Inside the brain of a Snowmass rodeo bronc | AspenTimes.com
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Inside the brain of a Snowmass rodeo bronc

Roger Marolt

So, I took the family out to the Snowmass Village Rodeo the other night. I’m no huge fan of the event, but the tickets were free and we live within walking distance, so what the heck, I thought. Why not? Picture this: The mountain family walking through the contestants’ parking lot filled with diesel fumes and dust, saving a car trip and doing our part to stave off global warming. Hiking through this Detroit stampede of F-350s must have put my mind in a liberal bent of sorts and I began to get these pangs of guilt. What kind of parent am I to let my children come and watch this brutal treatment of animals? I’ve followed the debate in the Letters to the Editor section of both papers every summer since I learned to read back in 1988. I love animals, so it is only natural that I sided with the anti-rodeo crowd for the most part.We found our seats on the sparsely occupied left side of the stands. I settled in with my arms folded across my chest and stared condescendingly over the benighted crowd. The first event of the rodeo was the saddle bronc riding. For the uninitiated, this is where a cowboy attempts to ride a wild horse for eight seconds while holding on with only one hand. The catch is that while the horse is waiting to be ridden, in a fenced holding pen just barely bigger than it is, about a dozen jittery cowboys reach through the slats and tie some contraption onto its balls and then pull – hard. Yeoweeeeeahoo! As you can imagine, when they open the gate, that horse comes flying out of there like teeth at a Jimmy’s bar fight.This usually lasts for about seven-and-a-half seconds and then the cowboy gets expelled with more force than a teenage pellet gunslinger at Aspen High. Then, two cowboys on horses form a circle around the fallen cowboy, protecting him while he struggles to regain his senses and the wild horse calms down. This takes about two seconds. That is, for the wild horse to calm down. The cowboy usually manages to stumble out of the arena, but is unlikely to regain his senses before the next rodeo. A cursory review of the next week’s contestant list is proof of this. His name is likely to be at the top.It was this display of brutality that got me thinking. How would I like to be that animal? Good lord, if I could only grant that poor horse one wish, I wondered what would it be? I know it’s not right to attribute human thinking to an animal, but I couldn’t help it.Well, if I were that horse, I would wish not to be a rodeo animal, of course. Bye-bye spurs, bye-bye noise, bye-bye hemp rope choking my boys.But wait a minute, now. I’m a horse bred for this event. If these jackasses (sorry, cousin) didn’t breed me into existence, I wouldn’t – well – exist. Holly goat roper! That’s no good. I don’t enjoy getting my privates knotted up twice a week all summer long, but sheesh, I do want to be trotting around this earth, for braying out loud.Let me clarify my wish a little then. I wish I were free, wild to roam this great big country full of mountains, streams, blue skies and green forests … and coyotes … and bears … and cougars who want to rip me limb from limb … and winters. Cold, frosty winters with snow that buries all the food. Whoa, that’s big-fat-guy crap! I want none of that.I know you think that we rodeo animals are getting a bad deal. But, when the rancher passes by, I listen in on the pickup’s radio. In the fall, those football players knock themselves nearly senseless every play. They’re always pulling muscles, tearing ligaments and breaking bones. It’s the same with basketball, hockey, tennis and even skiing. The baseball players even catch it in the family jewels once in a while. They couldn’t even buck a bullfrog from their backs when that happens. Those people aren’t that much different from us, yet everybody wants their jobs.OK, so I’d like the J Bar Ranch brand to be around my navel rather than on my hindquarter, but other than that, it’s not much different than a tattoo. And, sometimes we forget that oxen originally popularized the nose ring.Some people will try to convince you that men and women have a free choice about these things, so it’s different than with us. I don’t buy it. A million-dollar sports contract, social convention, Madison Avenue and peer pressure fence most folks in as securely as we are. More to the point, lots of people treat each other meaner than the cowboys treat us. Those cowpunchers don’t baby us, but at least they don’t hate us.I, for one, am willing to take the chance at a sore shoulder, bruised ribs and a few kicks in the belly. Sure, I might suffer a more serious injury sometime. At least if I’ve got to go, there’ll be some guy right there with a six-shooter handy to put me out of my misery quickly. That’s better than dying alone on a cold winter night waiting for the wolves to close in.I want a career. I want my meals served to me. I want to spend winter nights with a roof over my head. I want to loaf around on my days off without looking over my shoulder for some kind of predator lurking in the bushes. I want my medical plan! I think I want to change my wish one last time. I wish I could have another shot at that cowboy next Saturday night.Roger Marolt has been told that he looks like half a horse. Tell him which half at roger@maroltllp.com


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