Monday, February 26, 2007

Let's Rodeo

Do you know what time it is? It's Rodeo time here in Houston! Houston may be Space City the rest of the year, but for the 75th year, it is time for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. It's big. It's Texas. Lots of bar-b-que consumed at the cook off challenge held over the weekend. The rodeo and livestock show officially kicks off with lots of big name entertainment. Lots of fresh faced young people showing off their lovingly raised animals for auction. The proceeds of the livestock sale go to college scholarships for the exhibitors.

A trail ride from the San Antonio area to Houston is the traditional ritual, covered wagons and all, and it rolled into town Friday.

I've read some interesting articles about the traditions of the rodeo here, as I am not a native Texan. I learned of the international outreach of the rodeo. A special international committee arranges, but does not pay for, trips for those interested in experiencing all there is to offer. Two visitors highlighted were a father and son from Israel. They are being hosted by a man who grew up in South Africa before moving to Israel and meeting the visiting duo. He came to the U.S. in the '70's and is an estate planner in a Houston suburb now.

The father and son are ranchers, the son a third generation horseman. They are happily anticipating some shopping here for Western attire and horse supplies. The clothing attire is available in Israel but the horse supplies are shipped from the U.S., often from the Houston area. They enjoyed the parade Saturday, even in the light rain and were surprised by the big turnout in the weather. The father would clap his hands when a marching band passed by playing 'Deep in the Heart of Texas', the article said. He and the son had a picture taken in front of a group of wagons. "I am going to enlarge thee pictures," he said afterward. "And stick them to the stall walls of my stable back home" he told the Houston Chronicle.

Most impressive of the articles I read over the weekend, however, were the two I read on two different women, champion barrel racers. One article was in the Houston Chronicle coverage and one article was in the current issue of 'Texas Monthly' magazine. I was astonished that a 58 year old woman was still competing and winning championships in barrel racing. When I think of rodeo competitions, I confess, I think of cowboys and cowgirls in their twenties and thirties. Hats off to Mary Burger of Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, the 2006 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association's World Championship winner. Her horse's name is Rare Fred and she says he's "the smart side of dumb". He's rewarded with an apple when he does well. "He doesn't have to win, he just has to try."

Martha Josey says of her age, "I'd tell you, but I don't believe it myself." Her hometown is Marshall, Texas. That's up in the northeastern part of Texas. Her father was one of the first directors of the National Quarter Horse Association. She and her husband set up the first barrel racing school in the sixties. She says they've had over 80,000 students and their horses attend. She will be inducted into the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame with her husband, R.E. Josey, a calf-roping champion in April. She is already a member of the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.

Giddy up.