Cowboys once hopped on the backs of wild horses to break the animals. That's understandable: Somebody had to do it.
But why in the world would one climb aboard a 1,200-pound, squirming, kicking, mean old buzzard of a horse and get tossed around like a rag doll if one didn't have to?
Because it's exciting and challenging, says C.W. Adams of Flying U Rodeo.
Besides, it's "strictly a specialized profession," Adams says. "The riders go where they want, enter when they want, how often they want."
The Flying U is producing two Professional Cowboys Rodeo Assn. (PCRA) events this month, one at the Long Beach Arena this weekend, and one at the Palm Springs Police Rodeo in Palm Springs Feb. 24 and 25.
Among the events at the Long Beach show are bareback and saddle-bronc riding, calf roping and what Flying U calls the "world's most dangerous sport"--bull riding.
On Sunday at the arena, the colorful Fiesta del Charro will offer some of the same rodeo competitions, interspersed with pageantry and entertainment in the Mexican tradition.
\o7 Charro\f7 roping, horse tricks and mariachis offer a lesson in Southwest history, because it was the \o7 charros \f7 of Mexico who introduced many of the modern cowboy skills and equipment to early settlers.
Manolo Munos and Lorenzo de Monteclaro, ranchero singers from Mexico, and L.A. singer Susie Gonzales will perform during the fiesta. Also, Ricardo Robledo and Los Vagabondos de Zacateca will perform \o7 tambura\f7 --or \o7 banda\f7 --the hottest sound on Spanish-language radio today.
Next Saturday and Sunday at the Las Palmas Equestrian RV Park in Palm Springs, the Palm Springs Mounted Police Rodeo will feature bronc riding, barrel racing and drill team performances.
The Mounted Police are a volunteer search-and-rescue team; the rodeo is an annual fund-raiser that supports their rescue operations in the hills and desert.
Cowboys from all over the United States and Canada will compete in these PCRA-sanctioned events, says Adams. Some are ranchers, some are full-time rodeo riders. Several of the regular competitors on the rodeo circuit are Hollywood stunt men, including Walter Scott and brothers Harold and Bill Burton. Other riders, such as L.A. attorney Skip Kessell, have more subdued day jobs.
But no matter the profession, the riders have to be as physically fit as any football player or prize fighter to wrestle a steer to the ground or to climb onto an unsocial critter like a Brahma bull.
Bull and bronc riding are judged events, where form and bucking ability (how disagreeable the animal gets) are scored, along with the rider's ability to stay on the animal for at least seven seconds.
Other events include calf and team roping (one rider lassoes the head, the other rider ropes the hind legs), and steer wrestling. Women rodeo riders will perform trick riding exhibitions and compete in barrel racing events.
* Flying U Rodeo and Fiesta del Charro, Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach. Rodeo today at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Fiesta del Charro Sunday at 1 p.m. Admission to today's shows is $9, $10 and $15 (seniors 60 and older and children 11 and under, $6, $7 and $12). For more information, call (213) 436-3636.
* Palm Springs Mounted Police Rodeo, Las Palmas Equestrian RV Park, 3787 Sonora Road, Palm Springs. The rodeo begins at 1 p.m. both days. Admission is $10; children 11 and under $5. For more information call, (619) 325-1577.