by Julie Carter
There are some things about a cowboy that don’t change, no matter the era. One of those is his delight in and dedication to celebrating the Fourth of July. Cowboys, if they are anything, are patriotic.
For a hundred years, traditional rodeo has put bucking horses and roping cowboys right up there with the firecrackers and parades as part of the tradition of Independence Day. The sport of Ranch Rodeo has given the everyday cowboy a good reason to go to town whether to cheer on his peers or be part of the competition.
Just to clear up any issues of mathematics in the profit and loss department of such a celebration, expenses are always only an estimate by the cowboy and rarely mentioned. However, if there is a “win” for the income column, it will never be forgotten and will become part of the cowboy’s memories of legendary proportion.
The ambiance of a rodeo on the Fourth of July has changed only in the wide array of arena options available. Many a small town USA still offers board bleachers and bull-wire fencing (leaning and weathered) with the original outhouses from 1954 still serving as the “facilities.”
The other end of the spectrum is the covered, air conditioned sportsplex with, in addition to the arena, a swimming pool, a couple restaurants, a Western wear and tack store, basketball court, adjoining golf course and softball field.
In spite of the contradicting monetary math, rodeo grounds across America will be covered over in trucks, trailers, hats, and swinging ropes this July 4th holiday. It’s Cowboy Christmas time and the cowboys have been on the road for days working up their momentum for the holiday.
Even the livestock seems to know the routine. As the cowboys stand at the chutes, hats held over their hearts as the flags are posted and the national anthem is played, the bucking horses waiting in the chute will snort and kick the gate behind them. It is part of the musical percussion of rodeo.
That moment, those sounds, burn into the recesses of a cowboy’s rodeo memories, along with the smell of arena dirt, the banging of gates as livestock is moved around, trailers rattling across the parking lot and the sound of hoof beats as a horse lopes to the arena.
Fourth of July rodeoing is defined by road-weary unshaven cowboys, tired horses and pickups filled with dirty clothes, rumpled programs, empty coffee cups, dust-covered sunglasses, gas receipts and a well-worn road map.
Without the need for pulling a horse trailer, the rough stock cowboys will pile in together over the 4th of July week, crisscrossing the country, for example, from Greeley to several places in Arkansas, back to Arizona and up to Montana followed by a run in the South. Burning up the rodeo highway the old-fashioned way has not gone out of style.
Easily, the Fourth of July holiday could be named the “Be Kind to a Rodeo Cowboy” holiday. They don’t all win, they can’t all afford it, but across the board, they all love it with a passion only they feel and no one but they can understand.
It makes me very happy to know that the tradition of rodeo on the 4th of July continues without much change.
You can’t say that about very many things in this world.