As recent empty-nesters, my wife and I are continuously looking for different ways to pass the time. Recently, it was a rodeo. Three hours of raucous entertainment and I’m a little smarter on the subject, have a new appreciation for my wife, and have a solution to our nation’s political despair.
The rodeo is a true slice of Americana. It opened with a prayer that had more people bowing their heads than a top-notch church preacher, followed by a sincere tribute to police officers and a remarkable rendition of the national anthem. Somehow, Tennessee whiskey played into this, but just go with it. When we told our son, a senior in college, that we were going to the rodeo, he simply asked, “Why?” Instead of a verbose explanation meant to calm his anxiety over our early onset dementia, I have changed my answer to simply, “Barrel racers.” More to follow on this.
Before the first rider atop a bucking bronco left the chute — while writing this I had to look chute up in the official Rodeo Dictionary, which seems to be lacking a few terms — I asked my wife how they trained the broncos to buck. “They strap down their junk,” she replied. It turns out this is a misconception, but overwhelmed by this game-changing information at the time, I questioned why anyone would climb onto a 1,000-pound horse in a state of discomfort, and I felt bad for the horse. I also wondered why my well-educated and typically proper wife just used the term “junk” in an actual sentence.
When the riders come out of the bucking chute, which is different from a roping chute, the objective is to stay on the bronco for eight seconds. Some are thrown off, some jump off, and some are retrieved by one of two calm-looking fellows straddling fine-looking horses. These unruffled souls known as pickup men also recover the still-bucking horse, unstrap its nether regions, and trot alongside until it calms down. At first concerned, I later observed the horses seemed happy in character.
The next event: bull riders.
Bull riders do two things. They climb aboard 2,000-pound beasts that kick with an indescribable furry. Many riders fall off before eight seconds. The bull riders also make the bronco riders appear to be about as hardened as a pharmacist working the drive-up window on a Saturday afternoon. One bull rider fell, got trampled on by the bull, then hobbled out of the arena, likely due to a crushed femur. I identified with his pain, because earlier in the week, a misplaced vacuum cleaner resulted in my breaking two toes, which is why I was the only one at the event wearing sneakers.
The barrel-racing event at this rodeo consisted of about eight women who, while on horses, shoot out of the alleyway at a high rate of speed and proceed to command their magnificent beasts around three barrels in about 14 seconds. The cowgirl next to me had grown up in the mountains. Having owned horses, she whooped and hollered throughout this event, and I imagined her out there in well-worn hat and boots with a sort of competitive twinkle in her eye. With cowgirl confidence, she wasn’t too embarrassed to be at a rodeo with the only guy wearing sneakers. But I wasn’t expecting her to use the word “junk” either, so perhaps she was, and isn’t letting on.
The team members who work the rodeo, function like a well-oiled machine. No matter what their part, each flawlessly performs a critical role. Whether a judge, the announcer, or a rodeo clown, they moved together in harmony. They ensured that all in the crowd enjoyed themselves, except perhaps the kid crying in the front row whose dad carried him out.
Safety of the riders was also impressive. This alert group of athletes ensured that the men and women who pursue risky passions do so with thoughtful precautions. Finally, the team showed a mutual respect for all of the animals.
So that leads us to a simple question that, if answered yes, qualifies someone to hold political office in this great republic. If they answer no, they can’t run. Also, if they are currently in office, they must be able to answer yes within six months or they are out. Here it goes — it is not complicated:
Have you ever worked or performed in a rodeo?
It’s that simple. There are some exceptions, like, you might not want a bull rider for president. One, however, would be fine for secretary of defense or ambassador to the United Nations. A pickup person would make for an ideal president. Think about it. Every day they save someone’s life and confidently take control of wild beasts, all while calmly riding horseback.
So, go to a rodeo and you’ll see what I mean. And, don’t forget to contact your senator about a new constitutional amendment called the Rodeo Qualifier.
Kurt S. Wiegers, an insurance marketing executive, lives in Des Moines, Iowa, with his wife, Julia.