Friday, January 20, 2012

Rodeo, the Library Way

How much does rodeo have to do with the library? A lot, especially here at Tarleton and at other colleges too. A walk through the library stacks to GV1834.5 .M35 2004 will put the book College Rodeo: from Show to Sport into your hands. Rodeo has been a long-standing tradition for Tarleton since 1947. Tarleton has won six national championships and 19 individual national championships.

Fort Worth also has a long-standing tradition of rodeo. This year’s Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo (FWSSR) opened in January for the 116th time. One January day about five years ago, I was driving through downtown Fort Worth when I came up behind two riders on horses merrily trotting along on Main Street. I was taken back to my childhood when my family attended the rodeo every year.

My most favorite memory was standing on the rail as the celebrity performer circled the stadium floor riding a horse shaking hands with all the kids. I remember that Ken Curtis who played “Festus” from the popular, long-running TV show, Gunsmoke shook my hand as I teetered on the rail.

In case you are too young to remember Gunsmoke you can discover more by checking out this book: Gunsmoke: a Complete History and Analysis of the Legendary Broadcast Series with a Comprehensive Episode-by-Episode Guide to Both the Radio and Television Programs by SuzAnne Barabas.

I loved the flare of the grand entrance at the beginning of the rodeo. Riders with brilliantly colored shirts and sparkling belt buckles paraded in serpentine fashion across the floor of Will Rogers Coliseum displaying flags to show our state and national pride. Hundreds of riders decked out in the fanciest clothes riding well-groomed, show horses paraded by.

The events of the rodeo: barrel races and bull-riding fascinated me. Cowgirls rode wildly fast around barrels with their horses throwing clods of dirt onto the audience. The crowds hollered loudly cheering them on. Enjoy discovering more about cowgirls by opening up Tarleton’s electronic book, Rodeo Queens: On the Circuit with America’s Cowgirls by Joan Burbick.

Bull-riding was saved as the final event. I watched through my fingers a rider climbed aboard an almost 3,000 pound bull who was knocking against the board of the pen ready to be released from the belt that was tightened around its middle. The rider stayed on for only seconds, but it seemed an eternity to me as I watch him hang on to the undulating mass of hide, horns, and fury. Watch for yourself by checking out the video, Awesome Bullrides available in the library.

The brave rodeo clown distracted the bull by putting himself in between the dismounting cowboy and the bull. I recall watching the bull lower his head to charge the clown who narrowly escaped those horns by running for the barrel and slipping inside milliseconds before the bull was there. Even now as I think of these events, my heart beats just a little faster, and I find myself feeling the fear that I had of the clown not making it into the barrel in time.

You can read your way through the history of rodeo clowns by checking out the library’s electronic copy of Fearless Funnymen: the History of the Rodeo Clown by Gail Woerner.

My childhood days of rodeo nights usually ended with my Dad carrying me out while I looked back over his shoulder into the stadium still filled with dust floating in the air and dirt divoted by hundreds of hooves traversing the surface throughout the evening. I’m looking forward to once again making more nostalgic memories as I visit the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo this season. Take your own walk down memory lane through checking out the library’s book, Stock Photographs: The Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo by Garry Winogrand.

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