After all the fun and cowboy-esque things we have done in the western parts of the United States, you would think that our family would be starting to get a little bored with our “wild west” type adventures, but you would be wrong. We just don’t seem to be able to get enough of this stuff. My husband is a descendant from Buffalo Bill Cody, and I think that western blood must be coursing through our sons’ veins.
So, when we found ourselves staying in Fort Robinson State Park in Nebraska and found out that they had a small rodeo they preformed every Thursday and Sunday night, we made plans to attend. Now, we knew this probably wouldn’t be the full bronco-busting type of rodeo we had seen earlier in Wyoming. This was a show that was put on primarily by the horse wranglers that worked at the stables in the park. However, our family is just a little bit on the horse-crazy side, so we didn’t really care how much rough riding we were going to see, we just wanted to watch the horses.
The first event of the night was pretty typical of a rodeo. It was team roping of steers. We dutifully cheered for the ropers that either got the rope over the steers’ heads, or came close and we booed for the ones that missed pitifully. But after that event they started doing some things we didn’t expect. They had races where the riders had to unsaddle their horses, run through the arena, re-saddle them and ride them as fast as possible to the other side. Our family was cheering and grinning. When they started to play musical chairs with the horses (no the horses did not have to sit down, the riders had to jump off their horse and land on the chairs) we were leaning forward on the bleachers to get the best view possible. When the riders started fighting over who got to the chairs first and horses were knocking chairs out from under the riders that were trying to jump on the chair, we were laughing out loud and yelling encouragement to the riders.
The more we watched their outrageous races, the more fun we had. Finally, they decided to stage a race they called “Riding the Hide”. In this race a large piece of buffalo hide was tied to a rope and pulled behind a trotting horse. They had some of the children of the workers lie down on the hide and get pulled across the arena. Suddenly, I saw a gleam of desire in some of my youngest sons’ eyes. I kept hearing little voices say things like, “If I could do that, I would yell for the horse to run faster”. As a mother, all I saw was dirt clods being thrown up in the air in front of the hide as it skidded across the arena. (At least I THINK they were dirt clods.) I could only watch and pray that the children being dragged around were keeping their mouths closed.
At the end, a crazily dressed “woman” (who was really a man) came out and begged to be pulled along on the hide. Of course this was all a set up, but nobody cared. The kids had all made the ride without mishap, but we knew we were all about to see someone get creamed. We were thrilled. Our crazy rider of course got pulled along so fast that he/she flipped off the hide and rolled head over heels as the horse raced off into the sunset. The rodeo announcer decided that they needed to call an ambulance, and out raced a horse with a flashing red light on top of its head. Then the cowboys all picked the limp body of the unfortunate rider off the ground and threw him/her over the horse’s saddle. Of course, they overthrew just a bit and a huge amount of falling and hanging upside down later, the horse finally got the “injured” rider back to the stables.
At this point the announcer thanks us all for coming and added that if there were any children in the stands that wanted to take a “ride on the hide” they could come to the gate and the cowboys would give them a ride. The eyes of my three youngest sons turned expectantly to my husband and me. The look was an unmistakable plea for us to understand their basic male needs for dirt, speed and close proximity to a horse. I saw my laundry pile growing bigger and bigger as my husband and I weaken. As I turned to my two older sons, they both shook their heads. It was pretty obvious to me that they would have loved to have ridden that buffalo hide, but they were slightly concerned that they might not look cool as they were being drug across the dirt. They were not quite ready to sacrifice their dignity for the sake of fun, but it was a struggle for them to come to this conclusion.
As we watched our little boys being pulled one by one behind the horse, we shouted encouragement, smiled and snapped pictures. They laughed, cheered and held on for dear life. Only one of them accidently let his toes down and lost a shoe, and only once did the horse break into a brisk canter instead of his slow trot, so I guess we can say that the whole event went off without a hitch. I just wish they had kept their lips tightly closed as the unidentified clods flew in front of them. Oh well, I guess that’s just one more job for Mr. Dental Floss and Mrs. Toothbrush.