Pin It
Favorite

Book Review 

Chasing the Rodeo


by W.K. Stratton
by John Dicker


American sports culture is as diverse as it is divergent. NBA hopefuls, competitive cheerleaders, freestyle BMXicans can prosper and fail in states of mutual obliviousness. Even still, it's odd that a seemingly home-brewed sport like rodeo should be considered marginal. But facts must be faced: Does any rodeo icon enjoy half the recognition of a Paris Hilton hanger-on? Exactly.


W.K. Stratton's Chasing the Rodeo -- subtitled On Wild Rides and Big Dreams, Broken Hearts and Broken Bones, and One Man's Search for the West -- makes the sport seem familiar even if it does defy easy categorization. It's both a memoir, a string of profiles and a travel narrative with lengthy digressions into rodeo culture and folklore. Chasing is full of fascinating historical nuggets. Take African-American cowboy Bill Pickett, who invented bulldogging, steer wrestling, and went on to become one of the sports first superstars. He also starred in the first films comprised of all-black casts that attempted to avoid the crude stereotypes. Of course this didn't protect him from the dehuman-ization of Jim Crow, which consigned him to the livestock car while traveling by rail.


Ultimately what Stratton seems to be chasing is an authentic American ritual that takes the stuff of hard work and transforms it into a celebration of hard play. As such, he attempts to settles the thorny debate on rodeo's origins. While rodeo is often described as "the only spectator sport originating entirely in the United States," Stratton contends that like many American products, rodeo is a Mexican creation, one that predates the cowboy era by several centuries.


For all his reporting, it's actually Stratton's personal reflections that make the book exceptionally readable. The legacy of "Cowboy Don," his biological father, we learn, is part of the rodeo's appeal for him, as it's one of the few traces he has to who his dad was. While he doesn't advance this argument, it's hard to ignore the connection between sports and a larger quest for paternal communion. Whether it's baseball or bulldogging, sports represent one of a few avenues though which manhood is conveyed. Perhaps this explains why sports highlight films are as schmaltzy as anything Nora Ephron might produce.


While there's an undue amount of banal narratives involving Stratton's rental cars and motel experiences, there's enough substance in Chasing the Rodeo to make it worth the trouble of saddling up and following along.





Publication date: 06/09/05

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Cherry Pitfalls
  • Cherry Pitfalls

    Why fruit is rotting on trees while workers wait at the border
    • Jul 1, 2015
  • The Real Threats
  • The Real Threats

    What worries Spokane's sheriff; plus, Washington's lawmakers finally hash out a budget
    • Jul 1, 2015
  • Party of Five?
  • Party of Five?

    Why Spokane County's newest commissioner is leading the fight to add two more
    • Jul 1, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun
Moscow ArtWalk 2015

Moscow ArtWalk 2015 @ Downtown Moscow

Tuesdays, Thursdays, Sundays. Continues through Aug. 31

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by n/a

  • Iron Upgrade
  • Iron Upgrade

    The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.
    • May 12, 2010
  • Get Out the Vote
  • Get Out the Vote

    With all the uncertainty in the world these days, hot wings and cold beer are two things we can get behind
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • Seeing Gay
  • Seeing Gay

    A festival showing GLBT from all angles
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • The Rachel We Knew

    EDITOR'S NOTE: How Rachel Dolezal came to write for the Inlander
    • Jun 18, 2015
  • The Real Rachel Dolezal

    The story goes far beyond just a white woman portraying herself as black
    • Jun 17, 2015
  • More »

© 2015 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation