Rodeo and Texas seem to be synonymous. After all, the rodeo originated from the late 19th century cowboy meets, when contests were held to celebrate the end of a cattle drive. We had never been to a rodeo and wanted to see what it was all about.
The 44th annual San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo was held at the coliseum February 8 - 21, but the activities started earlier with the trail rides.
Twelve different groups of cowboys and cowgirls start out from their area and ride to San Antonio the old-fashioned way --- on horseback and in covered wagons. The timing of these rides is important to the opening rodeo pageantry. All 12 rides enter the city like the spokes of a wheel and meet in the center. Thousands participate in the trail rides that come from far and near in all directions.
We chose to check out the Cowboy Capital Trail ride that left Tarpley (northwest of San Antonio) on Feb. 3. They were scheduled to parade thorough Bandera --- the Cowboy Capital of the World and that seemed a fitting place to get our first taste of the rodeo. We had to get up extra early since they were scheduled to be going through Bandera at 9 a.m. and sixty miles separated us from Bandera.
It seemed surprising that only a few people stopped to watch the small group of riders as they went through town. It was as though it was a common event. We decided that it must be one of the smaller trail rides, but enjoyed watching them anyway.
The best part of the morning was after the parade. We walked the short block on main street, peeking in windows. The stores were nothing special but the OST (Old Spanish Trail) Cafe looked interesting. They advertise that they are "where cowboys have gathered for meals and coffee for over 65 years." The large but cozy cafe is decorated in a mish mash of western things in no special order. Wagon wheel chandeliers with lantern lights illuminate the place and the long community tables are covered with red and white checkered oilcloth. Haphazardly placed on the walls are stuffed deer, elk heads, cowboy hats etc. One wall is completely covered with fading posters and photographs of John Wayne and their special hamburg. The Duke is advertised for $3.95 on a small sign with removable plastic letters hanging obscurely on a cluttered back wall. Breakfast was substantial, tasty and served efficiently by a jeans wearing waitress. It was fun watching and eavesdropping on all the locals.
For the two most romantic decades in the history of the American West, Bandera and Dodge City, Kansas were connected by the Western Trail, and thousands of Texas cattle were driven from brush country pastures to markets at trailheads being established across Kansas Territory after the Civil War. Dodge City also claims to be the Cowboy Capital of the World. We haven't been to Dodge City yet so will have to wait to pass judgement on which we consider to be the most authentic.We can tell you this. If you are looking to play cowboy, this would be the place.
There are several dude ranches in Bandera and this is not a new venture. In 1895 when the "Old Duffy Hotel" was built on Main Street, girls would travel out from Houston for the summer and young cowboys from the surrounding ranches would ride their horses in on Saturday and Sunday just to show off to them.
The first dude ranch was the Dixie Dude which opened to "dudes" in 1937 as a way to offset the effects of the depression. It had been a working ranch for 36 years before it opened its doors to guests. Now there are six or seven dude ranches all offering a wide variety of amenities. Most offer horseback riding and other ranch fare. The Flying L Guest Ranch advertises an 18 hole golf course and another offers a weekly rodeo in the summer.
Those interested in history might enjoy the walking tour of the downtown
area or the Frontier Times Museum. And horseback riding isn't the only
horsey thing in Bandera. Bandera Downs offers pari-mutual wagering on thoroughbred
and quarter horse racing. They have weekend races from spring through fall.
There is a Coast to Coast campground near town and plenty of commercial
campgrounds in the area too.
We arrived at the coliseum early in the afternoon and wandered in and out of all the buildings. We happened upon a calf working demonstration where the horse and rider skillfully moved the calf by either blocking the calf's way or by chasing him. It was amazing how fast both the horse and calf were able to change direction. We visited all the booths and noticed that many were the same as other fairs. The encyclopedia company, the handy dandy kitchen gadget and the water softener company were all there, but we enjoyed looking at western items like hats, boots and paintings. We didn't buy anything. One building had samples of Texas products and we did our duty and sampled some good stuff. Did you ever hear of chilipitin? Me neither. It is something that grows wild and is hot. The lady from Fay's Texas Naturals had a bunch of different sauces etc made from chilipitin and it was good.
