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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Here's What I Like About the Rodeo

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Sun, Sep 18, 2011 at 11:19 AM

I'm one of those people who doesn't eat animals and also one of those people who doesn't do life-threatening thrill-seeking (skydiving: WHY?) but I love coming to the rodeo out here in Pendleton. I feel like this requires some explanation, so I'm making this visual list to explain why.

1. Insanity! With 50,000 people descending from all over the country onto this little East Oregon town for the weekend, there's hilarious sights around every corner. Most of this is drunken stuff that it doesn't do much good to describe on the blog—like a woman who was eating dinner out of a dog food bowl outside a bar! Or that, FYI, watching a small child be hurled of a mechanical bull is way sadder than you'd think it would be—but I will sum up "insanity" by posting this photo of a wheelbarrow of puppies. You can't take your eyes off it! It's completely unexpected! Pendleton is a wheelbarrow full of puppies.

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2. Sincerity! I dig it. And the rodeo is full of it. People take themselves seriously and that's a refreshing break from Portland life. And you know, there really is nothing like belting out the Star Spangled Banner and having it punctuated by an F-16 flyover. These guys are a little less on the sincere spectrum, but you know there's a patriotic heart behind that matching wolf shirts and pants choice.

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3. History! The rodeo is unarguably cruel in many ways BUT it's an American cultural tradition that's amazing to witness and interesting to wander around within. They've been doing the rodeo here in Pendleton for 101 years, over and over in almost exactly the same way since 1910, and there a lot of value in that, I think. Here are two photos to illustrate that point: Cowboys doing ballet-worthy stretches in the minutes before the rodeo began yesterday and, a few hundred yards away, Native men doing a fancy dance. You could have seen almost these same images if you went to the rodeo a decade ago, two decades ago, or ten decades ago.

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4. Pride in Place! It's great to see people celebrate Oregon history and traditions. I don't think I could ever live out here in Eastern Oregon long-term, but it's nice to be a place that's aware of its roots and wants to share them with us outsiders.

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5. Frito Pie! 'nuff said.


See you at the rodeo next year, friends.

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