It’s a cowboy thing – the hats, the chaps, the jeans and the shirts… and let’s not forget the stars of the show, the bulls and horses. Rodeo is a competitive sport that tests the skill of the cowboy. The word comes from the Spanish language and means “to round up”. A typical event will include bronco and bull riding, and possibly calf roping, steer wrestling, goat tying and mutton bustling.
The Noonamah Rodeo runs during the dry season in Darwin and we were lucky enough to catch the last one. The line to get in was huge but the ladies at the door powered through and before we knew it, we were in the thick of it. The place was packed and about 90% were wearing a checker shirt and jeans with a cowboy hat.
We found a spot to sit and waited for the action. In the central area, a rider was preparing for his turn. The gate opens and a monstrous animal charges out, kicking and bucking. Some riders fall within milliseconds while others hold on and become heroes. After the bout, rodeo clowns (aka bullfighters) would round the animal up. After a few rounds of bucking broncos and kicking bulls, kids got their time to shine as they got shook about on teeny tiny ponies that looked like they were running on Energiser batteries. The half-time show was some motorbike action. The riders got some amazing air and showed off their fancy stunts for the crowd’s pleasure.
Dave watched with anticipation, waiting to see someone get hurt. And they did. One cowboy got bucked off near the corner of the arena and went down hard. A rodeo clown rushed in to protect him, but the bull was cornered and got aggressive. It charged over them and trampled the clown right in the middle of his back. The cowboy got up and painfully limped away, but the clown’s face was bleeding and he had to be carried off on a stretcher.
We had some time to walk around as well. Dave got some chicken drumsticks and chips for $8, which was a good deal, and a can of Jack Daniels and Dry for $10, which wasn’t a good deal. After about 2 hours, we felt we had seen enough and went home.
We paid our $27 to get in, found a patch of grass to sit on and waited for the action to start. As soon as that first animal came out bucking its brains out, whatever facial expression I had turned into a pouty frown.
Everyone is cheering and clapping while this poor animal is being put through something it doesn’t want to do. Regardless of whether the rider scored a point or fell off within half a second, the commentator encouraged the crowd to cheer… but for what? Riding an animal that doesn’t want to be ridden? I just don’t understand why bull-riding is so great. Is it a penis thing? While the rider is risking serious injury, the poor animal is also at risk and is encouraged to buck by tying a flank strap around its sensitive parts.
I think it’s fair to say I’ve seen enough rodeos…