Since 1925, Southern Arizonans have enjoyed the annual La Fiesta de Vaqueros aka: the Tucson Rodeo. This is a very successful event and well attended. The competitors are professionals and put on a great show. The Rodeo is kid-friendly and highly recommended.
For their ride to qualify, a bull rider must stay on his bull for a minimum of eight seconds, which must seem like an eternity. These 2000 pound monsters are powerful and agile and easily toss full-grown men high into the air. I thought this cowboy's dismount was particularly artful.
Rodeo clowns are funny, but they serve a very serious purpose, which is to keep the bull from goring and trampling the rider it just threw to the ground. Rodeo clowns are kinda like matadors, only without the sword. Unlike the utterly cruel sport of bullfighting, rodeo bulls often win.
I titled this "Horned Death". Here in the pen behind the grandstands, this 2000 pounds of hostility awaits his turn in the arena. His strategy: No Quarter! Throw the cowboy off, then stomp him into the dust.
Crash here is the lead clown. Unlike the old days, Crash is wired and keeps up a steady banter with the announcer. And unlike the rodeos of old, sponsors' logos are slapped on everything, whether it moves or not. It's the commercialization of what used be a third-tier sport that now enables the rodeo cowboys to fly from one town to the next and compete in as many as 100 rodeos a year. The winners earn serious money, but too often pay a terrible price in bodily damage.
This is team roping. One cowboy lassos the head of the calf, then his partner throws a loop to snag its back leg. Their horses are highly trained and leave no slack in the rope so that the calf is held almost motionless until the cowboys let it loose.
While the cowboys are talented professionals, there's little in the world of sports as magnificent as a working quarter horse. Fast, powerful, and all business.
Steer wrestling is a straight-forward sport. The cowboy jumps off his horse doing 30mph onto the neck of a fast-moving calf, which he then takes by the horns and wrestles to the ground. Fastest time wins.
Going down. On the day I was here, the fastest time was a lightening fast 4.3 seconds. it was over almost before the cheering began.
This doesn't seem like the kind of thing that real cowboys would actually do out on the range, Which makes me wonder how steer wrestling became a sport.
There's no mystery as to how bronc riding became a sport. This is the way that our cowboys taught wild mustangs who's boss. Although from the looks of it here, the issue remains in question.
One might question the wisdom of trying to ride one of these, but we should never question the sheer athleticism of bucking broncos.
Saddle Bronc Riding at the Tucson Rodeo 2013
A bronc rider's classic pose.
On this day, the cowgirls were running the course in 17 to 18 seconds. There's no a Ferrari built that could beat them at this game.
Having turned the third barrel, she charges to the finish line, a portrait of grace, power, speed, and the will to win.
This team of horse and rider was a beautiful thing to behold.
You go, girl.