Friday Five: Rodeo Deaths
Earlier this summer, the family and I headed to the Auburn Wild West Stampede Rodeo and watched a day’s worth of the festivities. Early in the day, the cowboys were qualifying for the bull riding finals when one of the riders had an awkward dismount and landed in a heap at the bull’s feet. The two “rodeo clowns” hopped into action and distracted the bull away from the cowboy. In the process, the bull lifted one of the clowns up off the ground between his horns and smashed him straight into the metal gate. The bull ran off and the clown collapsed. The sell-out crowd gasped in unison and cowboys from all over the rodeo ran to his side. It looked as if every single one of his ribs must have been broken and every inch of him must have had internal bleeding. But amazingly, after a couple minutes, he was up on his feet and was helped out of the ring.
An ambulance was on hand behind the rodeo ring and I watched as he was loaded into the back. But it never left to the hospital. Less than three riders later, that same rodeo clown was back out in the ring doing his thing- saving cowboys and distracting bulls. A huge ovation swept the arena when he re-entered the ring. It’s one of the more amazing things I’ve seen and a testament to pure toughness—and craziness—of those cowboys. Injuries or not, this wannabe cowboy probably would have stayed in the fetal position for several weeks after being smashed by a one-ton bull.
These stories don’t always end up smelling like roses, however. Country music has its share of rodeo songs that end up with cowboys being on the wrong side of the roses. In classic morbid Friday Five fashion, here are five songs about rodeo deaths.
5. Garth Brooks — “Good Ride Cowboy”
While Garth’s “Beaches of Cheyenne” probably is the more appropriate song choice here, it would be a travesty to not include this little tribute to the king of rodeo songs himself, Chris LeDoux. After the death of his idol, Garth released this number written by future star Jerrod Niemann.
In this melancholy rodeo song, a clown appropriately named Crazy saves a cowboy, but meets his end down the road. “It ended one night, in a West Texas town/The bulls either got faster, or ol’ Crazy slowed down.”
3. Marty Robbins — “Old Red”
This 1963 release from the great western story-song singer tells of the poor tale of old Billy McLean that got the wrong end of the bull. This video is from Marty’s own television show.
While LeDoux’s protagonist doesn’t meet his end on any mortal eight-second ride, he does refer to meeting his maker in a rodeo way across the great beyond. “Well I know some day farther down the road/I’ll come to the edge of the great unknown/There’ll stand a black horse riderless/ And I wonder if I’m ready for this/So I’ll saddle him up and he’ll switch his tail/And I’ll tip my hat and bid farewell.”
A Spanish rodeo includes the controversial practice of bullfighting. In this particular case, the bull takes out the handsome El Toreador before meeting his own end.
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