Now I may not be a lifelong rodeo queen, but these shindigs and I are somewhat acquainted.
Last year I went to my first rodeo (hardee-har-har) with Jodi, Scott and Wendy in St. Paul, Oregon. There was a decent amount of Coors Light - at least enough for me to not overthink the fact that the porta-potties under the bleachers were only about 10 feet away from the pens of raging bulls - but a "Wild Cow Milking Contest"?
Did you know this exists?
Well fear not, buckaroos... It does.
It's very, very real.
And I will forever file that under "Things I Never Thought I'd Witness" right next to "Dean is wearing a BLACK shirt - with WRITING on it".
Of course it bears mention that all festivities last year were mildly overshadowed by the text I got from Wendy the night before that read:
"I have a friend who works the rodeo so we can ho behind the shuts!"
Now I could pretty much bank that there was something, er, fueling that text and that there had to be more to it.
But it's Wendy...
And you never know.
(come to find out, what she meant was "we can GO behind the CHUTES" but like I said, you never know)
Anyway, the Red Lodge Rodeo had some big boots to fill.
And boy howdy, did it deliver!
The Bag o' Beer may have been what pushed Red Lodge into my personal circle of champions.
Sure, it was $15 for a mixed six-pack of Budweiser products (I'm so sorry Portland, I wasn't making you proud that night, please don't tell the micro-brewers) but being handed a bag of ice cold cans sure beats a 12-oz. cup of Coors Light that warms up too fast.
All hail the eight second ride.
What, this doesn't look like a good time to you?
Well good call.
Because this wild-horse-something-contest was the last event of the night and, unfortunately, also the roughest.
Not pictured was the guy who got kicked unconscious shortly after the ponies were released. I watched as one of his teammates went to lift him up only to see him flop back to the dirt like a broken marionette.
"You know folks, every man and woman that goes into the ring knows this is a possibility. If you're so inclined, would you offer up a prayer for this brave rider and his family tonight?"
I actually think that moment of silence rang louder than any cheers for the broncos or the bulls.
And it proved once again that prayer is a powerful thing.
The EMTs flew into the ring, and even the Rodeo Clown took a knee in silence while the whole of the stands waited with shallow breaths for the announcement that he had finally come to.
John, Josh and Lauryn decided to take off a little early in search of dinner (Laura and I were perfectly thrilled with rodeo cheeseburgers & funnel cake) so the two of us girls started our hike home as the sky turned all watercolored.
We made friends with one of the stars.
Rule of Thumb: don't let two photographers walk home in a beautiful setting if you want to make it back to town before nightfall.
We ended up unable to locate the path back down the foothills that Laura was sure would take us directly back to town but quickly found an alternative...
...Running down that grassy knoll you see framing the little town of Red Lodge, Montana.
And keep in mind folks that when I say "running" I mean Laura used her long, svelte legs to ease her down the hill with little issue.
I, on the other hand, relying on my standard crab-walk-down-the-slope turned hey-this-grass-is-really-dry-and-surprisingly-slick-as-a-result managed to bruise my butt on a rock as I navigated my poor center of gravity into someone's backyard.
Don't worry though...
Laura promised we weren't in the part of Montana where backyard intruders risked being shot on site.
What a deal.