How do you spot a real cowboy? By the cowboy hat on their head of course!
Generally I’m disappointed when a stereotype proves accurate. It is somehow disappointing to find that the caricature that exists in the subconscious of the masses is real. And I was genuinely surprised to find that cowboys, real cowboys, not city pretend cowboys, really do wear hats with upturned brims. But that was not where the uniform ended.
When we arrived in Nelson we envisaged a quiet night and an early morning rise to go fishing. When we wandered over to the pub however the car park was fenced off and the grassed area in front of the bistro was populated by men all wearing the same thing. Polished RM boots, pale moleskin slacks held in place with leather belts sporting oversized belt buckles, checked shirts tucked in to their pants and topped off with the obligatory hat. By a great stroke of road tripping luck we found ourselves in town for the travelling rodeo!
We paid the $20 entry fee, picked up our camping chairs from our campsite, found ourselves a spot in the front row about a meter back from the metal fencing and settled in to watch the bulls milling around the makeshift ring.
If I was impressed by the effort of the spectators’ dress it was nothing compared with the riders’ get up. There were hats of course and tucked in shirts but they took it to the next level. There were chaps with intricate patterns of coloured leather, silver studding and tassels. There were even spurs on their shiny boots.
What would ever possess a person to climb on top of a bull I will never know but what makes it worse is that these bulls have a rope tied around their middle. The rope pulls up on their ball sack making them understandably angry and desperate to get the rider off their back.
Yes, the bulls have it bad having their balls tied up but a few definitely got their revenge. One cowboy was bucked off the bull only to have his hand still firmly attached by a rope. Two other cowboys had to help to untether him by which time he had been well and truly shaken about with his shoulder at unnatural angles. Another rider was chased back towards the fence and the bull got one well-aimed horn onto his backside.
The town of Nelson had a big night out at the rodeo. Their were bodies sleeping in the boat ramp car park the next morning and a few expelling themselves of the previous night’s excesses in the harsh light of day. One cowboy hobbled back to the travelling rodeo truck in a full leg brace, hat still firmly on his head.