Tuesday, March 28, 2017

my hat is in the ring

Well, not mine. But, the sombreros of several charros* are.

Apparently, there is no greater honor a fellow charro can show to praise his comrade's outstanding performance than to throw his hat into the arena. The equivalent of a rodeo standing ovation.

Tonight was rodeo night in San Patricio. Not one of your Las Vegas extravaganzas, mind you. This is a working cowboy rodeo. With just a soupçon of electric cowboy thrown in for flavor.

Darrel, Christy, and I are rodeo people. Of course, we are. They are from Bend, and rodeo was one of the year's cultural events at the Coos County fair when Darrel and I were growing up.

But this was a rodeo of a far different variety than we were accustomed to. Here, local ranches round up some of their best hands (and, I suspect, a few ringers) for a practical display of ranching skills. 

It is not a competition. It is an exhibition. And, to euthanize the elephant in the room, the horses and bulls are not treated as if they lived in a Regina sitting room.

They are working animals being run through their paces. Some of those paces include being roped and thrown to the ground at a full run.

There were the usual human vs. animal contests. A Brahma-mix bull (or bullock, really) doing its best to toss its rider. A young bronco that did not not so much buck as do his impression of the pony express. A series of horses ridden down by mounted charros, giving a ground-based cowboy the opportunity to bring down a horse at full gallop with nothing but his lariat and dug-in stance. (His performance earned the hats in the ring.) That was all topped off by two troupes of young women performing intricate dressage.

And then there were the human exhibitionists -- mainly performing rope tricks. Of course, the pint-sized kids got the most applause. Even though they looked a lot like a hold over act from Monday night's midget show. (Yup. Midgets. They are quite popular here as objects of entertainment.)

But the performer who had the area in his hand was a Vicente Fernandez impersonator. Fernandez is a Mexican institution. And all institutions lend themselves to ridicule.

With a mixture of comedy, a few props, and a passable voice, he was a perfect half-time show. (I suspect he would say "headliner.") The audience chuckled and roared, and sang along with their Fernandez favorites.

You may get the impression it was a long show. It was. We left after about three and a half hours of entertainment. The show was still in full motion when we drove past more than an hour later.

I am not certain I will ever adjust to the Mexican notion that if 5 minutes of something is good, an hour will be 12 times as much fun. Sometimes, it is. Other times, it is just 5 minutes pummeled bloodily into a full hour.

That was true tonight. But, by soldiering through, I saw things I never would have seen had I headed home an hour into the performance.

My hat is in the ring to the charros.

* -- Mexican cowboys

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