Country Living - Splendid chaps at the rodeo

By: Julie Cotton

I am partially passionate for a good ole cowboy movie, so I took myself off to the Warkworth Rodeo last month where I had a fabulous day and learnt many new things. Of course, all the usual suspects were there, including those from the farming fraternity that I do not see often enough, rural dwellers and a heap of our urban cousins. Previously, I had bumped into my editor with the ridiculous proposal of riding a bull in the novice section. Although he and others may have found this mildly amusing to watch, my sensible side got the better of me, so I jammed my “lightbulb moment” back into my imagination.

Feeling incognito with my Akubra hat and gingham blouse, I shimmied my way into the competitors’ area out the back to suss out what makes these cool cats tick. Spying some perfectly greying gentlemen in official-looking collared shirts, I plonked myself next to them and asked to chat. Turns out they were a group of retired competitors and they seemed rather shy to fill me in on their long lives spent on horseback. They need not have been. Sometimes faces with no words call tell me all the stories I need. I could picture them on the crest of hills leaning forward in their saddles, proud atop their horses – their faithful dogs silently waiting for a command and stock running to the paddock in the distance. I saw hot dusty yards, shirts full of sweat. I pictured an icy-cold beer gliding down dry throats at the end of a hard day.

Adjacent to the greying gentlemen sat a pool of youth and bravery tucked under big cowboy hats.
Adjacent to the greying gentlemen sat a pool of youth and bravery tucked under big cowboy hats.

Adjacent to the greying gentlemen sat a pool of youth and bravery tucked under big cowboy hats. The scent of warmed leather filled the air. Tales of beaten bones laid a pathway for their youthful hopes and dreams to be the best in their industry.

My intense fear of both horses and bulls had me holding on so tight as I watched the competition. It was the rugged western version of the Russian ballet with skills to match. It looked amazing. Of course, it was not all about the testosterone. The women competing were just as brave and skilled. What these women possessed inside to be able to throw themselves on a horse and negotiate them around stock and obstacles was a skill I was aware I would never have. Braveheart type men dotted the arena, dressed in bright colours to emulate clowns. This fearless job entailed making sure the bull got away from the fallen rider. I held my breath as I watched. Adrenalin skyrocketed through bodies everywhere. I need never compete – energy was all around to share.

Then there were those chaps – gulp! I promise I was only fixated on the craftsmanship. However, with the real risk of looking like a lurking middle-aged perve, I pulled my hat right down over my face. They did get me thinking though, what an incredible safety feature? Perhaps these should be workplace mandatory? Trip hazards everywhere – LOL.  

The kids’ lolly scramble in the dusty arena had me punishing myself for putting my daughter in light pink attire, but all was forgotten when she rushed up to me with a handful of sweets and a big smile. I absorbed the sights, sounds and smells all day. The cool family that decided to bring their living room couch to watch the show did not evade my smiley attention.

When the plumes of dust finally settled, and the chatty families with ice-cream intoxicated children had left, there remained a group of highly skilled men and women with impeccable stockmanship and camaraderie. They spend their days in the saddle but perhaps we all do? It’s something to grasp onto while we ride out the highs and the lows that life gives us. And, oh, did I mention those chaps? xx


Julie Cotton
admin@oceanique.co.nz

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