Their demeanor is cool, calm, collected. They jostle each other and joke somewhat discreetly. Tobacco shoots from their mouths every 5 seconds it seems. But as they prepare for the night’s competition, they exude an earnestness that is, to me, entirely unexpected at a rodeo.
In the next few hours, these guys will be whipped around, thrown, and stomped on by animals 10 times their size.
I guess I didn’t know what to expect. My only real exposure to rodeos was from Garth Brooks’ “Rodeo,” that famous ’90s country hit that even the yuppiest music fans can boogie to (and if you don’t think so then you probably just hate music). And the song’s lyrics are pretty close to the truth.
Before the competitions kicked off, Spokane Valley’s Valerie Stichweh performed the national anthem. I don’t consider myself an overly patriotic soul, but I did get a little bit choked up. And it wasn’t because of her singing voice. I’m sure she’s great, but I only heard a few lines before her microphone cut out. It was awkward, yes, but audience members, from as far as Montana, all pitched in to sing the rest of the anthem.
The photos below do more than words can.