The dust will take a little longer to settle in Conway this weekend.The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeo is in town for another run at the Don Owen Sports Complex.
Rodeo is interesting because in which the lines between work and sport are blurred like no other.
So, as a salute to the rodeo tradition, here’s a column I wrote in 2009 that resulted from an interview with Cody Sosebee, who served as rodeo clown that year:
"Maybe it would be better for the cowboys if the animals could talk some smack with less bull.
"The rodeo cowboys know, unless there is a family connection, the crowd roots for the animals. They want to see hats in the air and bodies flying.
"Such is the nature of an extreme sport. The attraction is the element of danger.
‘I’m the same way when I watch a NASCAR race,’ said Cody Sosebee the rodeo clown for this weekend’s (2009) PCRA event in Conway. ‘I never ever want to see anybody hurt, but I like to see a crash. You like crashes and someone walks away unhurt. The bull may weigh a couple of thousand pounds and a cowboy less than 200, but folks like to see the bull win as long as the cowboy walks away safely. There has to be risk and danger. It’s human nature.’
"One overlooked aspect of a rodeo event concerns scouting and preparation.
"When a cowboy gets on a bull or a bronc, it’s hardly their initial meet-and-greet.
‘Cowboys watch and scout the animals like NFL teams do players,’ Sosebee said. "They study and learn tendencies, whether a certain bull tends to spin right or to spin left or whether a bull is gonna hook one way or the other. It’s a show, but it’s also a serious, intense competition. The cowboys are looking for any advantage. When a person watches the rodeo, it seems like total chaos, but there is a lot of planning and preparation. But still has to be an element of chaos. That’s how it should be. Rodeo is wild and western. That’s the roots.’
"And folks are dealing with animals and that’s always a wild card. Some days, a beast, like many of us, don’t feeling like going to work. Other times, they wake up on the wrong side of the hay and are looking for a scrap.
‘One of the worst things that can happen is for the announcer to claim a bull is the raunchiest, meanest bull in the world and he comes out and just stands there,’ Sosebee said. ‘It happens. They get attitudes. They’re like people.’
"And even the novice spectators can pick up that some beasts are tougher than others.
‘People might not know the technicalities but when they see a rider get a certain score on one bronc and another get a higher score on another, they can tell a difference,’ Sosebee said. "It’s like us watching diving or gymnastics or figure skating. We may not know the technicalities or what was involved in the score, but you can tell the difference in a good performance and one that has a higher degree of difficulty. Folks can tell an animal that carries a higher degree of difficulty.’
"Rodeo is a true grassroots sport one that grew from folks just competing for simple bragging rights about who could ride the fiercest bull or the wildest horses or rope a cow the quickest or go to and around one obstacle to another the fastest. Competing for bragging rights evolved to competing for buckles and belts to competing for money. Horse racing, automobile racing and boxing grew by the same process and a similar root system.
P"rofessional cowboys traveling from event to event in their trucks and trailers are like modern professional golfers or NASCAR drivers traveling in their RV’s and trucks. They draw their vehicles up near the event site like covered wagons on the frontier and some of the best elements of the sports occur in the fellowship before and during the competition.
‘It’s a great family sport,’ Sosebee said. ‘We know each other, learn about each other. Our kids kids play with other contestants kids. While people are competing in the arena, they kids may be play ball together or playing games outside of it. We have cookouts together around our trailers. It’s serious and dangerous, but we’re all family.’
"Even the threat of bad weather draws competitors to their roots which are natural and plain.
‘Sometimes, we pamper ourselves too much with personal trainers and different technical stuff and complain about conditions like anyone else,’ Sosebee said. ‘In the old days, guys would compete of any surface in any conditions. If you got hurt, you just rubbed dirt on it and went on.
‘Now, sometimes you hear complaints if it starts raining. But then rodeoing in mud gets to be like playing football in mud. It’s kind of fun and you’ll see cowboys sliding around in the mud like you see baseball players sliding around during a rain delay.’
"The most vibrant roots are often close to the ground and are energized by the ongoing confrontation of man and beast."
Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org