The parking lot was full of trucks at the Goshen County Fairgrounds where the crowds came out in droves to witness cowboys ride bucking broncs and bulls at the first rodeo in the area for 15 years. We pulled in just as the first bull riders were being tossed into the thick soupy mud. Only a handful stayed on for the requisite 8 seconds to earn a spot in the finals. Our friend drew a mean bull making his debut. He had an unlucky ride, being tossed off in the first breath, falling into the thick mud. Most of the cowboys wear traditional cowboy hats while the smart few wear a hockey helmut complete with face guard to prevent a kicking bull or bronc from injuring their head and face. The sport is dangerous, with some cowboys slow to stand after a hard fall. Most of the cowboys walk with a stilted stride due to numerous injuries to various parts of their bodies. One unusually short cowboy in his 50’s had very few teeth and could not stand upright. He was a pro who did make it to the final round. Another seasoned pro walked away with the cash prize and an invitiation to ride in the finals next Spring.
Behind the loading shoots are temporary pens filled with a mixture of bulls and horses. Each cowboy draws a number to find out which beast they must ride. Some of the buckers are famous, while others are wild cards. The bull riders want a good buck for top scores. They wear 4 inch long spurs to encourage the bull to leap higher and faster. The rules state that one arm must remain in the air and cannot slap the bull. The riding style is different for each section; The bull riders want to stay upright, a small upper torso is an advantage to staying in balance, while the bareback bronc riders lay back on their backs and flop around like a rag doll. It is a sight to be seen and one wonders what motivates these cowboys to travel around the country to have the opportunity to be bucked wildly for 8 seconds. The cowboys seem to be friendly toward one another, encouraging each other to ride their best. One young man was seen praying to the bulls for a good ride. Whispers among the fans reminded each contestant about the fatality that happened last summer. This is definitely an adrenaline sport for thrill seeking cowboys.