HOPE and CHANGE on the Rodeo Circuit

We were in Miles City, Montana, last weekend for the world famous Bucking Horse Sale. It is an old fashioned rodeo event that has been held in Miles City for over fifty years. The professional rodeo companies come to buy their stock, and friends and neighbors come to get re-acquainted after another harsh Eastern Montana winter.

For two days local cowboys, aspiring professional riders, and college students with more booze than brains try to stay astride twelve hundred pounds of leaping, twisting, writhing, “kick your head in” bucking broncos. For most, it is the most dangerous and exhilarating eight seconds these young men will ever experience. Most fail, a few succeed, but in the end everyone picks themselves up, smacks the dust off of their chaps, jams their ten gallon hat back on their head and grins that they made it another time.

The Bucking Horse Sale is a throw back to the old time rodeos that accompanied branding and horse breaking each spring. But it looks like another great tradition is about to reach its end through political correctness.

A new group, smarter, more refined, more caring, (mostly from Portland) has taken over management of the Bucking Horse Sale and some big things are in store. The new committee announced that they intended to implement CHANGE and restore HOPE in the rodeo community. They have turned their focus first to the professional matched bronc riding that occurs on Sunday, the final day of the three day event

The committee noted that there was a growing gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” among the cowboys. Out of twenty riders only three received any compensation. Previously, the top rider received fifty percent of the $10,000 purse, the second received thirty percent and the third place received twenty percent and the remainder got nothing. Now all twenty of the riders will receive five percent of the purse or five hundred dollars. The committee immediately recognized that $500 was an insufficient amount and raised the “minimum bucking wage” to $2500 by imposing an additional twenty dollar per bale tax on the feed for the horses.

The committee also expressed concern about the “self-esteem” of the cowboys, particularly those who were bucked off during the event. The committee first concluded that the difference in performance might be due to the fact that each cowboy rode a different horse. They thought by requiring each cowboy to ride the same horse it might resolve the problem but the more astute amongst them indicated that those riding late in the contest would have an advantage as the horse tired through successive riders. They concluded the only appropriate solution was to have all twenty cowboys ride the same horse simultaneously. The group also noted the significant savings that would occur from reducing the number of horses required from twenty to one. That solution gained almost unanimous approval until a representative of PETA stepped up and decried the cruelty imposed on that single horse.

When the single horse solution failed, the committee reasoned that because the competition involves evaluating the quality of the horse and the performance of the horseman, it was “judgmental” and, therefore, demeaning to those who tried hard but did not measure up. The committee has chosen to eliminate judging and will award one hundred points to each rider regardless of skill or success thus ensuring restoration of the cowboys’ self-esteem and the goal of absolute equality.

The committee also noted that this is a male dominated event and, therefore, inherently sexist. They mandated that henceforth there be ten men and ten women in each event and that the horses used be similarly diverse. If ten women cannot be found to ride, then there must be a comparable reduction in the number of male riders. If there are an insufficient number of male or female horses, publicly funded sex change operations will be available.

One of the members of the committee is an ardent environmentalist and noted that the horses routinely evacuated in the arena thus raising the danger that run off from the arena or ground water beneath the arena could reach dangerous pollution levels if the event continued unabated for the next twenty thousand years, particularly with an intervening thousand year flood. The environmentalist noted that the extraordinary physical exertion of the horses made it more likely that horses would evacuate. Shocked at the possibility and concerned that it would contribute to greenhouse gases as well as global warming, the committee mandated that all horses would wear cloth diapers and be led around the arena at a slow pace.

Having resolved the issues of minimum bucking wages, cowboy self-esteem, diversity, and global warming, the committee turned its attention to the patrons of the rodeo event. They noted that there were a large number of smokers amongst the attendees. In order to discourage smoking, they decided to triple the tax on cigarettes and to devote the money to the care of the livestock who were suffering from second hand smoke. But one of the members of the committee (a particularly wan specimen from Portland’s West Hills) was allergic to smoke so they decided to ban smoking and triple the price of tickets to replace the lost revenue from the increased cigarette tax.

The committee noted that the public sat in elevated stands and that they were inaccessible to the handicapped. The stands have now been torn down and replaced with a large, flat concrete pad that is fully accessible but from which viewing is difficult. A “diamond vision” elevated screen has been placed over the arena to ensure that everyone has an equal view of the events.

Finally, the committee noted that many of the attendees were overweight and were seen to be ingesting significant quantities of beer, hot dogs, hamburgers and soft drinks. The committee has now required each vendor to post a notice as to the calories, fat, trans fat, sugar, salt and preservatives contained in each item and that there be an equal number of vendors selling salads, tofurkey burgers, and organic fruit. A forty percent surtax was placed on beer, hamburgers and hot dogs to subsidize the other vendors. For those already overweight, the committee has mandated handicap parking, electric carts and non-judgmental counseling.

HOPE has been restored to the rodeo community through CHANGE. And what is the response from the former rodeo fans? Well, as one old-timer (me) put it, “Go Buck Yourself.”