The closest I’ve ever be-came to becoming a cowboy was when I learned to ride a horse. I was still within my elementary school years and the saddle I used was customized by my grandfather – the stirrups had to be shortened to less than half their original length. On Mum’s side, my grandparents owned an acreage just off of Centerview Road – the acreage was oddly named “The Ol’ McCreadie Place”. It was during my visits on weekends and weeks of my summers there that I would learn to ride a horse named “Thunder”. As far as cowboy credentials are concerned, riding Thunder brought me pretty close to earning my Wild West sheriffs badge; however, in hindsight I would have likely became a Jesse James outlaw versus a straight cut lawmen if I continued to pursue the cowboy life. I still wear cowboy boots though – they work well when I’m riding my iron horse.
Music and apparel tend to define subcultures, and I can’t say that living in Rimbey had me fall in love with the twang of country music; but I can admit that my CD collection has music by Steve Earl, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, and Johnny Cash. Just prior for an evening spent at the 2015 Hooves and Horns Bullarama here in Rimbey, Cash was spinning in my CD player while I dug my subtle black collared Wrangler shirt out of the back of my closet. My sister was in town visiting her boyfriend’s family, and one of my cousins also appeared within the county to celebrate the Easter weekend – all of whom were attending the Bullarama. Someone said “beer gardens”, and there wasn’t any hesitations in appearing myself.
I arrived almost late; my camera decided to play hide and seek before I left the house. And when I got to the Peter Lougheed Community Centre, I was refreshed to see that leggings and Lululemon Athletica hasn’t completely taken over the planet, and that some girls still wear blue jeans. I felt as though I was likely the only one in the building with Motörhead tattoos, but regardless of whatever culture a person is from everyone can agree on a cold beer and fireworks.
The show started with a blast. I had barely managed to get a mitt full of drink tickets and a beer when all the cowboy competitors were lined up within the ring and indoor fireworks were igniting the evening. I managed to snap a bunch of terrible photos of the bull riders competing from Alberta to Australia.
Throughout the majority of the evening I was up against the metal fencing that separates the spectators from the animals. My photography was still going poorly when a stubborn bull refused to exit the ring despite the methods of the animal controllers (which I believe is a modern phrase for rodeo clowns). The animal likely sensed that I was a fan of Motörhead and not George Strait and had begun to test the fencing I was on the other side of. I could feel the heat from his snort as he started to posture and kick dirt behind him. I bounced back from the fence – automatically defaulting to a boxing stance. The bull snapped forward having his head contact the fence. A black speaker that boomed the announcer’s voice and event music held my beer quite nicely; but the exchange between the aggravated bull and the fence caused my beer to be launched from its safe perch on the speaker. I didn’t get a clear photo of my encounter with the bull and my beer split.
I can appreciate the athleticism of the bull riders. Within eight seconds an animal, sometimes weighting over twenty-two hundred pounds, would kick, buck, and thrash till either the cowboy made his eight or landed upside down in the dirt. Thankfully it appeared as though none of the animals or competitors sustained any serious injuries. It’s plausible to say though that many bulls and cowboys alike may have suffered from sore backs the next day.
I tried to remember who the champion cowboy was of this western gladiator event, but like a gopher with ADD, my attention was diverted to the other side of the area where the band KixxSin was about to start performing. An uncle of mine out of Calgary had sent me a text the day before promoting some of the band member’s attributes.
With an open mind I hung around enjoying the sociology experiment known as a Cabaret. Two things are certain in my life, I can’t dance and I’m too fat to fly. I proved half of this statement during the Bullarama dance; my dance moves probably looked like I was ready for takeoff. My cousin, who is accustomed to the electronic dance music that pollutes Edmonton’s nightlife, was getting a west of the 5th education. After a few tunes and a final beer I decided to escape the ensuing madness.