We went to the Fort Worth Rodeo last night. It’s supposedly the oldest indoor rodeo in the world, going on its 116th year. We used to go all the time when I was young. When we moved back to Fort Worth we took the kids, but had gotten out of the habit, partly due to school and sports schedules. It must have been about ten years since we went.

It was a lot of fun. It’s a trimmed – down rodeo. No horse shows, one trick riding act, one clown act, and everything else straight rodeo events. The grand entry is still thrills me, although it seems a little diminished. Here’s a picture I found from 1970:
And here’s a more recent picture:
Used to be all these riding clubs from around the city would fill out the grand entry – now there just aren’t that many riders.

But the Rodeo made me a little sad as well. My Daddy loved the Rodeo. When I was young, we went every year, multiple times. He would take the family, and he would buy blocks of tickets and invite the farmers he bought grain from and he would be the big-shot host, treating them to the Rodeo. Some years I would go to the Rodeo those nights, and some nights I would go and stay in the exhibits and midway carnival while he was at the Rodeo. I’m not sure why he never got a box that he could have passed down to me – probably not “Fort Worth Society” enough. As his eyesight faded, he still watched (listened?) to bull riding on TV. I think he and Mama got to go to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas once – if not, I want to believe that he did.

So as we watched the bucking, roping, bulls and clowns, I couldn’t help but think of him and how much I miss him at times. My son seemed to really enjoy it, and that makes me wonder and hope I’m passing down memories and traditions the way they were passed down to me. There’s a sweetness to the Rodeo – cowboys doing what they love for what in this day and age are pretty small amounts of prize money, and in the blink of an eye they are lying on the ground or the rope misses, and their hope of a paycheck this week is over. Not like an NBA player who can go 1-for-20 and still make a few hundred thousand dollars a game. The blatant, open patriotism of the announcer, the kitschy stuff sold in the exhibit hall, the kids primping their 2000-pound steers or their fat bunnies for showing.

Maybe next year I’ll go twice.

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