Sunday, April 3, 2016

Patriot Day at Cave Creek Fiesta Days Rodeo 2016

Rodeo, from the fans to the trappings, is a uniquely western sport that not only honors our western lifestyle and heritage but traditional American values as well.  Rodeo is unashamedly patriotic and unabashedly value driven and family oriented.

Today's final performance of the 2016 Cave Creek Fiesta Days Rodeo was "Patriot Day" - almost a redundancy, since just about every day of a rodeo is patriot day. Rodeo-goers (with some greenhorn exceptions) still put their hands on their hearts and remove their hats for the presentation of the flags and the singing of the national anthem; performances are generally still opened with a brief prayer. The Cave Creek rodeo once again featured a military color guard with a female soldier singing the anthem; in a few weeks, she'll return to active duty in Iraq.

Arizona's own 2016 rodeo queen, Alanna Hamilton, is herself a lance corporal in the United States Marine Corps.
Arizona's 2016 Rodeo Queen, Ms. Alanna Hamilton
(c) 2016 Marcy J. Miller
Rodeo still offers a refreshing mix of family values and lighthearted, non-PC humor. Rodeo clowns and their close cousins, the cowboy's own bodyguards against angry bulls known as "American bullfighters," still might affect a lisp for comic affect or make jokes calling another's masculinity into question - and it's okay. Nobody calls for a safe space. 

American Bullfighter, Hollywood Yates
(c) 2016 Marcy J. Miller
The Cave Creek rodeo featured prominent American Bullfighter, Hollywood Yates. Also known as "Wolf" from American Gladiator, at 6'4" "Hollywood" made the cowboys around him appear small. Don't let his muscle-bound appearance fool you: he limbered up by effortlessly doing the splits a few times before the bullriding began.

A Close Call
(c) 2016 Marcy J. Miller
In this sanitized, risk-averse world, rodeo is still about risk-taking, adrenaline, and putting yourself in harm's way as either part of competition or to assist others in the arena. Although riders now routinely wear protective gear, there's just no way to make rough-stock riding safe. The horse above came out of the shoot backwards and soon fell; although being on a bucking animal is not exactly safe, being under a 1,200 pound animal is even less optimal. (Neither horse nor rider was injured in the fall).
Saddle Bronc: Flying without Wings
(c) 2016 Marcy J. Miller 
Unlike traditional "bullfighting," the American Bullfighter is responsible for protecting the bull rider. They do not torture the animal nor injure it in any way, but instead draw the aggressive bull's attention away from the rider until the rider can move to safety. 

American Bullfighter Luring a Bull from the Fallen Rider
(c) 2016 Marcy J. Miller
Rodeo saves the most popular event, bull-riding, for last. Unlike bronc riding, where a "pick-up man" rides next to the rider and assists him in dismounting by climbing onto the pick-up man's horse, there's only one way off a bull.

(c) 2016 Marcy J. Miller
 The true "rodeo clown" is now a separate function from the "bullfighter" task. The rodeo clown entertains the crowd during lulls in the action, such as when the arena is being dragged between events or when stock is being changed out. They keep the pace from lagging and provide humor. Note the Coors-can barrel: Coors has long supported rodeo and is ubiquitous in the cowboy world. Cowboy Artists of America painter Gordon Snidow long ago began using a Coors-can holding cowboy as a motif that distinguished his work from his colleagues.
Justin, a Rodeo Clown (and Proud Father of Triplets)
(c) 2016 Marcy J. Miller
 Bronc riding takes two forms: saddle bronc riding and bareback riding. Ironically, there's a "bareback saddle" used for the latter event. A saddle without a seat, it gives the rider something to hold onto with one hand (the other must remain in the air).
(c) 2016 Marcy J. Miller
I mentioned above that there's only one way to come off a bucking bull - the hard way. However, the "shape" that takes has infinite variety.
Cowboy: Flying without Wings
(c) 2016 Marcy J. Miller
 Another proud American tradition honored at rodeo is ... capitalism. Rodeo relies on sponsors as much as it does fans. Whether it's bull-riders wearing a sponsor logo on their custom chaps or the flags carried by riders in the opening ceremonies, rodeo's not afraid to recognize the companies that make the sport possible.
Cowboys and Coors Go Together
(c) 2016 Marcy J. Miller
 Rodeo's also about civic involvement, charity, and service organizations. From the "Pink Day" supporting breast cancer awareness where the cowboys and staff wear pink shirts, to the Boy Scouts' merit projects, rodeo encourages contribution to the greater good. The attitude shows throughout the event: from people in the stands taking the hands of strangers climbing up the steep bleacher steps at each row, to "retired" riders assisting unpaid at the stock gates, rodeo's a joyful blend of self-sufficiency and lending a hand to those around you.

(c) 2016 Marcy J. Miller

Copyright (c) 2016 by Marcy J. Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content, including photographs, may be used without the express permission of the author * Thank you for sharing, liking, emailing, +1-ing, tweeting, or otherwise helping grow my audience * Most of all, thanks for stopping by!

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