This week something seemed to change in the weather. The flowers are starting to appear on the trees in the estate, the clouds are clearing and I have BIG hair. As I told you a couple of blogs ago, I have ventured to the hair dresser a few times now and they have always made comment about how much hair I have. I have bought lots of product to help keep it in order and have even learnt how to wield a blow dryer and straightening iron, things I have avoided as much as possible in the past. Alas, all of my hard work is going to be for nothing. I spent about an hour trying to straighten it to less than frizz on Saturday before heading out to the Rodeo and within no time it was back to big hair. I feel like a character in a 70’s sitcom. Rob says he thinks it looks good, frizzy, (we have been married for a lot of years) so I am just giving in. Embrace the big hair.
On Saturday we pulled on our boots and decided to go to the Rodeo to check out the “Super Shootout” (no guns involved). It was a team event of winning rodeo contestants from some of the major rodeos around the country and Canada. There were 8 teams from Calgary, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, San Angelo, Denver and an interestingly named Days of 47 from Salt Lake City Utah and of course Houston. Each team had competitors for five events: Bareback riding, barrel racing (which the girls do), steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding and bull riding. Its pretty brutal. I was pleased to see that many of the competitors had safety gear like neck protectors to prevent whip lash and helmets. Still they are pretty brave and seem to be limping back after each event. Its amazing what adrenaline drives us to do. I’m sure that they must all be in it for the thrill. It was all exciting to watch but I think that the barrel riding was absolutely brilliant and the crowd really got into it.
The whole evening’s performance is such a spectacle. Of course, it is held in an indoor air-conditioned arena that holds about 70000 people. It is a bit like ANZ (-is it still called that?) Sydney Olympic Stadium with wide walkways up to the seating areas. Lots of food and drink stalls inside including my personal favorite a yard glass of margaritas. The show starts with a grand parade which weaves around itself to fit all of the riders and wagons inside. This was not a parade of the livestock as it’s only the rodeo, the livestock is in another pavilion. Then the field is cleared and they have a prayer. I must say that the Americans wear their hearts on their sleeves about God and patriotism, the cowboy who prayed really prayed. It did not feel like he was just saying some politically correct words which were designed to not offend anyone. No doubt he was getting on the back of some bull later that night and realized he needed all the help he could get. Everyone around us stood up and was quiet, even if they were not praying, they respected the moment.
Then, came the national anthem. Like in Australia, the US has a song as its national anthem. They only sing the first verse of four. The song was actually written about the battle for Fort McHenry near Baltimore in 1814. I did a little bit of research and discovered that this battle was a turning point in a war with Britain called the war of 1812. It seems to have involved Napoleon stirring trouble in Europe and Britain and France being a bit heavy handed with neutral “colonies” (although the US was not a colony at that time). Anyway, the war didn’t last very long compared to what was going on in Europe, but it did result in this great poem which then became a song and then the national anthem.
So, back to the rodeo. A cowgirl rode in with the flag held high and went around and around the stadium while someone from the armed services sang. When they got to the bit about the battle raging, red flares and fire works are let off (great horse). There is lots of smoke and emotion and she rides faster and no hands holding the flag up and then out of the stadium. It’s a real emotional spectacle and I loved it. The cowboys then get to do their thing.
The rodeo competition finishes with “Mutton Busting”. This is different. A small area is cordoned off in the stadium and bring in a dozen sheep. Then they put little kids on the sheep and see who can hang on the furthest/longest. The kids are all 5 and 6-year old and wear helmets and chest guards. We saw a few casualties where the sheep ran over the kid who had fallen off but they mostly leave intact. They only have to fall a couple of feet. You do best if your sheep runs fast. That means you get to the end without having to hang on for very long.
