I was already about half-sick when I was driving through Elk City, taking Rolan to the doctor's office today when I saw the signs of the inevitable. This is Elk City's Rodeo of Champions weekend. Each year I feel the same dreadful pit in my stomach when I first spot the red, blue and white banners. Like a cramping period, you can do nothing but grit your teeth and push through it. I am a well-documented fun hater and I'm sure you think this is just more evidence to that fact. Trust me, it's not. Just ask any of my former co-workers. (For further evidence of my fun hater status, click here or here.)
Now, I know that many of you locals are already all up in my arms by my last statements. I know because I've mentioned my pure disdain for this ridicules bullshit to some of you businessmen and, with your eyebrows scrunched all disapprovingly, you scold me for lack of loyalty to the town.
"Don't you know how much extra business this thing brings in for the town? they ask.
Well, fuck yes, I know this brings extra business to town -- a shit ton of unmanageable business. And, do you know how I know that it brings in a shit ton of business? Well, let me tell you how.
For ten years, I hustled and grunted through the swarms of descending "cow"boys, packed 10 to a dozen in each booth that typically seats four at the Pizza Hut. Then the parade would start, that motherfucking parade, and the Pizza Hut parking lot would get so damned full with onlookers, totally spellbound as though they've never seen a shitting horse or a high school marching band, that our delivery drivers would have to park two blocks away to come in and get another round of deliveries.
And, yes, the Pizza Hut made some sweet profits each of those years I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, explaining to one drunken "cow"boy after another that I would serve them a beer, just not Coors Light. We didn't carry Coors Light. And every other damned week of the year this wasn't a problem. But, on Rodeo Weekend when everyone is a bonafide, true blue cowboy, they cannot be expected to demean themselves by drinking Bud Light. So, while the restaurant I was working my dog ass off for was clearly some bank, I never made any extra money. Sure, there were a swelling number of tables, but they were generally bad tippers. Plus, I would spend half the damn day scrapping horseshit out of the carpet because you know each parent let their children run into the road to pick up parade candies they could buy 50 fucking pieces of for $1 at the dollar store. As Little Johnny or Little Suzy would bend down to snag their sugary prize, you could bet a million dollars their adorable boots with the waffle soles would land smack dab in the middle of a fresh turd. After the parade, they would mosey into the Pizza Hut where each one of the little bastards would brush their new boots off on our floor.
In between dealing with the hurricane of poo and the belligerent Coors Light loyalists, I would periodically have to lock myself in the walk-in to keep from laughing in the faces of local business people. I would see these folks on a regular basis throughout the year in their polo shirts and Gucci shoes, all combed and slick for a day of commerce. But, when the rodeo rolls around, you can bet your sweet ass they are dressed up like Pecos Bill.
Now, you are probably thinking, Shonda, I thought you dressed your kids in Western clothes all the time. I thought you married a cowboy and together you run like 7,000 head of cattle each year.
Well, you would be correct on all that. My husband is the quisessential cattleman. He ropes steers off a four-wheeler, chasing cattle down dusty lanes, lives half his life riding around in pick-ups taking head counts and patching fence and the other half doctoring sick ones and shipping off the ones ready to sell. And yet, with all this cowboy-esque duty, he manages to do it without looking like an extra in the Tombstone movie. Sure, he sports Wranglers and a pearl snap, sometimes even with a flower print, but he leaves the chaps at the house.
But, for these people on this weekend, it is like Halloween for adults. The more gaudy cowboy accessories they can pile on, the happier they are about it. As I would serve them pizza, just during this solitary week, they'd wink and say, "Why, Thank ya, Ma'am."
Then I would walk off, shaking my head at the bizarre alternate universe we will embark to once a year.
Now, I have to say that I really respect the hard work of the ten men on the rodeo board. They spend most of their year working hard to bring a professional level event to our tiny corner of the world. If half the community didn't go ape shit crazy during Rodeo Weekend, it probably wouldn't aggravate me a bit. In fact, I don't remember harboring all these volatile feelings about the thing until after I went to work for the Pizza Hut when I was 14ish. But, after slaving through that first year with barely a bump in pay, I knew this damn rodeo would forever be my arch nemesis.
So, listen up, folks. Take your kids out to the rodeo, I really hope you do. It's good family fun and I am all about supporting the community. In fact, my boys are getting old enough that I am sure I am going to have to end my protest and take them. But, if you wear Levis or Dockers for the rest of the year, by all means, wear them to this. If you let your children rush into the street during the parade, for God's sake, brush off the shit from their shoes BEFORE you take them into a restaurant.
However, if you are really wanting to witness some real life, crazy cowboy shit, come on out to our place. I think Rowdy has to rope a few steers later on this evening. After you see him drive his four-wheeler with one hand, zooming by at 30 miles per hour as he ropes a 900 pound steer, you'll nod your head and agree that that is a show. As I've always believed, Real Cowboys Don't Pay Entry Fees.