The Jackson Hole Rodeo has been one of my favorite Jackson events for the past twenty years. I’ve only lived in Jackson for 6 years, but I visited with my family since I was seven. We always made time to go to the rodeo, and now that I’m all grown, I still make it to the event every few years. What can I say? I love cowboys.
Twenty-years-ago you would always see a few rodeo men wandering around the clapboard boarder of the Town Square. My sister, mother and I would pass them as we perused the T-shirt shops looking for souvenirs or jewelry stores as my mom contemplated a turquoise necklace. My mom’s eyes would narrow and her mouth would scrunch. Would this piece be too much for our life back in Little Rock, Arkansas? Meanwhile, I would have spotted a cowboy and nothing else in the world mattered to me. Time slowed as the cowboys passed. Typically, it was one classic cowboy paired with a pretty woman in her own Wranglers and calico print shirt. As I got older, they all were Shania Twain to me. Even as a child, I pegged them as the American classics. They were like spotting a Bald Eagle; a precious part of American heritage in danger of going extinct. I’d poke at my mother, distracting her from her soon-to-be purchase. She’d follow my gaze as I whispered, “Mom, cowboys…” My mom would try to be discreet with her glances and I stared open-mouthed in awe.
I feared for my hero’s lives the first time I went to the rodeo. Classic cowboys in Wranglers, chaps and cowboy hats seemed to be risking their lives for a chance to ride a bucking bronco. I watched with large, nervous eyes as the Broncos huffed and clowns jumped in and out of barrels. From our seats in the bleachers, the cowboys always looked calm and collected. The broncos would be clanging in their pins. All of a sudden, one of the nimble cowboys would hop on the wild-beast’s back and they would hurdle into the arena.
Some of the cowboys would only stay on a few moments before they were tossed off. Each would scramble to avoid the flailing, pounding bronco’s hoofs, but inevitably, one cowboy always got stomped on. The entire audience would let out a groan and watch in stunned silence as the rodeo clowns did their best to move the bronco away from the wild animal. I’d be clinging to my mother, petrified that my hero was about to die. To this day, I don’t understand how the cowboys do it. They always manage to get up and hobble out of the arena. I’ve never seen an ambulance called. Cowboys have a reputation for being tough and the rodeo is where the general public get’s to see the proof.
Every few years, I go back to the rodeo to get a good look at some cowboys. I still fear for their lives at times and they still always survive. By now I’ve probably been at least 12 times, but the excitement never wears off. Heck, I still get a thrill every time I see a classic cowboy on the streets of Jackson. What are their lives like? What makes them brave or crazy enough to want to ride a bronco?
Experience the excitement and wonder for yourself this year at the Jackson Hole Rodeo every Wednesday and Saturday night through the summer at 8pm.
Visit www.JacksonHoleRodeo.us for schedule, info or tickets or call 307-733-7927.