Our friends, the Lonergans, were a day ahead of us, hence it was no surprise to see their silver Cruiser with tinnie on top once we arrived at the full to bursting Oasis Caravan Park at Cloncurry – or just ‘Curry’ in the local lingo. Arriving early on Saturday ensured we could setup and get out to the Rodeo in good time. We opted to drive the few kilometres rather than take the courtesy bus (this was probably a sensible option for many as the boys in blue apparently had a DUI field day the previous night). Whilst the afternoon light was harsh, shining straight into my beloved f2.8 telephoto lens, I managed a few photos of the various events.
I had never been to a rodeo before, but it turned out to be non stop action. We saw horses trying valiantly to buck their riders, rope throwers trying to catch runaway steers, cowboys diving off their horses onto steers at full throttle and wrestling them to the ground, graeco roman style, and good old bull riding. Eight seconds never lasted so long. Many riders were thrown within 3 to 4 seconds. A special attachment around the abdomen ensures the horses and bulls are more than a little agitated when unleashed into the ring. Apparently this does not tickle their gentleman’s area, but it sure looked like it came pretty close.
K – The “out of towners” clearly identified by our lack of 1. dark denim wrangler jeans with bling on the back pockets, 2. cowboy boots, 3. long sleeve plaid or paisley shirts, 4. large hats and 5. belts with more bling or very large buckles. This strict dress code extended from the elderly right down to the “mini-me” toddlers. All this despite the 33 degree temps. At least they were being sun safe.
This is an alpha male dominated event, punctuated by the odd female, especially in the roping division, which has an all female division. One of the highlights was actually the commentary. The MC was as a slick as a horse race caller, and was able to explain the rules as well as the many fouls, all punctuated with suitable tortured metaphors such as “that’s one thousand kilos of harassed hamburger out there, but our cowboy, Dwayne, up from Deniliquin, is in it just for the CASH ladies and gentlemen, and ohhh, he’s off, he’s going home sore, sorry and empty-handed again“. There was tons of humour, but no pity.
The riders do get thrashed about like rag dolls. I mentioned to Kris after one luckless rider was thrown from his untrusty mount that even though he walked away, it would probably hurt like hell tomorrow – a girl in the bleacher behind said ‘I wouldn’t worry too much, most cowboys aren’t too bright’ as if this somehow made it better (K – no brain no pain!). We wrapped up after the last bull ride event after 9:30pm, a long but very fun day, even for the boys, who mixed watching the events with browsing the ‘carnies’ and their sideshows, and later on, playing with their friend James Lonergan in the plentiful dust. An absolute standout throughout the day was the incredible horsemanship not only of the various riders, but also the stewards and the ‘paddock security’, whose job it was to round-up the antagonized stock after each event.
Whilst we had another full day set aside for more rodeo action in ‘Curry’ on Sunday, we decided that we had seen quite enough. First we visited the rather lame markets to inject some cash into the local economy. Kris chilled out with the boys whilst I jumped on my pushie and had a counter lunch and a few beers with the Lonergans at the pub where the founders of QANTAS kicked the idea of an airline around. I was not so inspired.