They call it ‘Rodeo’
Many years ago, a man I knew told me that the rodeo was coming to town. In the course of the conversation, he expressed surprise that a bull would writhe because of a measly man astride his back. He assumed that a bull weighing 1,500 pounds would barely notice a man who weighed a tenth that.I offered to fasten a strap across my friend’s belly, swat him on the fanny and jump on his back, just to see if it would startle him, too.He never took me up on the offer.Thankfully.As long as there have been horses and riders, there have been competitions, and in “Chasing the Rodeo” by W.K. Stratton (c.2005, Harcourt), you’ll read the true story of a man who goes in search of cowboys and broken dreams.It’s possible that the rodeo was in Kip Stratton’s blood before he was even born. Stratton’s mother was a rodeo fan from the time she was a girl. Stratton’s father was a rodeo man, too, but he left before Stratton was born. Although he says he has a Dad, Stratton always wondered what became of his birth father, a man he came to call Cowboy Don.Growing up in Oklahoma, Stratton says that he loved the rodeo more than almost anything but as a teenager, he let his interest fade. Years later, when he was assigned to cover a rodeo for a local newspaper, he re-discovered the excitement and the cowboy camaraderie, and he renewed his search for Cowboy Don.Stratton, who lives in Austin, Texas, began to follow some of rodeo’s biggest stars. Along the way, he writes about the origins of the sport as he visits what could be the World’s Oldest Rodeo (Prescott, Arizona says it holds the title; Pecos, Texas claims it, too, but Stratton says may both be technically wrong). He goes to Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he attends Cowboy Church. Stratton travels to Oklahoma for Bullnanza; to Oregon for the Pendleton Round-Up; to Texas for a small-town rodeo; and to Las Vegas to watch pros pit their skills against bulls for Big Money. Along the way, Stratton writes about famous cowboys and cowgirls, African American and Native American bullriders, and the father he searches for, and finds.Rare is the child who didn’t dream of being a cowboy or cowgirl at some time in his or her life, and author Stratton is no exception. From the top of his Resistol to the bottom of his Luccheses, Stratton obviously loves the rodeo, and it shows. In the final pages of his book, Stratton talks about how competing has changed, and how corporations are taking over the sport. You get the impression that those changes break his heart more than a little bit.If you love the sound of the bell, the thud of hooves, and the sight of a twisting ton-and-a-half bovine, round up a copy of this book. “Chasing the Rodeo” is a mighty fine book for any cowpoke. VT
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