As a newcomer to Wyoming from the East Coast, it’s been kind of eye-opeing to see just how real and ubiquitous rodeo life is in Wyoming, or “rodeoin’” as they say. I thought it was just something a few cowboys still did for tourists, but boy was I wrong. It seems to be just what ranch kids do for fun and sport, in place of local organized sports like soccer and little league that kids do back East. I’m sure they do all that out here too, but rodeoing seems to be more common and the activity in which kids can most distinguish themselves, and it’s one of this culture’s way of instilling values and developing character. Perhaps it’s the Western way of “keeping kids off the streets and out of trouble”. It’s not just kids who rodeo of course, but it’s pretty safe to say that most older competing rodeo folks grew up in it since youth. All them boots, buckles, and cowboy hats aren’t just a look. They’re real and practical things out here. Pointy boots slide into stirrups well, a good wide brimmed hat will keep the sun off your back while doing ranch work, and the buckles are the trophies you win at the rodeo, big and shiny, to be displayed with pride.
When I first moved here I was excited to see that Sundance has it’s own rodeo ring in the fairgrounds. I thought this was mostly a tourist feature, an attraction. But it’s more akin to a highschool football field, or a regional park back East full of baseball and soccer fields to host all the community teams and games. The rodeo ring is more of a practical thing than the tourist attraction I thought it was. It’s just where all the local teams compete, and most towns seem to have one. That’s how ubiquitous rodeo is out here. It’s boys and girls, men and women. Rodeo life is a real, integrated, part of Wyoming life, not just some niche, nostalgic, tourist attraction that I thought it was. Hats off to you Wyoming! You got a good thing going out here, and I hope all the political refugees coming out from the East Coast, like myself I must confess, don’t spoil it all. Hee haw!