Lee Pitts: In The Beginning
Don’t you wonder how the various events in modern day rodeo got started?
As was told to me, rodeo events were supposedly based on things that happen on your average the run-of-the-mill ranch, but in all my years of running cattle I’ve never once had to ride a bull, or jump off a speeding horse on to the sharp horns of a renegade steer. If I did so, it was purely an accident and not something I’d ever do on purpose while sober.
Certainly team roping is practiced on your average ranch and it’s easy to imagine how it was invented. Two cowpokes, Smarty Pants and Rum Dum, are prowling the country when Smarty spotted a calf with screworms. They are a long way from the nearest corral or squeeze chute, so Smarty says to Rum Dum, “I got an idea. I’ll throw this here rope and catch that calf around the horns and you come along and scoop up his heels and we’ll stretch him out.”
“Duh, okay. But what do we do then?”
“We’ll worry about that when the time comes.” Surprisingly, Smarty made the head catch, although it was illegal by today’s standards, but Rummy, who couldn’t rope a fence post standing still, threw twelve empty loops before Smarty got tired of chasing after the calf over hill and dale with his arm extended, finally said forget it, and let go of his leather lariat it took him one month and a cowhide to make.
As a result, Smarty and Rummy spent all their spare time roping a dummy, which sparked a multi-billion dollar roping industry. But when the ranch owner found out his cowboys were roping the stock he fired them both because he’d rather have you rope his kids than his cattle.
No doubt steer wrestling was invented by a mentally challenged cowboy like myself who couldn’t rope a hall tree. On the next ranch where the same cowboys found themselves in a similar situation the smart cowpoke said to the dim-witted one, “Okay, so that didn’t work out too well but I dare you to run alongside that steer, jump off your saddle, grab his horns, stick your boots in the ground, bite his lip and throw him to the ground while I sit here and make critical comments.”
“Say what?” said Rum Dum. “Are you sure this will work?”
“I’m pretty sure but if it doesn’t can I have your Hamley saddle, silver bit and Ortega reins?”
I have it on good authority that the exciting sport of bull riding was invented when the two cowboys were bored one winter with busting broncs when Smarty said to Rummy, “See that man-killing 2,500 pound crossbred bull over there that’s tearing up the corrals? I’ll bet you a hundred bucks you can’t crawl on his back and ride him for, oh I dunno, let’s say eight seconds.”
When the feather-brained Rummy came out of his coma in the hospital six months later he said to his Smarty friend, “Gee, that was fun. I can’t wait to try that again!”
And the PBR was born.
Bronc riding could have been invented when Smarty dared Rummy to ride an unbroke wild stud horse with a notched tail and fire in his eyes with a saddle, no bridle, bit or reins, and by hanging on with only one hand. Which raises an interesting question: was the saddle invented by a roper for something to tie to, or by a saddle bronc rider for something to hold on with?
Another thing I’ve never had to do as a rancher is buy a $100,000 lightning fast horse and run around three barrels as fast as I could without knocking one over. Barrel racing must have been invented by two bored Oklahoma oil princesses wearing bright silk shirts and skin-tight Wranglers® who saw three barrels of crude standing in a field and decided to race around them.
There is one rodeo character that I definitely see evolving from daily activities on every ranch in America. Anyone who has ever sorted cattle in an alley or been in a corral with a mad charging bull, or an overly-possessive brood cow, can totally relate to the rodeo clown in baggy jeans who has to run for his life and scale a six foot fence so he won’t be shish-kabobbed.