Since we did not want to do the carnival, we were seated in the rodeo a bit early. Great for people watching. Just for fun, go to one of these kinds of events and count cowboy hats.
The rodeo opened with a parade. The Bexar County Palomino Patrol and the United States Marshals Posse of the Western District of Texas did some fancy riding --- criss-crossing around the arena. The horses were beautiful and the riders skillful.
The first event was Bareback Bronc Riding. This is a new event and has nothing to do with real ranch duties. Each cowboy rides with a "rigging" --- a double-thick leather pad cinched on the bronc's back. The rigging is fitted with a handle much like a suitcase handle. That is all he has to hold on to. There are no stirrups or reins. The rider must ride for eight seconds. The higher and wilder the rider spurs, the better his marking by the judges. Points are awarded for the bucking pattern and power of the horse, as well as the rider's strength, control and spurring.
The second event, Steer Wrestling, is another event that was never part of ranch work. It requires cooperation between two cowboys, two horses and the steer which must weigh at least 450 pounds. The steer is released and only a split second behind, the two cowboys on horses ride on either side of the steer until the wrestler is in position to dismount onto the running steer. The cowboy slides from the saddle of his running horse and lands on the steer, then brings the steer to a stop. By applying leverage to the steer's horns, the cowboy can force the animal to the ground for time. The steer must be flat on it's side with all four legs extended, before official time is given.
We really enjoyed Calf Roping because historically this event evolved from work on the ranch. During the annual spring roundup, calves had to be roped by a single cowboy for branding and ranch "doctoring." The calf is let out and a split second later the roper on horseback catches the calf with a 25 foot lariat, dismounts his horse, runs down the rope being held taut by his horse, drops the calf, gathers three of the calf's legs, ties them together with a six foot string and throws up his hands to signal the end of his competitive run. Often a time of 10 seconds or less wins, but most of the ones we saw were 15 seconds or a little more. We were most amazed at the horse. He kept the rope taut even though the calf moved. The riderless horse moved back or in what ever direction he had to move to keep the rope taut. Team Roping was the next regular event. They say that the practice of catching cattle by the horns and hind feet has been the easiest way to doctor injuries or brand livestock since the early days but it didn't look easy to us. Of the ten teams that we saw, none even came close to time needed to win and the majority weren't even able to finish. The calf is released and followed by the two riders. The header chases the steer and throws his loop around the steer's horns and turns the animal back so that the second cowboy, the "healer" can position himself and throw a loop around the steer's hind heels. The roping of a jumping, twisting, steer's hind legs must be timed very precisely. Both cowboys must wrap their ropes around the saddle horns after making their catches. Time is called when both horses turn to face each other with the steer in the middle, ropes taut.
Saddle Bronc Riding is the oldest event and evolved from the need to break or tame wild horses so they could be used as saddle mounts. It is much like bareback bronc riding except the rider now has a special approved saddle. There are many areas where the rider is either graded higher or lower but basically he has to stay on for the eight second ride. To quote from the rodeo guide it, "...is an exercise in style, timing and know how with the rules stacked very much in the animal's favor.
Women's Barrel Racing was a fast and breathtaking event. Three barrels are set up in the arena and the rider gets a head start before entering the arena. Once entering the arena, electronic timers are used to record the time. Tight cornering, ground-level turns and breakneck speed are mandatory requirements if one is to be a winner. The barrels may be touched but not tipped over and the crowd uttered a loud "OOOOH" when the one rider who could have won, knocked over the last barrel. She was only ten years old and what a rider she is.
The final event was Bull Riding. This is another event created to make the rodeo more exciting. The time required to stay on the bull is eight seconds and most that we saw ride did stay on, but they are judged on many things and none we saw came close to the points needed to be a finalist at the rodeo.
We did not see any records broken, but now we know what a rodeo is and think that a small town rodeo would be more fun. Sitting way up in the stands in a huge coliseum put too much distance between the viewer and the event. We will keep our eyes out for some local rodeos and try again.
