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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

EXCITEMENT + DANGER = DAVIE, FLORIDA PRO RODEO

Davie Pro Rodeo, FloridaGotta love a rodeo!  This year, we were lucky enough to get to the Davie Pro Rodeo, part of the Professional Rodeo Circuit that arrives in Davie, Florida at the Bergeron Rodeo Grounds four times a year.

Held in a covered rodeo arena, this is an exciting and exhilarating event—another sport where action is counted in seconds and winners by milliseconds.

The previous night had a sell-out crowd, so we arrived early and had the opportunity to meet some very friendly people on line and to explore the grounds and the concessions.  There was plenty of food, the usual fair fare of sausage and peppers, corn dogs, fries, cotton candy, ice cream, and a host of other tempting treats.  Beer by Budweiser.  Spirits too.  We ended up drinking Amber Bock.  Hot, sultry evening and beer is a great combo.

Plenty of cowboy and cowgirl gear for sale—from the real thing to adorable stuff for kids.  This is horse country.  It was smile-making to see the little girls in pink hats and cowgirl diamond-patterned boots with those blinking-as-you-walk LED lights.  The kids twinkled as they pranced along the edge of the arena. 

Very good country/western music before the show, so coming early was a really great idea.  Total fair atmosphere, and a kind of electricity as we waited for the hard-hitting events.

That fair atmosphere fades only slightly once the rodeo begins.  This is serious stuff. A dangerous sport.  And it happens quickly.  The chute opens, the event occurs in seconds, the cowboy is rescued; the arena is cleared; another chute opens.  This is definitely not baseball.  If you haven’t gotten your food, beer, cowboy attire and souvenirs by the time the rodeo begins, you’re going to miss some pretty exciting action.

Davie Pro Rodeo, Florida

The arena is a big oblong with chutes on either end.  A squad of security guards stands in intervals along an orange railing lined with Danger signs warning spectators to keep off the rails.  Security guards enforce that rule, and for good reasons which I learned later.

Davie Pro Rodeo, Florida

More than once during the rodeo, men working the arena leapt up those rails for safety—even the ringmaster at one point.  These are big and dangerous animals on the loose in there. 

Before the rodeo officially begins, cowgirls gallop into the arena, some holding American flags that flutter as their horses circle around the ring.  The cowgirls perform a synchronized riding dance around the ring, passing one another and criss-crossing each other and urging their horses on at full tilt.  Pretty exciting and very fast.  Flags waving in the breeze.  Costumes sparkling.  They are joined by cowboys, but the movements do not slow as the horses perform their complex ballet.

Davie Pro Rodeo, Florida

Davie Pro Rodeo, Florida

The ringmaster offers a prayer, primarily for the safety of the competitors, our military and for all those who serve their communities. A little nine year old girl in full cowgirl regalia belts out the Star Spangled Banner truer than many professionals I’ve heard.  Everyone stands, silent, many with hands over their hearts, every cowboy/girl hat removed, and frankly it is a pleasure to see no one keeping his/her seat or chatting disrespectfully.  Life is good.

Davie Pro Rodeo, Florida

But the serious mood does not last long!  In case you’re wondering if the crowd remains silent, they do not.  They cannot because danger rides in on the opening event.  Bull riding.  This is an incredible event.  Those bulls are humongous!! 

Just watching the cowboys getting ready in the chutes is exciting.  The man gently lowers himself on to the broad, muscular back of the bull.  If he is not seated properly, he rises and lowers himself again.  He fixes his hat (although it may not stay on long), makes sure his gloves are fitted properly, and he winds the thick rope around his hand.  The crowd’s anticipation is almost palpable. 

Davie Pro Rodeo, Florida
All these men are making sure that the cowboy is really set to go--
seated correctly, holding securely
Men are hanging over the sides of the chute making sure everything is ready.  Men are in the arena ready to pull open the iron door of the chute, and when they do, the behemoth slams out and the men jump up on the railings.

