We woke up and immediately noticed women in pink everywhere. Apparently, a huge (inter?)national Mary Kay makeup convention was going on. We were still laughing as we entered the worst Denny’s Sarah can imagine; it didn’t seem particularly bad to me, but certainly subpar. The food seemed sanitary enough, and you can ignore anything else.
This was our day at the rodeo. Since the beginning of the trip, this was on my short list of things we had to attend, and Texas seemed to be the perfect place. I had hoped to find one in a rural area; my idea of the perfect rodeo is a town fair-once in a season-big prizes rodeo in the middle of nowhere where people travel miles and miles a comin' in here, a wailin', a hollerin', [an’] a yellin' at the competitors. This rodeo would be just outside Dallas in an air conditioned stadium; we were curious but excited for the evening, but first we were off to the Sixth Floor Museum.
This museum memorializes John F. Kennedy and documents the chain of events that led to his death. It was extremely effective, appropriately located in the sixth floor of the former Texas Book Depository, the site from which Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly fired the fatal shots that killed our former president. The audio tours, visuals, and videos along the tour were incredible and his death was a great tragedy. For many living at this time, this must have been the most awful thing that could be imagined. We spent several hours checking everything out and quietly cursing Lee Oswald. I still haven’t decided if I was glad to see Oswald assassinated by a crafty nightclub operator, Jack Ruby. The last thing Lee ever heard was, "You killed the President, you rat!"
Next was a quick stop as what is billed as the “largest bronze statue in the world.” This was actually a series of individual statues that collectively were quite impressive. They were a cowboy and a series of bulls, all individually and masterfully crafted to create a memorable experience. We spent a good fifteen minutes checking this out, likely more than any individual nonmoving display anywhere else in the country.
We had time for one more sightseeing item before the rodeo. We headed off to Reunion Tower, dodging Mary Kay pink-suited women the whole way while walking over—and using tunnels to walk under—train tracks. After finding ourselves in a lobby of a nice hotel and asking around, we discovered that the Reunion Tower was, and had been, closed for a year and a half. Tom, who had previously worked for the Philadelphia branch of Where Magazine was particularly annoyed because the Dallas edition, besides being full of typos, (he was a copy editor) also had outdated information – which had led us here. We dodged more trains and Mary Kay representatives and jumped back in the car.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, the rodeo:
As I mentioned at the top of the post, we didn’t know what to expect. We got our tickets and headed in. We hurried to eat the all you can eat Bar-B-Que buffet to eat beef brisket and sausage before the festivities started. This was intended as further training for my seventy-two ounce steak eating challenge coming up in a few days. As it turned out, we had to pay an additional two bucks for the all you can eat wristband, and we were in a hurry to get seats anyway so we finished up and headed to the sating area, pausing to observe the national anthem and a stadium-wide prayer on the way.
This was not what I was expecting. I remember a rodeo from my youth and it was more about the competition than pure entertainment, this was an entirely new experience. A “rodeo clown” with a microphone made sure that there was not a moment of silence between events and tried his hand, somewhat successfully, at comedy. The competition area was covered in dirt. Music played a big role during lulls in the action. The lights were lowered and a couple fireworks suspended from cables exploded.
The rodeo had all of the main events that one would expect: calf roping, steer wrestling, and bronc and bull riding. In each case the individual performances were put on a big screen with a timer, the objective for the riding competitions being to ride as long as possible or, in the case of roping or wrestling, finish in as low a time as possible. In most cases, the competitors did not break a minimum time threshold to qualify to even be in the rankings for the riding competitions; they similarly were unable to correctly lasso calves or otherwise correctly complete whatever challenge was presented them. Ultimately; this confirmed my suspicions that any rodeo that “performed” several times a week was unlikely to attract top competitors. This was certainly more serious and competitive than a Medieval Times restaurant, but less serious than a championship rodeo.
There were also some interesting filler displays and competitions, including trick riding performed by cowgirls who could do flips on their horses or jump from and back to the saddle while riding. A competition that was slightly more serious was a timed competition where some women took turns dodging barrels on horseback and completing a short course as quickly as possible—essentially a speed riding and turning competition.
Sarah thought the kids’ competitions were cute. A few young children tried to hang on to the back of a mutton as long as they could (or at least longer than the their competitors) while the sheep ran around. How ridiculous. During half time about thirty kids lined up and tried to catch a young somthing-or-other animal. It looked like it was set up to be unlikely that they would catch it and hurt themselves. It was pretty funny.
Despite the low level competition and copious amounts of entertainment “filler,” just about everything was entertaining and I found myself excited to see what was next. The whole experience was about as expensive as a movie and much, much more entertaining.
Before we left, the loudspeaker announced that with proof of admission to the rodeo, we could get one dollar off tomorrow at the gun show. We held on to our tickets. The thunderstorm on the ride home was really cool, I think even the lightning is bigger in Texas.