The entertainment? I almost forgot. It was the Texas Tornados
(Freddy Fender) and would have sounded better if the acoustics were better.
We couldn't understand much of what was being sung or said. We had
a long drive back to the LBJ ranch so left shortly after it began.
A Few Highlights From
We have written about the San Antonio area before but just bits and pieces. We intended to do a more in-depth job this time, but I got carried away on the rodeo so will only highlight a few of the places we re-visited when good friends Grant & Nancy Joy visited us recently.
There are four missions in the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. They are a little south of downtown San Antonio and easy to get to. Mission San Jose (the largest) has been called the Queen of the Missions since 1777 when a visitor referred to it as such. The chain of missions established along the San Antonio River in the 18th century are reminders of one of Spain's most successful attempts to extend its New World authority northward from Mexico. These missions were very important in the settling of Texas and these here formed the foundation for the city of San Antonio.
We had been to each of the missions before and never knew about the Mariachi Mass held at San Jose's church Sunday mornings. Nancy brought this information with her from Minnesota. We went early, as suggested, so we could be seated for the always crowded mass. The priest in this beautiful old church, spent a good half hour before the mass, going from row to row, asking where everyone was from. I do believe that every state in the U.S. was represented as well as many foreign countries.
The mass started with a parade of musicians and exciting mariachi music. It was really a thrill to participate in such an explosion of joyous music even though we couldn't understand the words.
A visit to San Antonio wouldn't be complete without visiting the most famous mission of all --- The Alamo. Located downtown by the famous Riverwalk area, the Alamo is a shrine to freedom and has been well maintained by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas since 1905. As soon as one enters the Alamo, you are reminded that this is a place for the utmost reverence. Photography is not allowed, and if you listen to one of the short talks, you will be asked to hold any applause. One hundred eighty nine men including Davy Crockett held the fort for 12 days against a Mexican army which eventually numbered 4,000. But all died on the 13th day of the siege (February 23 --- March 20, 1836). On April 21, 46 days after the fall of the Alamo, less than 800 angered Texans and American volunteers defeated the Mexican army at San Jacinto while shouting the battle cry "Remember the Alamo." With that, Texas was free; a new republic was born.
San Antonio's River Walk is one level below the busy downtown streets.
It is a wonderful experience. We strolled along side the San Antonio River
as it meanders through town. From the River Center mall to the hotel lobbies
and past all the riverfront cafes, the walk is accented with palm trees
and lush foliage. River boat taxies pass by ferrying their passengers here
and there while music filters out from one or two of the lounges and it
is apparent that everyone is having a good time. Every time we stroll the
Riverwalk, I am more convinced than ever that San Antonio is the prettiest
Since we only had two days with the Joys, we only spent one day in San Antonio and brought them out to the LBJ Ranch, Fredricksburg and Luckenbach the second day. I will write a little about Fredricksburg next month, but I wanted to include this picture of the Joys in Luckenbach. We will never forget the expression on Grant's face when we arrived in town. It wasn't what he expected. All of us who have been to Luckenbach know the feeling. While in the bar/post office, we enjoyed looking at all the signs on the wall and watching the people. Nancy got a kick out of the out buildings. She just had to investigate.
There is no way that I can do justice to San Antonio or the Hill Country
for that matter. You'll just have to come on down and investigate it for
This 'N That
It was like coming back to family when we arrived at the LBJ Ranch. There were lots of hugs. It is nice to be up here on our hill with the cattle in sight from our windows. Most of the rangers we worked with last year are still here and we met a few new ones. Don and Liz Ryding (volunteers) are back too. And we didn't waste any time getting back to work. Two days after we arrived, they had us handling the whole show here on the ranch while they were all at a meeting.
Not much has changed. The busses are still the same. I was driving one the other day when the rear axle broke in two. I was in the middle of the low water bridge (it is nearly level with the water) with 47 passengers. That was exciting.
We have had some visitors since we arrived: Grant & Nancy Joy (did I ever tell you that Nancy and I met in a shower at a state park in Ohio?); Clarence and Kae Elliott; Rita and Gene Hornby; Ron and Tommy Marks. These are all people we have met since we started full-timing.