The bull lunges out of the chute, leaping up in the air, all four feet off the ground.  Despite his size, that muscled monster is adroit, throwing that cowboy, who is hanging on to that thick rope, around like a pesky fly.  We can see the cowboy’s head snapping back and forth.  If the cowboy stays on long enough, the bull twists his body and weight.  He makes mechanical bulls look tame.  One way or the other it is over very quickly, and the cowboy is off in a not so graceful hard landing in the dirt.  He bounces back up quickly because that bull, his head menacingly lowered, goes right for him.  Cowboys need to scurry quickly and nimbly!  Two wranglers quickly ride to cut off the bull’s path, and the cowboy swings up behind one and is taken to safety while the other gets the bull to enter another chute.  When the cowboy jumps off the back of the horse, he retrieves his hat and slaps it against his body, raising a dirty cloud.   Usually he’s shaking his head.

Davie Pro Rodeo, Florida
The bull lunges forward, and the men in the arena
leap for safety
Davie Pro Rodeo, Florida
Wouldn't guess this animal could act like a kangaroo!
Davie Pro Rodeo, Florida
Must be a bull's version of Twist & Shout
Most of the cowboys wear cowboy hats, but some of the contestants wear crash helmets.  They can take some mighty dangerous falls.
Davie Pro Rodeo, Florida
Look at the helmet this bull rider is wearing.
He also has a protective vest.
This is not a sport for the faint-at-heart.
If the cowboy lasts on board that monster for the requisite number of seconds, the two riders come alongside, and the cowboy slips behind one and is taken to safety. 

Sometimes that bull is an angry, moving mountain of muscle and not amenable to being coaxed into the exit chute, or he might really get dangerously close to the cowboy.  It’s then that the rodeo clowns come to the rescue.  Those guys move like greased lightning, and we see bulls chase them right up and over the railings—you remember with the signs warning against climbing! 

Davie Pro Rodeo, Florida
A helmet and a protective vest, but it's the rodeo clown who is the
real savior.  And look at the guy with the brace on the knee.
Wonder what the story is there.
It’s a tough way to make a living.  And it must be a “late-bloomer” sport as four of the top bull riders in the entire country’s rodeo circuit are in their 40’s.  What happened to the rest of them????

Each of the events has its own kind of excitement, but always, always, the event is fast.  Single and double rider calf roping takes place in under six seconds.  What is amazing is the way the horse and cowboy work together to keep the rope taut.  The horse is an equal part of the team whether it’s a one man event or a two-cowboy event.

Davie Pro Rodeo, Florida
Once lassoed, the cowboy jumps down while the horse keeps
a taut rope, and the cowboy ties the calf's legs together.
Imagine doing this all day to brand the new calves in the herd.
Davie Pro Rodeo, Florida
In the 2-man, one cowboy lassos, and the other ties.  If the first man
misses, the game is over for them.
Bucking broncos---just a few seconds.  Those horses leave the ground and leap to incredible heights, backs bowed and cowboys flapping like paper cut-out dolls.  Tremendous strength and over 1,000 pounds of propelling muscle beneath each leap.  Add the twisting, and you can see how skillful these cowboys are. 

Davie Pro Rodeo, Florida

Davie Pro Rodeo, Florida

Davie Pro Rodeo, Florida
The your usual find for a trail ride, huh?
The cowgirls competing in barrel racing show just how communication between horse and rider is tantamount.  Look at the lean in that horse as he rounds the barrel.  They come out of the chute full speed, round the barrels in a pattern, and race back to the exit chute. Every one of the competitors finishes the course in less than 15 seconds.  It’s an event made of superior horsewomanship and unbridled fearlessness and trust. 

Davie Pro Rodeo, Florida

If you are anywhere near Davie, Florida, check out the schedule to see if the rodeo is coming to town.  Get there early and enjoy the leisure before the events because once it starts, things happen very quickly!!!
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