Holli Bragg-041311Listen to Holli Deal Bragg talk about cowboys and rodeo clowns.
In speaking with a rodeo contractor recently as I interviewed him about an upcoming rodeo in Statesboro, somehow we landed on the topic of rodeo clowns.
Rodeo clowns are the unsung heroes. The bull riders, the barrel racers and other competitors always get the glory, but what those shabbily dressed clowns do out there is more gutsy than anything else you will see in the arena.
Danny Hedrick, owner of Hedrick Rodeo Company that will bring an International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) event to town this weekend, talked about a rodeo clown he knows who broke an arm protecting a rider from a bull.
The clown got up, dusted himself off, and continued working. He even worked the next day.
Without thinking, I blurted out "That's a cowboy for you."
All my life I have been enamored with cowboys and Indians, horses, and anything western. My first childhood crush was "The Rifleman," and all my life I have been more comfortable in a pair of jeans, in a barn, with horses or people who love horses, than I was in dresses, shopping and playing with dolls.
As a teen, I had a crush on a family friend who was a cowboy. He rode horses, did rodeo, wore the hat and boots, and I was twitterpated. But then one day I happened to see him at a convenience store, wearing cutoff jeans, barefoot, without the customary cowboy hat.
What??? While he was still a handsome man (and probably flattered by my kid's crush), it just wasn't the same to me.
As I grew older, however, I realized something. A cowboy isn't his horse and hat, boots and spurs. A cowboy is his heart.
The kind of heart that made that rodeo clown get up, swallow his pain and continue protecting the bull riders from the half ton of angry bovine that wanted to stomp the mud out of the man who dared get on his back.
The kind of heart that will wither if not allowed to breathe the open air, see the skies, and smell the wind as he rides his horse, herds his cows, or just drives his pickup truck through the fields.
A cowboy at heart might be seen most often wearing tee shirts and ball caps, or even business suits, but that doesn't change what is inside. A cowboy knows honor, demands respect, and gives it back with pride when it is earned and warranted.
Growing up watching westerns like "The Rifleman" and "Bonanza," it's no wonder I fell in love with the images of the American West and its heroes. Ben Cartwright always made things right, and nobody messed with Chuck Connors.
It must have been those westerns that instilled in me a love for the West, horses and cowboys.
I married a cowboy at heart. He doesn't always wear the boots and hat, but he has the code of honor. He loves the outdoors, and will be the first to help an elderly person across the street.
Professional cowboys don't corner the market on the kind of person I consider a "cowboy." The farmer you see in the field, the banker you see behind the desk, the meter reader you watch tallying up your power usage, the salesman in your local store can be a "cowboy at heart."
True, there is something about a man in a well-fitting pair of worn jeans, boots, and a cowboy hat that speaks to the female in me. But unlike the starry-eyed teenager who was brought up short when she saw her cowboy crush in something other than boots and hat, I now recognize that being a cowboy - or cowgirl - is a state of mind, heart and spirit.
So, when the Statesboro Kiwanis Rodeo rolls around this wekend, pay attention to those funny painted clowns out there baiting the bulls while the rider runs for the fence.
Notice the family atmosphere at the rodeo. There will be an American flag, carried by a horseback rider, and everyone will sing the national anthem. There will be a prayer.
Yes, prayer. It might not be "politically correct," but hey - it's the cowboy way.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.