Rodeo head marshal comes with fun, work

By Baxter Black

The Tucson Rodeo Parade committee, numbering in the thousands as far as I could see, chose me to be their grand marshal. I was humbled and excited! It was like being nominated Secretary of Commerce or having Reggie Jackson ask for my autograph.

In the interest of public disclosure, they informed me that I was not the first choice; which explained the wadded up checklist I found in the rodeo museum trash can. My name was at the bottom. The following names had been crossed out: Sam Elliott, Condie Rice, Martha Stewart, Fred Whitfield, Theodore Roosevelt, Howard Hughes, Lassie, an Elvis impersonator and Garfield.

The committee explained I would have responsibilities other than simply riding in the parade. I imagined interviews with National Public Radio, Dan Rather, Rush Limbaugh, a TV spot with Larry King. Or maybe ribbon cuttings at Hoover Dam, the Pro-Rodeo Hall of Fame, Chernobyl.

Instead, it turned out I was required to bus tables after the volunteer’s luncheon, detail the parade chairman’s car and hawk nachos and beer during the slack performances.

I actually appeared in the parade twice … once in the beginning aboard the grand marshal’s horse-drawn wagon and again at the end pushing a broom.

I was fretting over my inability to master the proper wave, a point of etiquette required of the grand marshal. I enlisted the aid of two rodeo queens, a baseball coach, and a shipwrecked sailor. Using a combination of their advice I managed to alienate a group of Methodist snowbirds, cause the mayor to steal second base, and slap myself black and blue!

I never imagined the personal danger a queen contestant is exposed to in saluting the crowd.

The Tucson Rodeo Parade is the longest non-motorized (meaning horse-powered) parade in the world. Well into the 50th mile my arm got tired so I traded places with Dick, my stunt man. He was sure a good waver. He’s now getting movie offers and has been contacted by Prince Charles to teach his son Harry the proper cowboy wave.

I’ve been offered a janitorial position at the Parade Museum.
It was one of the most fun weeks I’ve ever had. We got good seats at the rodeo, weather was beautiful, I didn’t buck off and I made a million new friends.

All in all, as LBJ would say, they treated me like a Kennedy!

Baxter Black is a self-described cowboy poet, ex-veterinarian and sorry team roper. He can be contacted at 1-800-654-2550 or by e-mail at: