9780151010721

Chasing the Rodeo : On Wild Rides and Big Dreams, Broken Hearts and Broken Bones, and One Man's Search for the West

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780151010721

  • ISBN10:

    0151010722

  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2005-05-02
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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Summary

From its roots as the quintessential Western pastime, rodeo has grown to an international, prime-time television sport. Steeped in tradition and the independent spirit of the range, aspiring cowboys and cowgirls are called to its high-stakes, rough-and-tumble fame as they risk their lives for eight seconds of triumph. In Chasing the Rodeo W. K. Stratton follows this quest for one season of the pro rodeo and bull-riding tours. He explores the history of the chutes -- from rodeo's disputed origins (Prescott, Arizona, or Pecos, Texas?) to its current skyrocketing popularity. But out on the trail Stratton finds more than calf-roping and unrideable bulls, uncovering a culture complete with myths, codes of honor, million-dollar purses, Cowboy Church, and the kinds of legends that make good stories unforgettable. Just such a story emerges here as Stratton tells of his runaway "rodeo bum" father --Cowboy Don -- whose specter haunts his travels on the circuit. As he learns more about the life that proved too seductive for his father to abandon, Stratton fills in a portrait of the man he never knew but whose legacy he couldn't help but inherit. Filled with cowboy longing and rodeo dreams, this is a tribute to the characters of the West -- Freckles Brown, Lucille Mulhall (the first cowgirl), Wild Bill Hickock, Lane Frost, and today's superstars like Jesse Bail. In the great tradition of Wallace Stegner and Ken Kesey, W. K. Stratton fashions an expansive tale out of the gritty reality of the life around us. Chasing the Rodeo is a bucking, riveting, glorious ride -- you'll want to hang on for the whole go-round.

Author Biography

W. K. (KIP) STRATTON is a native of the Southwest. His journalism has appeared in GQ, Sports Illustrated, Outside, Southern Magazine, and the Dallas Morning News. He lives in Austin, Texas.

Table of Contents

1. ESSENTIAL TRAVEL 1(21)
The National Finals Rodeo
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma-December 1967
2. LOOKING FOR JUNIOR BONNER 22(59)
The World's Oldest Rodeo
Prescott, Arizona July 2003
3. RANGING OUT 81(71)
The Daddy of 'Em All
Cheyenne, Wyoming July 2003
4. A LOT OF FLOURISH 152(53)
Bullnaza
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma August 2003
5. LETTIN"ER BUCK 205(75)
Pendleton Round-Up
Pendleton, Oregon-September 2003
6. CODA: THE LAST RODEO 280(20)
Leakey, Texas July 2004
The National Finals Rodeo
Las Vegas, Nevada-December 2003
Author's Note 300(3)
Acknowledgments 303(4)
Bibliography 307(4)
Index 311

Excerpts

1. Essential Travel The National Finals RodeoOklahoma City, Oklahoma-December 1967HERE'S A rodeo story for you.The National Finals Rodeo kicked off its 1967 run in Oklahoma City on December 1, and I distinctly remember that day. It was one of those days when the wind sliced right through you, the sky was the color of fresh concrete, and the sleet-encrusted roads were, in the words of my next-door neighbor Paul Fey, "slicker than greased owl shit." Voices on radio and television discouraged all travel that wasn't essential.I was twelve years old and living in Guthrie, Oklahoma, thirty miles north of Oklahoma City. I heard those warnings and sighed. It's not that I minded that school was closed down that Friday. But the highways too icy for travel? That was another matter. We had tickets for the National Finals, and I considered the drive to "The City" for the rodeo to be essential travel. Mom would consider it essential, too, but I wasn't sure about Dad. He'd be doing the driving. It would kill me if he agreed with the voices on radio and TV and decided we should stay home.Mom had bought NFR tickets from the Guthrie Roundup Club back in the summer and had been guarding them as zealously as she guarded the milk bottle filled with real silver dollars she kept hidden in her closet. Since the inception of the NFR in the 1950s as rodeo's equivalent of the World Series, the event had struggled through tough times in Los Angeles and Dallas before relocating to the State Fairgrounds Arena in The City three years earlier. Ensuring the NFR's success in Oklahoma had become a matter of state pride. Buying a ticket gave you a chance to see the best rodeo cowboys in the world, but it also meant that you were doing something good for Oklahoma, a state that ached for anything that could generate some revenue or could raise its profile in the eyes of the rest of the country. (Even in the 1960s, Oklahoma reeled from its Dust Bowl image as a no-account place filled with ignorant Okies; many of the state's public libraries still banned copies of The Grapes of Wrath.) The NFR brought Oklahoma just the sort of national attention it craved. So good Oklahomans bought their tickets. And they turned out to fill the seats. Never mind a little ice storm.We lived on five acres on the far-east side of Guthrie. On one corner of the property sat Dad's auto repair shop. From there, our small frame house was a half block up Pine Street. From my parents' bedroom window, I watched Dad trudge against the wind and sleet that night. It seemed to take him a lot longer than usual to make it from the north door of the shop to the front door of the house. I knew his face would be numb. I knew he'd be hearing the crunch of the frozen grass beneath his boots, the whistle of the wind, the pop from the leafless limbs of the Chinese elms in the front yard as they struggled with their load of ice. I knew he would be glancing up at Noble Avenue to see if any traffic was moving.Dad

Excerpted from Chasing the Rodeo: On Wild Rides and Big Dreams, Broken Hearts and Broken Bones, and One Man's Search for the West by W. K. Stratton
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