“This Ain’t My First Rodeo.”
Well, actually, for Frank it was. I went once as a Girl Scout and, if my memory serves me correctly, a cowboy was mortally injured when a bull trampled him! Anyway, when in Rome . . .
Jenny was super excited when she found out we’d be around for the annual Livingston Roundup Rodeo, as it is one of the most anticipated events of a Montana summer. Locals and visitors descend on the small town of 8,000 for the four-day spectacle, held over the 4th of July.
Our group of nine, including Jenny’s sister-in-law and her family, took the short drive over the pass into Livingston. Although it was crowded (the event sells out every night), we were able to find parking (no charge!) and rushed to stake out our seats in the general admission section.
The crowd was a mix of young and old, with a lot of young families. As one would expect, there were cowboy hats and boots everywhere. Adorable kids, dressed in their cowboy best, lined and climbed the fence.
The festivities began with the introduction of the rodeo queens, who speedily rode horses around the ring carrying flags. To compete for that title, young women have to demonstrate public speaking skills, perform interviews, take a rodeo knowledge exam and pass a horsemanship skills test. They aren’t just pretty!
Living in a city and never having been exposed to the rodeo world, it never dawned on me that rodeo is more than just a show. Rodeo athletes train from a young age, just like any other sport. The National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, established in 1949, represents over 3,500 student athletes at more than 135 member colleges and universities!
Every year, Livingston hosts the Roundup Rodeo, a professional Rodeo Association event. In 1925, its inaugural year, the Roundup was one of only eight Class A rodeos in the nation; it had a purse of $3,000 ($41,095.89 in today’s dollars). This year, prizes total more than $200,000. In other words, there’s a lot of money “riding” on this rodeo!
The rodeo consists of seven events: bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, steer wrestling, team roping, tie down roping, and barrel racing.
In bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding, a cowboy tries to stay on the animal for eight seconds. He is disqualified if he touches it with his free hand. We were amazed to note that not one cowboy was able to stay on a bull for even two seconds!
Steer wrestling, team roping and tie-down roping are all timed events.
Barrel Racing is the lone ladies event. The object is to complete a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels. The fastest time wins. Knocking over a barrel results in a five-second penalty.
The action was fast and the crowds enthusiastic. It was a fun to be there and I am happy to report that, unlike my first rodeo, no one was seriously injured. As for Frank, the next time we go (which we are planning to do), he will surely — and honestly — utter the phrase, “This ain’t my first rodeo.”