Lincoln, Arkansas Rodeo: 43 Years in the Making

Bull RidimgIt  has been 43 years since I last attended the annual Lincoln Rodeo in the state of Arkansas. In the time period between visits, I have been overseas(for over years), married twice, fathered two children and only recently moved back to the country of my birth. The rodeo, which runs over three days, started on Thursday and as I am working on the latter two nights,  I opted to attend the first night of festivities.

Time has marched on for me since that last visit and time has moved on for the small venue as well. One particularly telling moment was the sighting of a young cowgirl, dressed in all her finery, texting on her iPhone while easily sitting and riding her mount.

It was a surrealistic moment which spoke volumes about the female of the species being able to multitask and the technology that these modern rodeo participants have access to.

(Sadly, I was not able to get a picture. Besides the sight momentarily throwing me, it was far too dark and using a flash seemed ill-advised.)

Arriving that little bit late, the first thing I did was grab a rodeo burger and a cup of rodeo coffee. A long standing tradition that dates back to my childhood. My late father always headed to get food the second we arrived at the rodeo grounds.

Another tradition involved getting new cowboy hats, boots and a rodeo shirt, all ivory poppers and with the long tails that kept the thing tucked in. While I did not sport new boots, or a brand new hat, I did have on one of my father’s old western shirts. Memories of attending the rodeo in days gone by flooded my mind as the smells of horses, cattle, burgers and freshly raked dirt caused a bit of olfactory overload.

Calf ropingAlmost the entire event was spent in the company of my “cousin-in-law” who works for the same organization that I do. Good conversation, good vantage points and an overall sense of good bonhomie from the crowd made the night an entertaining one.

Only a handful of people were competing in each event, unfortunately I missed the bareback bronc riding, but each gave their all and this was a good buildup to the Springdale rodeo later in the summer.

There were not as many people as there used to be and I seem to remember the grounds being much brighter in terms of lighting. Cowboy hats were not in overabundance, although I did wear my straw one along with my Cornwall western boots.

The rodeo has changed somewhat since my childhood. Girls were now competitively roping calves, which was the biggest difference, and the bull riders all wore protective helmets. One thing that has not changed, however, is the innate beauty of the young women riding their steeds around the rodeo arena.

Each one possesses a poise and incredible confidence that is displayed by  their expert handling of the horses they ride. Whether  moving around the grounds “backstage” or racing barrels, they are one with their mount and are pictures of grace and control. It is easy to be thrust back to one’s teen years and fall in love with these western lasses.

All had long hair that streamed down and out under their cowgirl hats as the rode hell for leather to beat the timer. While it was impressive to see, one could easily imagine that each one had extensions rather than naturally long tresses. It did not detract from the sight, but, like the iPhone texting rider, it seemed like it could be another sign of the times.

(It is also lovely to see the connection these young ladies have with their animals and family. One young rider was cutting tight circles around her father, on her horse,  just before heading out into the arena to do her bit in the barrel race. The amount of trust between the two was incredibly touching.)

Youngsters at the rodeo participated in a calf catching exercise (although they grabbed a flag off the creatures tail rather than actually wrestle with the animal) and it was a cute display that warmed the heart. There was also a goat roping event outside the arena…

The rodeo kidsAll through the night the announcer kept the crowd informed about a line of thunderstorms headed the way of the event (which contained several tornadoes) and after things wound down the storms did finally arrive.

It may have taken me 43 years to attend a function that was a memorable part of my childhood and things might have been that little bit lowkey, but, it was an enjoyable night and one I would not have missed for the world.

The Lincoln Rodeo runs for two more nights and is an inexpensive way to spend an evening. The weather is meant to be a bit blustery but that only adds to the atmosphere.  Stop by and check it out if you can.