YEE-HAW FROM TEJAS – RODEO TEXAS STYLE
As I was preparing to leave my housesit in Lockhart, I had one more thing I just had to do before leaving the great state of Texas! So I drove myself to San Antonio to a spot a little north of the city to see a Tejas Rodeo. A sporting event that happened every Saturday night making up a very important part of San Antonio culture.
I was lucky enough to be invited backstage to see the whole event up close and personal by the co-founder of Tejas Rodeo, Yancey James who was more than happy to teach me all about this exciting sport. Yes, a sport! There’s even a World Championship each year.
“They’ll take the top 15 cowboys in the world and they will compete for 10 straight days to crown a champion. There is a world champion in each division.”
He went on to tell me that I would even see some of those 15 cowboys at the event that evening.
Before I continue with the story, I also wanted to commemorate this my 200th episode. So if you’re near a bottle of champagne or a snifter of whiskey, join me in celebrating this big anniversary for The Radio Vagabond podcast! Yee-Haw! It’s Rodeo time.
NOW BACK TO YANCEY JAMES AND TEJAS RODEO
Standing backstage I was able to see the arena with the grandstands behind it. Next to me was a booth with 10-15 small cattle. They were for the roping event which would happen later. Another had some sheep which were for the children to ride and then behind me was a round arena with some cowgirls warming up their horses for the running of the barrel event later that evening. Scattered around backstage and the grounds, in general, was a hustle and bustle of cars, excited people, horse cars and there was an air of excitement that was tangible. Everyone was wearing their cowboy hats and those big belt buckles you always see cowboys wear in the movies.
ABOUT YANCEY JAMES
Yancey James has been involved with rodeos his entire life and for a good part of it, he was a bull rider himself. He admits there are a lot of injuries that a bull-rider sustains, saying that “If you’re riding bulls you’re going to have some injuries! I’ve had three knee surgeries, two wrist surgeries and I broke my nose four times.” He eventually decided he was done with moving around and settled in San Antonio.
After a career competing professionally in rodeos around the United States, Mexico and Canada, he became co-owner and vice president of Tejas Rodeo Company in Bulverde just north of San Antonio with his partner, Trey Martin. They’ve been putting on a rodeo every Saturday night from March through November since 2006.
Of course, there were also the bulls in another booth, scraping the ground looking pretty mean and scary.
Before everything really kicked off I had the opportunity to chat with Yancey who explained that they had held their first rodeo in 2006 and that over the years it had just evolved into this great event venue that was loved by everyone who loved rodeo. The venue is just far enough out of San Antonio to make visitors feel like they’re out in the country.
Yancey went on to explain that gates open at 5.30, and with vendors and the gift shop, among other attractions the crowd is kept quite busy until the official start of the event at 7.30 pm. And boy does it start off with a bang!
The arena is flooded with riders circling the venue with flags, bathed in colourful lights and cheered on by the crowd. In the background, you can hear a trumpet announcing the start of something very exciting to come.
PLEASE STAND FOR THE NATIONAL ANTHEM
If you’ve ever been to the States, no big event in the USA ever begins in earnest without the singing of the national anthem. It’s the atmosphere is electric and the singer just nailed the Star-Spangled Banner.
And so the evening began to unfold
One of the first events is called the Running of the Barrels – or “Barrel Racing”. It’s an event for women usually, and it’s where the horse and rider attempt to run a cloverleaf pattern around a set of barrels in the fastest possible time.
Then, of course, there is the iconic “Bull Riding” event where a rider gets on a bucking bull in an effort to stay mounted while the animal tries to buck the rider off. This particular event has been called “the most dangerous eight seconds in sports.” In order to receive a score, the rider must stay on top of the bull for a minimum of eight seconds using a one-handed grip on a rope that is tied behind the bull’s front legs. And while you may think the second hand that you so often see held aloft a rider’s head is for flare. It most certainly isn’t! If you touch the bull or yourself, or you don’t manage to stay on the bull for eight seconds you will get a no-score ride. You also get scores for how ‘mean’ the bull is and how much it bucks. It can get pretty crazy and if you ain’t seen how nasty these bulls can be you best take a look at this video:
Yancey has been involved in rodeos his entire life and he had some really interesting stories and I needed him to explain some of the terms he was throwing out so he begins:
“These are cowboys and cowgirls correct, and this is how they make a living. They try and hit four or five rodeos a week. This is their office and they’re not like the NFL guys who get a salary. They have to win, they need to pay their electric bill or their mortgage. They’re coming to compete and they’re coming for first place.”
He went on to explain “for instance in the bull-riding, they’ll draw a bull. They don’t get to pick one, they’ll draw one.” So it’s a bit like a lottery and each rider is hoping it doesn’t get the angriest bull.
Yancey politely called these big bruisers awfully juicy and explained that a seasoned rider would likely prefer one of the ‘stronger’ bulls. This is because, as I mentioned earlier, you not only get points for how long you stay on the bull but also how much the bull bucks. Add to that Yancey explains there are points for how high the bull kicked and anything else that makes a bull difficult to ride for a cowboy.
While you may think the cowboys are the only stars of the show, Yancey explains that the bulls are bred to buck and there is even one bull called Perfect Storm who takes a victory lap around the arena like he’s showing off when he bucks a rider.
Yancey explains how all the animals in the rodeo, including the horses, are trained for and are passionate about their sport. The women who do barrel racing have a very close relationship with their horses.
“It’s a partnership between the cowgirl and the horse. They come together and learn what the other needs to be successful.”
There is a real community with rodeo athletes and as Yancey explains that while you may be competing against other riders, what it really is all about “is, it’s you against your animal. Your job is to get him rode and left everything else fall the way it falls.”
THIS ONE’S FOR THE KIDS
Yancey’s daughter who was 10 at the time would compete in the barrel race event. But there are also events for younger kids. They all get padded up and placed on the back of a sheep – it’s called Mutton Busting. They hang onto the sheep’s wool and the best rider takes away the trophy. I was lucky enough to get an interview with that evening’s winner, 7-year-old Evan.
I asked him if he was scared and he responded wisely “kind of, whenever I was about to do it. I was going ok but I falled off quickly.” (kids are so cute)
ROPING A CALF
Another exciting event at Tejas Rodeo is “Calf Roping”, the goal is for a rider on a horse to rope a calf using a lasso. Once the rider has the rope around the calf’s neck they need to jump off the horse, run to the calf and restrain it by tying three legs together in as short a time as possible.
“Roping is one of the oldest sports in Rodeo and they do this on a working ranch, usually to give them medicine,” says Yancey. “We try to take a lot of care of our animals and since our opening, we haven’t had an injury to our animals.”
FOR THE HUNGRY
There is an incredible steakhouse on-site that serves epic steaks and barbecue. They also host a dance after every Saturday night rodeo and as my host, Yancey explained “It’s cheaper than going to the movies”. At just $20 for an adult and $10 for kids. All in all, it’s a great night out.
After an epic night and some great conversation with Yancey James, I can say without a doubt these events take real sportsmanship. I can’t wait to see if it makes it into the Olympic Program at some point…
I’d like to extend a big thank you to Yancey James and the team at Tejas Rodeo Company for inviting me backstage and giving me an adventurous Saturday night. If you’re in the San Antonio area I highly recommend you pay them a visit.
NEXT STOP MEXICO
That’s it from Texas and from my tour of the USA – for this time. Now I’m heading to a few places in Mexico.
My name is Palle Bo and I gotta keep moving. See you.
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