I get some raised eyebrows when I tell people that I love rodeos.
“You don’t look like the rodeo sort.” I am told. Most commonly friends and family attribute my North American origins (I have dual Australian-USA citizenship) as the reason I would stray from my middle-class urban Australian roots in this choice of spectator sport. I have however never attended a North American rodeo only ever witnessing the spectacle in regional Australia. The truth is, I am just amazed at both the bravado and skill required to jump, and hopefully stay on the back of a bucking bronco, or bull. I also thrill at attending an event where the cultural environment is so foreign to my own background. It is precisely that I am not a rodeo type of girl that it is such fun – I feel like I am a tourist on vacation in another country, without having to travel overseas.
So it was with a sense of holiday excitement that I bundled my two small boys into the car last weekend and headed up to the Atherton Tablelands town of Mareeba for their annual rodeo. I tried to explain to them on the one-hour drive from Cairns what a rodeo was. Bub 2, is 22 months old and was happy that it had something to do with Old MacDonald’s farm and cows. Bub 1 has just turned four and spent the drive grilling me about rodeo clowns. Would the clown talk to him? What would the clown look like? Did we have to go near the clown? By the time we arrived he was reduced to such a state of clown phobia that I was afraid he would refuse to get out of the car.
As we approached the arena Bub 1 was relieved to see we were separated from the rodeo clown by a fence. I remembered distant footage of a bull jumping the fence at a rodeo and rampaging amongst the crowd and chose a seat high enough in the bleachers to avoid a rampaging bull but to guarantee injury if my toddler fell between the seats. Settling in to enjoy the rodeo I was relieved to see that Bub 2 was enjoying himself, repeatedly calling out “Cow! Cow!” as the crazy bulls tried to dislodge their riders. Bub 1 on the other hand could not relax and enjoy the show until he had scoped out the sideshow alley games and rides that adjoined the arena. The best way to tackle his nagging, I decided, was to allow him to have one ride and one game only, then go back to the show. As we prowled sideshow alley looking for the “perfect” game a storm approached. By this stage I had realised my chances for enjoying the rodeo, as I would have pre-kids was an outside chance. Deciding to risk a drenching, after a quick turn on the Alice in Wonderland cups, and throwing money down the preverbial toilet on a totally rigged game of “catch the duck” we took our seat again in the bleachers. It was during this second seating that the multi-traumas started to occur. Now I know that rodeos are dangerous. When I worked at Darwin hospital the emergency department specialist would call the trauma team to greet every ambulance bringing a patient in from the rodeo, even if they were complaining only of a sore ankle. The reason was that the rodeo guys were tough and uncomplaining, and that they tended to have spectacular injuries. It may be that I haven’t seen many people injured at a rodeo in the past, I can’t remember. Perhaps it is now that I am a mother, and softer emotionally than I was before. But the sight of a cowboy, being dragged by his horse after he was bucked, followed immediately by another cowboy out cold and surrounded by ambulance officers in the middle of the arena was just too much for me. Being a doctor, and being unable to help was also excruciating. I did actually ask one of the officials if they needed medical assistance – he looked down at Bub 1 and Bub 2, and me unaccompanied with them and then looked at me as if I was mad. It was when I found myself explaining airway management to my four year old that I decided it was time to go. Ultimately, I just did not want my small children to witness physical trauma and the fact that Bub 1’s questions about rodeo clowns had switched to questions about how the ambulance officers could help the “very hurt man” was profoundly disturbing.
The outing has left me wondering if my rodeo days are behind me. I suspect that if I had had another adult with me I would have had more fun, however having another adult would not have protected my boys from witnessing the cowboys sustaining trauma. I should in future perhaps examine the rodeo program before going to time our visit to align with less dangerous events.
As a co-incidence my brother lives in Calgary for much of the year, and my parents visited him last week, a visit that co-incided with the Calgary Stampede, the worlds largest rodeo. Despite my misgivings about this particular rodeo experience I cannot help but wonder whether we should try to attend the stampede while my brother lives there. I’d be interested to hear comments from anyone that has attended the Stampede with small children and how it worked for them.
© Copyright 2012 Danielle, All rights Reserved. Written For: Bubs on the Move