Lost Dutchman Days Rodeo

We attended the Lost Dutchman Days rodeo yesterday at the BLM Rodeo Grounds in Apache Junction.

The rodeo is the main attraction on the grounds. There is live music all day. There are food vendors, and tents featuring fine crafts, tee shirts, leather goods, equestrian supplies, and of course beer tents. At four dollars a can, they are not price gouging.

The rodeo events begin on Friday and run through Sunday.  Lost Dutchman Days kicks off in full force early Saturday morning with the Lost Dutchman parade.  The parade is over two hours long, bigger than our annual Christmas parade.

After the parade Liz and I hit Captains to begin our day drinking. Bloody Marys to assist in recovery from a late Friday night, and biscuits and gravy to soak up the alcohol… it was a pleasant way to begin our day.

The weather cooperated for once this year. Last year, it was chilly, snow capping Four Peaks. One year it drizzled rain all day.  This year the temps were in the 80’s.

An uninformed friend back east mentioned that rodeo’s were racist, misogynist events. She has never attended a rodeo.  The saddle bronc event was dominated by Native Americans and Latinos. The bareback bronc event, also. Women participate in the barrel racing event and calf roping.  Latinos are at the top of the heap in bull riding. If anything, the rodeo is the most inclusive sport of all.

PETA members decry the abuse of animals. However, the animals are treated better than the cowboys. In bull riding, the bulls are scored and win prizes.  A winning bull is worth a lot, and everything possible is done to ensure the bulls are healthy.

The Lost Dutchman Days rodeo is a GCPRA sanction event.  The GCPRA stands for the Grand Canyon Professional Rodeo Association.  It is the largest rodeo association in Arizona, and brings with it the potential to compete in the national rodeo associations.

There were no injuries to the cowboys this year.  The sport is the most dangerous of sports, injuries being possible with every ride. Some cowboys wear helmets and padded vests, although it has not been proven that this safety gear provides much protection. Head injuries in bull riding are rare, getting kicked in the chest being the cause of the most catastrophic injuries. Helmets and padded vests are completely voluntary. Cowboys ride to compete in a traditional contest – an 180 pound man versus a 1500 pound bull. For the cowboy, it is a personal test of wills. As far as I know, only the PBRA (Professional Bull Riders Association) mandates helmets for all but seasoned riders age 28 or older.

Which brings us to the rodeo clowns – these professionals are not clowning around. The duty of the rodeo clown is to distract the bull after the rider dismounts or is forcefully dismounted by the bull. The clown has to get in between a pissed off bull and a downed rider.

Seasoned bulls understand their job is to throw the rider. What they do not understand is that after the rider is dismounted, their job is done. They are quick to exact revenge and will attack the rider. This is where the clown comes in, moving next to an angry bull and luring him away from a downed cowboy.

The clown will wear silly clothing such as pink socks.  Don’t even think of calling a clown a sissy. These men are as athletic as any linebacker. They have to be nimble and fast in order to survive. Nimble, quick, and have balls of steel.

No sane person will willingly stand behind a bucking bronco or angry bull.  The clowns get little recognition, but are as important to the event as the cowboys are.

In Saturday’s events, only a few cowboys managed to ride for a full eight seconds.

I apologize that my photographs are not professional quality. My Canon EOS Rebel T5 is an entry level DSLR. I cannot afford $1200 for a quality telephoto lens… so I make due with what I have. But it beats takings pics with my cellphone.

Hopefully my photos give one some sort of sense of the danger and intensity of the sport; a sport that originated with Mexican and Argentinian Vaqueros. The American rodeo owes its beginnings to a black cowboy, Bill Pickett. So much for being a redneck thing…

Pickett began his career by jumping off of a galloping horse onto the back of a running bull, and wrestling it to the ground, biting its lip as he brought it down. If that ain’t cowboy, I’ll kiss your ass.

We didn’t have any biting of bull lips yesterday, but the cowboys put on a great show. All in all, the bulls won. Losing to a 1200 pound bull is nothing to be ashamed of, and all of the cowboys walked off the arena with their heads held high. That’s sportsmanship.

After the rodeo we walked around the festival. We listened to live music, and none of the bands we heard were second rate.

I bought $25 worth of jerky. My dog ate half of my habenero jerky. She is going to have one sorry ass tomorrow!

Every year the festival improves. If you are going to visit Apache Junction, it is best to come during the Lost Dutchman Days. This weekend encompasses everything that enticed us to move here.

Today I am relaxing on my patio, posting pics, editing my blog, sipping a local IPA and indulging in a cigar. Short sleeve shirt and sandals, the weather is phenomenal. The Superstition Mountains are crisp and clear to the east. The sky is blue. It is good to be alive.

Tomorrow I start my third week at a new job. Things are going well. I am glad my job is not riding bulls. I faced that challenge with my marriage!

Next week I am visiting  local distillery for a bourbon tasting. That is my Christmas present from Liz. Pretty soon the local events will cease as the hot weather moves in, and we locals will be left to our own devices. No more Minnesota tags on our roads, and life will slow down to the Apache Junction pace. We will take life slow, as it should be.



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