Five Things That Are Weird and Surreal About Rodeo Houston
3. The calf scramble. It's basically The Hunger Games with calves. Don't get us wrong, the calf scramble is a much loved tradition around here (has been since 1942) and if you grew up seeing 14 calves chased and tied up by 28 students it seems perfectly normal. But take this out of the frame of the rodeo and it's pretty damn brutal. An assortment of baby cows are gathered up, let loose and then chased by a bunch of kids who have to get a halter around a calf and haul the little guy back to the "winners square." The kids win money, but what do the calves win? Probably just the chance to be veal. And for all of this the calves are outnumbered two to one. Honestly, after seeing it enough this rodeo season, we started rooting for the calves to win. One day a baby cow will rise up and haul some unsuspecting student to the winners square. And we won't blame the calf one bit.
2. Everyone is a cowboy. Even if they've never seen a cow not on a plate. Seriously, Houston has got the Texas feel, of course, but most of the year we're a multicultural town with people who work in all kinds of fields that have nothing to do with the cowboy way and who come here from all over the country and world to do so. But come rodeo season, all that changes. Cavender's is flooded with customers eager to drop a couple hundred dollars on a pair of boots and then everyone shows up at the rodeo with the boots. They wear them with fancy dresses. They wear them tucked into jeans (the consciously city slicker look.) They wear them with the jeans covering the boot (the consciously country look.) They wear them with short shorts. They wear them with board shorts. Everyone says y'all and drinks Shiner and Lone Star. And if you took a poll we'd bet an easy 50 percent of these people are definitely not from Texas. They've never been near a horse outside the carousel kind. They don't know what a cow looks like before it becomes a steak. But once a year we're all cowboys y'all. It's a strange thing, but it happens.
1. Mutton Bustin'. Imagine being from some other country and watching a show where they tie young children to, let's say, young camels. You'd say that was barbaric, right? With mutton bustin' children are tied to mutton and then thrown off. Take off the rodeo goggles and think on that for a moment. We tie children, who must be between the ages of 5 to 6 years old, to animals who are not in any way prepared to be ridden by said children. Like, so much so that the mutton are bucking, writhing and wriggling and doing pretty much whatever it takes to get the what-in-the-hell-did-they-just-put-on-top-of-me thing off. And that thing the mutton are trying their best to buck off is your 5-year-old kid. Sure the kid could win you an iPad if he or she stays on long enough, but said kid is most likely going to get flung off and get a mouthful of Houston's extra-special rodeo dirt (code for animal feces and dirt all mixed up.) It's a strange and unsettling rodeo thing, and even if it's funny to watch, you know that anywhere else in the world this would be child abuse.
Luckily, we're in Houston and the kids potentially can get their hands on iPads, so it's cool. Kind of.