Steve Hansen: Ready for a rowdy rodeo weekend

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By Steve Hansen
Former QCS Managing Editor

To this transplanted Los Angeles suburbanite, the Eighth Annual Mesalands Fall Rodeo will look like competition in acts of insanity.

Do sane people throw a rope at up to 280 pounds of panicked calf while hanging on to a half-ton of horse at full gallop?

Would anyone but a crazy person aim a horse at full speed toward an oil drum, lean as close to horizontal as possible to get around the drum in a fast, tight circle, then charge full speed at the next barrel?

What normal person would leap from a galloping horse, grab a 300-pound steer by the horns, then twist its head til it falls over?

Who but a maniac would ride a bucking horse for eight seconds or, strangest of all, attempt to ride a Brahma bull, a ton of pure chaos?

Most of these skills, I have learned, stem from regular cowboy chores.

Calves and young steers don’t come and lie down on command, so you have to “rope, roll and brand ’em,” as in the old Rawhide song.

When breaking a horse, bucking is part of learning for both rider and animal.

I have also learned that ranch kids ride like masters before they start school, and when they reach college age, things I wouldn’t dream of attempting on horseback have become second nature.

So it’s not as crazy as it seems.

Except for bull riding. You generally let bulls munch grass in isolation until you need calves. Then you send in the cows. Bulls don’t need our help for any of this.

Somewhere along the way, however, some cowboys, rye whiskey perhaps aiding their thinking, decided that bulls need to be ridden, and a new rodeo event was born.

I used to think bull riders needed some bolts tightened. When I taught at Mesalands, however, one of my best and brightest students was a champion bull rider. I couldn’t find a loose screw anywhere in this young guy, so I had to change some assumptions.

That doesn’t mean I will lose my amazement with what these hard-working young people can do as I cheer on the Mesalands rodeo team this weekend.

Steve Hansen writes about our life and times from his perspective of a retired Tucumcari journalist. Contact him at:

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