On Friday night, I got two tickets for Mom to accompany me to the 105th National Western Stock Show — an annual event situated under the I-70 interstate that cuts across north Denver. And what was I, a Black man, doing at the rodeo?
Foremost, I was reacquainting myself with Colorado. But I was shocked to find out that that this was Mom’s first time ever at the Stock Show. She never attended as a kid in Akron. Nor while in college at Boulder. Or as a young woman/mother/wife in the 26 years between 1968 and 1984. Nor come once in the ten years she’s been back in Colorado.
As for me, I also wanted to go because a) I had never been to the Stock Show, b) it was some quality time with Mom before she departs next week, and c) it is a highlight every January. I learned that Mom was jazzed to go considering that she i) wanted to arrive an hour early, and ii) put on her finest cowgirl boots and her favorite scully, from Denver-based Rockmount Ranch Wear.
Once we got there, Mom was on the prowl for some grilled bison meat. No such luck. We settled for 1/4 lb sausages — mom having bratwurst, I opted for the polish smoked — that were on the far side of the Education Barn.
The rodeo began with bareback riding. It featured cowboys with names such as Buck Lunak (from Cut Bank, Montana), Tanner Aus (from Granite Falls, Minnesota) and Tim Shirley (from Bailey, Colorado). Mr. Shirley was riding a horse named Lion Eyes. or is it Lionize? I wondered. Turned out that that buckskin’s name is spelled Lyin Eyes.
The second event was steer wrestling. Though there were hundreds of people of color — Latin@s and Blacks — in the crowds milling about and in the stands, there was only one Black cowboy in the ring — #958, Darrell Petry from Beaumont TX. Petry was the first of the steer wrestlers to be successful. As the announcer said, “that veteran cowboy” bundled it up in a wee 4.1 seconds. Seconds seems significantly longer in the 4 or 8 seconds that one person is grappling with 800 pounds of power and flesh.
The third event for the night offered the most laughs: mutton busting. Mutton busting is 6- and 8-year old boys and girls gripping onto the backs of full-grown sheep. So, the mutton has more to do with the little kids riding on the back, protected with their hockey helmets.
The rest of the evening entailed bronc riding, tie down roping, the barrel race and ended with the bull riding. The announcer and clown kept the mood light-hearted, and the sound guy looped rock, motown, metal and hiphop. Even a little bit of Tupac’s ‘California Love’ when a Cali cowboy was in the gate.
The National Western is now over. I’ve got my focus and calendar ready for the Granby Rodeo, that runs from Memorial Day until July 4th.