For years, Mike and I have pulled on our boots and headed to the rodeo to hear our favorite country singers, to eat our weight in the world’s best bar-b-q, to watch cowboys ride bucking broncos and to see tiny cowgirls wrestle sheep.
Houston’s rodeo is the world’s biggest, and it is so delightfully Texan. The rodeo, with its all quirks and excess, is something out of time and step with the rest of this world. Farm kids from all over the state bring the pigs and chickens they’re raised the past year in hopes of winning a blue ribbon. Meanwhile,across the massive parking lot, tens of thousands of hungry Texans are feasting on rare brisket and pig ribs. There is no quinoa at the rodeo and very few veggies. There are deep-fried Oreos, Twinkies, and bacon. The lines for this quintessential rodeo food are very long. The average rodeoer’s diet is in direct opposition of all good sense and popular opinion.
As we walked around the rodeo with our kids, I could see how much of this was very different than what they’re used to. The Ag Hall features a few cows and pigs who will give birth any day now. Above their heads, large-screen TVs show a running loop of a cow birth. The TV is high-definition and the camera angles leave nothing to the imagination.
Also, the kids watched wide-eyed as the cowboys wrestled calves to the ground and were thrown from bucking broncos. They questioned what would happen to the cows who didn’t win blue ribbons and whether or not eating fried butter was such a good choice.
Even though the kids marveled at the rodeo’s eccentrics, they weren’t completely impressed. The girls thought it was cruel to ride scared sheep. When the boys realized what made the broncos buck (rope around their testicles) they were a little appalled.
As a native Texan, I guess I could’ve been disappointed my kids didn’t embrace every part of the rodeo. After all, rodeo pride in the Bayou City stretches from Montrose to the suburbs. Everyone loves the opulence and rugged independence of the rodeo.
But maybe that rugged independence is what defines our kids at Texans more than anything else. In the same way we Texans are good at listening to our own drummers, at speaking up for the odd, at doing the unpopular, so our my kids. Elisabeth cried at the thought of kids’ pets being slaughtered, our kids cheered for the bulls instead of the cowboys, and they didn’t even ask to taste Fried Oreos.
In the face of “everyone else is doing it” they chose what they liked and believed was right. Even though the crowd roared for the calves to be wrestled to the ground, our kids fought the crowd. In the group mentality of a crowded arena, they were independents.
And this, perhaps, makes them the best Texans of all.