I grew up going to rodeos. Every July, from the time I was about 7, until 14, we moved into our van, the Ford Econoline outfitted with a foam mattress in the back and two moonroofs and headed off to Cheyenne. Kind of a strange thing to do, especially after we’d moved to the beach cities of Southern California where suburban tracts had taken over every inch of former ranchland and the only broncos around were made by Ford. But my dad was and is a cowboy, in his own way, and the Cheyenne pilgrimage a way to reup his membership.
The ride was long, especially since Daddy was often driving straight through, stopping only for fuel and coffee. But it made me fall in love with the West. I’d sprawl out on my sleeping bag, singing along to every note of the old school country masters: Marty Robbins, Tammy Wynette, the Charlies (Rich and Pride), Hank Williams, Dottie West and, of course, Dolly. I’d marvel as we drove straight into the mighty thunderstorms across Utah and Colorado, slipping through charcoal curtains of rain bristling with lightning. I sketched the rolling foothills of the high country and gazed at the beautiful outbuildings of ranches handed down through generations. My dad tells me I used to be able to name every breed of cattle by sight, but I’ve forgotten most of them.
Julys were full of fantasy. I dreamed of riding a beautiful Palomino or a Paint mare across fields of wheat. Of lassoing calves in buckskin chaps and pulling my share on round ups. Of marrying some beautiful cowboy with working hands and a cute butt in Wranglers. I loved how my face looked under a straw cowboy hat. When Daddy told stories of his years working ranches in his twenties, I listened with keen attention. I believed him when he’d talk about buying some old ranch someday, but that never happened.
And at least for those rodeo weeks in July, I was fiercely jealous of ranch girls like these. I wanted to be them:
Take a closer look at the detail of fancy ranch girl rodeo wear. Freaking awesome. Check out “Katy’s” custom chaps.
I met one of these ranch girls once. Her name was, no kidding, Brandie Western. She was the beautiful, chestnut-haired daughter of a big wig rancher outside of Cheyenne and I don’t know why but she kind of took me under her wing one evening at a barbecue her dad invited us to. I got to ride her horse around their private arena and she showed me all over their land. In retrospect, I had a massive crush on her. We became pen pals for a couple years and, as I recall, she was “fixin to marry” her boyfriend by the time she was about 17. That was way beyond anything I could relate to at the time, and my jealousy subsided.
These pics are from a little rodeo in Evergreen that Katie’s cousin runs. His family has been providing stock to rodeos all over the West, and they do it well. Look at these gorgeous bulls.
Rodeo is a culture all its own, and it still has a little bit of my heart. These photos are an expression of that.