Friday, 18 May 2012

Houston Rodeo

Recently back home in the UK after spending 2 months, mainly in Texas, with family who have reclocated there. Leaving Britain in early March and returning in early May I've found little difference in the temperatures - in fact it was colder in May on arrival than it was on departure in March. And temperatures rapidly rose in Houston after storms and a cold front when we arrived.

Opening parade in the main arena
The first major event we went to soon after arrival was a visit to the Houston Rodeo. I'd no idea what to expect apart from seeing bucking broncos, similar to what I'd only seen before on film or TV. The real thing was very exciting and spectacular, interesting and BIG!! The stadium was enormous, the agricultural show was very interesting and I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing in the main events - very skilled cowboys and expert animal handling. The bareback bull riding was especially nail-biting, and most exciting of all were the chuck waggon races around the arena - a bit like watching chariot-racing but probably more sedate, although the horse-drawn waggons are reputed to get up to speeds of 35 mph.

In an outside area there was the Mutton Bustin' event to watch. Children as young as 6 years old - wearing no "health and safety" fixated apparatus - could try their luck at riding the length of a long, wide pen hanging on to a sheep (the Mutton). If they fell off, the sheep made a relieved getaway to the end of the pen, riderless. If they hung on to the end of the ride they got a large round of applause from the crowd. The children all seemed none the worse for the experience (I can't speak for the sheep). As they rode they all hung on to the sheep's thick woolly coat, always getting slung over to one side of the sheep as it pelted along so they were hanging on for dear life fairly close to the ground. If they fell off, they didn't have far to go.

The exhibition area had plenty of things for sale - stetsons of all kinds, cowboy boots and gear and novel wooden plaques for all tastes. There was also a shoeshine stand where those wearing cowboy boots could have them cleaned and polished.

In the agricultural areas there were a lot of new-borns - calves, lambs, piglets - and there was even a heated glass showcase where new and exhausted-looking chicks were hatching from eggs. They were emerging slowly and it took a lot more effort than I'd imagined for them to peck and push their way out of their protective egg shell.

In order to enter into the spirit of things, we'd been out to get ourselves stetsons the day before, so we could wear them to the rodeo. 

It was a whoe new experience as wearing a stetson in the UK could easily attract a fair bit of attention, but in way. Nearly everyone wears one, especially at special events like the Houston Rodeo.

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