One thing that has changed around here is the weather. I don't remember it being so cool or rainy last year. Every once in a while we get a real warm day (high 70's) then it turns cold again. But by the looks of the weather maps, it is REAL cold up north. Hurry up spring.
One of the reasons we wanted to come back here was so we could get some serious bike riding in. The only thing my bike is doing is rusting. I keep it oiled but... We need a garage.
How about a breakfast taco? I kept seeing it on menus in this part of the country and finally tried one. They are great. It is simply some scrambled egg and whatever (ham, potatoes, green pepper, onion etc) in the center of a soft tortilla. Add a slice of cheese and roll it up. Try it some time. Oh and don't forget to add a little hot salsa.
We are finding out that getting warranty work done anywhere is no problem. We had a hard time steering the motorhome all the way from Florida to Texas. It turns out that the Safety Plus thing installed to make steering easier, made it worse. We went to Ancira GM and RV in Boerne, TX and they were great. That thing is now off and has been shipped back to LazyDays. Plus, we had some other warranty work done. We camped there for three days. The only problem we had was they forgot to inform us of the correct hour when they locked the gate. We went out for dinner and came back to find our house secure behind a high barbed wire fence. We climbed it at a low spot.
When we were at the Riverwalk, taking the boat tour, three young men (early 20's) were having a ball running ahead of the boat (on the riverwalk) then striking some silly poses and holding them till our boat went by. None of the passengers were listening to the tour. We were all watching for the next comedy scene. The more we laughed, the greater their antics. It reminded me of the tricks my three boys played so often and I wished I could go back in time and relive it all again.
Another time I got homesick for the "good old days" was when we went to the Fredricksburg Band Boosters Turkey dinner. The bands played after several thousand dinners were served in the fair grounds pavilion. The dinner and the music were both great. How many of those kinds of concerts did I attend while my three boys were in the band? More good memories. One of the charming aspects of our lifestyle is that it lets us go into new communities and belong for a while. Each little town is special.
I hope that you grandparents who have children with cam corders, get videos of the grandchildren often. We just got another up-date from Jim and Sue in England. Through the video, we got to enjoy the kids at play, at quiet times, trying to walk, taking a nap, Christmas excitement, birthdays and even a cranky spell. We just can't thank Jim and Sue enough for taking the time to do this for us.
While we were having dinner at Mamacita's in Fredricksburg, we noticed a table of young adults celebrating a birthday. When the crew of the restaurant came to sing to Shannon, they had her stand on a box so everyone could see. After the singing her boyfriend Carl proposed to her and gave her a ring. It was fun to be privy to this intimate moment and to see her excitement. She said "Yes."
It sure is fun playing with the new computer. It is fast, has a color monitor and I have a few games installed which sometimes gets in the way of real work.
Would you believe that just as I was finishing the last newsletter, the old Toshiba laptop broke? What timing! After a call to Toshiba, we were directed to a great repair guy in San Antonio. It was just a minor repair he said ($130.00). Glad it wasn't major. So now we are a two computer family. I get the new one except when Ron beats me to the games.
We joined a Bounder organization (Bounder owners say their motorhomes
are so ugly that the only ones that will camp with them are fellow Bounders).
Our first newsletter from them detailed a new chapter that was meeting
here in Fredricksburg. We had to work so couldn't move our "house" to camp
with them, but we did go to the campground after work. What a nice
bunch of people! It is nice to compare notes and see what kinds of
good and bad things people say about their Bounders. We will be attending
a rally in Branson, Missouri when we leave here May 1. How will we tell
our house from all the other Bounders?
Signs in Luckenbach
Please don't make us write "don't" signs.
If you're drinking to forget, please pay in advance.
Bumper Sticker in New Braunfles, Texas
1. How many peanuts are in a 12 ounce jar of peanut butter?
a) 459 b) 540 c) 836
2. Texas is the largest__________ producing state in the U.S..
3. _____% of the U.S. production of mohair comes from Southwest
4. -----% of the worlds mohair comes from Southwest Texas?
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