Whee Haw! The Dixie National Rodeo performed in Jackson this month. Despite a week of really cold, rainy weather and another week of less really cold, rainy weather the rodeo show must go on and it did. The night I went, Tanya Tucker was the “half time” show between the rodeo events and acts. In order to attend this event in the proper spirit, I bought a western shirt with snaps and decorative stitching as well as a pair of cowboy boots. Funny that I really come from the West but bought these clothes in the South. Similarly, if I went to a rodeo before, it wasn’t a full scale barrel-racing, bronco-bucking, calf-roping rodeo like this one.
The rodeo was held in the coliseum-arena just east of downtown Jackson. I actually thought I was buying tickets to the single event—a concert by Tanya Tucker—but it turns out I was buying tickets to a rodeo with the side highlight of a concert sandwiched between the first half and the second half of the rodeo. This was on a Tuesday night and the place was nearly full. It began with the rodeo princesses riding in on their beautiful mounts carrying the U.S. flag, Mississippi flag, and a rodeo flag. The emcee, a deep-voiced long-time rodeo announcer, was perfect for providing the appropriate appreciation of the events.
Honestly, the events are heart pounding. To see a man being violently bucked up and down on a horse who has a “flank strap” cinched up so tight that he kicks angrily to seek its removal, whether bareback riding or saddle bronc riding, the man hanging on for dear life until a loud buzzer sounds indicates he’s made the time (8 seconds, but it sure seems like longer) is exciting. When one or another cowboy was bucked off I couldn’t watch for fear he’d be trampled before rolling out of the way.
Steer wrestling, also called “bulldogging” proved interesting as not every cowboy who jumped off his horse was able to hang on to the calf and get it down on the ground.
What would the rodeo be without a clown? For this particular rodeo the clowns weren’t used to divert a raging animal from trampling a downed cowboy; rather they had elaborate skits right out of the 1950’s which, I have to admit, corny as they were, brought lots of laughter to the audience.
While all of the rodeo is entertainment for the fans, it’s also a competitive series of events in which cowboys can earn big prize money by the end of a season. It’s dangerous, like a gladiator contest might have seemed to an ancient Roman. For a girl from the west who never went through a love of horses phase, the Dixie National Rodeo was exotic and fun.