For nearly 50 years, the Shoreline Riders of Fort Bragg, California have hosted an annual rodeo. In my 21 years of living here, I’m ashamed to say I’ve never attended. In fact, I’d never been to any rodeo until last Sunday when I strong-armed my friend Marcia and her eight-year old granddaughter Mackenzie into letting me tag along.
In the car, Mackenzie got me hyped up over the promise of visiting the petting zoo. Upon our arrival at the rodeo, her grandma took her to see the baby animals while I waited for a hamburger at the concession stand. (I wanted to get food before the events started so I wouldn’t miss a thing.)
When I joined them, Mackenzie was cradling a tiny black piglet in her arms. It could not have been more than a few weeks old. Its brown litter mate was held by another child. As both kids begged to take the piglets home, I took a moment to peruse the “zoo.”
Disclaimer: Far be it from me to judge anyone who expends the energy to put together a petting zoo.
If I hosted one, it would be located inside the plastic hoop house that covers my raised vegetable beds. The humidity that drips off the ceiling creates a mini-rain forest environment which would add an educational component to the experience.
My petting animals would include:
- One deaf 14.75-year old black dog with a three-pound fatty tumor on his right side.
- A belligerent 9-year old gray cat.
- Whatever half-eaten furry rodents the cat could supply.
The Shoreline Riders Rodeo petting zoo was designated by a temporary wire fence erected on a patch of dirt and consisted of:
- The aforementioned super cute piglets.
- A small raggedy sheep that was lying down, avoided eye contact and gave off the aura that it could never be coaxed to stand.
- Two pigmy goats that had the psycho look of extreme post-traumatic stress disorder and tried to make themselves invisible by hunkering down behind a bale of hay.
- A large predatory-looking rooster that no child wanted to touch.
- A denim-clad, cowboy-booted elderly rancher.
After a few minutes, it was time to head to the stands and take in my first rodeo. I asked the rancher where to leave the piglet.
“Just put it in the bucket.” He pointed to a five-gallon recycled paint bucket that held a few handfuls of hay.
Really? Put the piglet in that bucket? Really?!?
How about I put it in my purse and take it to the SPCA?
I took a deep breath.
I was there to enjoy my first rodeo—not to bring the law down on the poor petting zoo rancher. The piglet went into the bucket where it stayed for about 10 seconds before another child scooped it up. I urged Mackenzie out of the area and into the stands.
The petting zoo left me emotionally scarred. Fortunately the bulk of my life is behind me, so I only have to suffer this particular trauma for the next two or three decades.
The rodeo, on the other hand, was filled with excitement: bucking bulls attempting to crush their riders, women expertly steering their horses in arcs around barrels, cowboys flying through the air and landing hard to tie down calves, and the horses—the beautiful horses that were so impeccably partnered with their riders.
Not having been to a rodeo before, I didn’t know how to behave. I loudly oohed and awed, shrieked and cheered. The woman sitting on my left was rather stoic and drank a lot of beer. I hope it was because she was enjoying her afternoon—or that she was an alcoholic. I hope it wasn’t to dull the pain of sitting next to me.
I highly recommend the Shoreline Riders Rodeo. I’m definitely going next year. In the meantime, I just might buy me a cowgirl hat and pair of boots.