm, I had many rodeo clowns in my life, jumping in for the save when I felt I was down for the count, sure to be taken out by unexpected or unwanted circumstances. With family, friends, teachers, neighbors, and church family caring about us, I was safe. Like pick-up riders snatching cowboys from the backs of those bulls and broncs, I found refuge and perspective in reading, gardening, music, scriptures, knitting, and nature.
Anyway, the cheering audience was thrilled when a cowboy being flung around atop the bucking backside of a bull or bronc held on strong ‘til the piercing 8-second horn. For those who didn’t we were just thankful for no injuries. It was an equine ballet of beauty as skilled pick-up riders on their mounts brought competitors to safety. (I know, I know, a crazy kind of thrill for sure.)
The wonder of it all is that win or lose, those cowboys get up, dust themselves off and head for the next rodeo to try again. They do this with every intention of staying on their ride, beating the time of others, and seeking to break personal records. Hope is what they have! Determination too. In fact their whole goal is to keep trying, keep competing, and stay in the game for they have passion, courage, and grit. My cousin, Dave Sedar, in his mid-sixties still ropes in senior rodeos and loves it!
Like rodeo cowboys, during those child-rearing years I left each frustrating or unfinished yesterday behind and got up each morning with determination to make it to bedtime after covering the planned activities and crazy unexpected developments. It wasn’t easy and sometimes not even fun, but somehow we all survived and are on to our next rodeos, including our son’s newborn introducing his parents to their first rodeo – the all night kind!
*Cowboy Wisdom: From John Wayne’s grave, “Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learnt something from yesterday.”
*My friend Mike’s Wisdom:“Today is actually most important.”
*My Wisdom: “Today is yesterday’s tomorrow.”
Back to CFD — the rodeo progressed to cowgirls breakaway calf roping and men’s steer wrestling. Again, sometimes the ropers won and sometimes the livestock trotted away the winner. In team roping and steer wrestling teamwork is the key. Whether header or heeler, bulldogger or hazer, focus and teamwork has to be utmost.
It is amazing to look back on childrearing and see how cowboy-focused life had to be. Tom was typically making a living in his day job and side jobs. I was primarily at home with some dental office work and piano students. We team-tagged in both of those areas to meet our budget, raise kids, and get yardwork, gardening, and events covered with our large family going different directions. In all that I think they’ve become some pretty fine adults!
Life now is also teamwork. Heading to the future, we both plan to live decades more and get up and move on. The patience and persistence of rodeo cowboys are virtues that haven’t been outgrown or found unneeded in our empty nest days. We have to be patient with our bodies, patient trying to hear others speak and understand them, patient in our less than adequate technology skills, and on it goes.
*Cowboy Wisdom: “Courage is being scared to death – and saddling up anyway.”
I’m not rounding up children anymore, but their pets are here an awful lot, sometimes trying to escape. Hence our Three-dog-night round-up —
*Cowboy Wisdom: “If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around.”
I’m also rounding up eyeglasses as I need progressive for daily life, lighted safety goggles for work, cheaters for reading music, and dark prescription for driving. We thought travel would be easy without diaper bags, strollers and car seats but now we’re trying to win the lottery of bringing every item needed when we travel. I don’t just mean out of town, but to the store. It’s that round-up to have gas in the car, a list, coupons, sunglasses, of course phones, shopping bags, and money all at the same time. Tom and I still need that rodeo teamwork, though our speed is reduced. It took six weeks to get the patio company-ready this summer, thanks to our son’s help.
I’m not jumping on a bull or having my arm ripped around on a bronc but it takes all my upper body strength to pull myself into Tom’s truck with no running board. That’s ok, I’m glad I can do it! We do cowboy-up when it comes to planting a garden or new trees after devastating losses, or fail and try again in a disappointing attempt at a new hobby or performance of some kind. Even a ruined recipe isn’t a total failure if you believe Bayou Folklore; “You don’t ruin anything, you just change the name.”
Who knows, maybe our cowboy persistence will inspire someone else experiencing trials. I bet those rodeo acrobats fell a lot of times before riding effortlessly with each foot on the back of a different horse. The wild horse race was totally an exercise in persistence, and those guys were having fun in it all!
*Cowboy Wisdom: “Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment.”
With my Life is a Rodeo theme, I will close with a memory of the Fort Robinson State Park rodeo in Western Nebraska. Mom and Dad took us all there for their 50thanniversary. What an amazing few days with several generations of parents, siblings, and cousins. The rodeo was more of an exhibition event with local families and college students having fun, chatting like old friends with the up-close-and-personal audience as they rode back to the chutes. This less intense and very fun rodeo is how I hope our years ahead will be. We plan to enjoy each day we are blessed with. I hope you all do too!
Hebrews 12:1 “and let us run with patience, the race that is set before us.