At the end of the mutton busting they have a very strange event called the calf scramble. This is actually an event that provides scholarships for agriculture students from high schools around the area. How it works is; the scholarship hopefuls are called scramblers and they line up at the edge of a big square box marked out on the stadium. A stack of calves are let into the area inside the box and then the scramblers run in to try to catch one. Of course, the calves run out of the box and all over the arena. When the kids catch a calf the have to put a bridle on it and lead it back into the square to get their scholarship papers. Easy right? It is hilarious seeing these kids try to firstly catch a calf and then get it back into the square. The calves weigh about as much as most of these kids and are not that keen on being caught. There are scramblers falling down all over the place and being dragged around by some calf whose tail they have hold of. The calves are even less keen on being led anywhere. They sit down or dig in their heels and just won’t move. It often takes a scrambler on the front and back to get the calf over the line. Anyway, once they are in the box the scramblers get a certificate and scholarship money to buy and raise a beef heifer or steer to show at the next years’ show. It’s a neat way to give agriculture students the chance to stay involved. The money for the scholarships is donated by people and businesses. We met a guy after the rodeo that night who had donated a calf. He was very proud to have done it.
After the rodeo there was a concert by Kane Brown. I confess I had never heard of him, but he was pretty good. Sort of modern country, I guess. The crowd all knew the words. I’ll have to let it grow on me.
We then headed over to the ranch rodeo. A lovely man and his special needs daughter showed us the way and gave us some tips. His daughter who had Downs Syndrome had been awarded a special belt buckle that day because it was her tenth year of attending the rodeo and she loved it. She had lots to say about her buckle, which was spectacular, and that we should make sure we come to the ranch rodeo because it was such fun. This was much more like the Lismore show of my childhood. Dad would have loved it. Teams of cowboys from working ranches cut cattle from herds, a bit like team campdrafting, bare back riding, roping events and cattle wrestling. At the end there was a crazy event that topped it all off. It was called wild cow milking. The teams had to rope a cow front and back, hold it still long enough for one of them to milk it enough to get a few drops in a bottle. These were not small calves but big cows. The teams all rode full belt at the cow so of course it ran away from them. I had the thought that approaching it quietly might be a better option but none of the teams did that. The milker then had to run with the milk bottle and ropes back to the judge. It took the whole team to hold it still long enough for it to be milked. Pretty sure there were some very sore cowboys going home that night from this event.
It was Saturday night, so we continued to the wine garden. There was excellent live music and local wines. Houston likes to dance it seems and there were people of all ages dancing to some gentle country and blues. The weather was warm (albeit humid!) and it was just a really nice way to finish off a terrific evening.
We went back to the Rodeo to see Santana last night. Again, it was a great night with more and different events at the Rodeo. Santana were incredible. They had three drummers who no doubt were relieved that the stadium was air conditioned. The sound was phenomenal, and the stadium was packed. We had decided to park at the park and ride station we had used last weekend and catch a metro event bus stadium. It was a good set up, a bit like the way Sydney does big events (but no trains). You still have to park fairly close to the stadium, but it was very easy. As always everyone is friendly and happy. We piled on the bus to go back to the car after waiting in the line for about half an hour. While we were underway the driver announces that we are going to a different park and ride station. Everyone on the bus exclaimed that we were supposed to be going to west loop…. He was just kidding, making sure we were awake…..having a good laugh. Happy people.
However, it rained while we were in the concert making things a bit slippery. Driving home late at about 11.30 we were overtaken by a few speeding cars weaving in an out of traffic already traveling at over 60 mph in wet conditions. Rob and I commented that they must have been going at least 70. We drove past some thick black smoke on the side road under the freeway. I heard this morning that one of the speeding cars had flipped off the freeway onto the side-road and burst into flames. A young driver was killed and his passenger is critical. So sad.
Last blog I wrote that we were going for our Texas Drivers license. We have done the paper work and are approved but have to do the actual driving test next week. Let’s hope its fine. It is a driving environment that really makes me realize more than ever that focus and caution are so important.
We are off to Dallas and Fort Worth this weekend.
Thanks for the feedback. I am looking forward to catching up with a few of you in Australia in April.