Monday, May 5, 2014

Rolling, rolling, rolling…

This is a somewhat belated post as in reprising the blogs of the last month, I see I missed a big one.  Namely that of our sojourn in the Stockyards of Fort Worth.


This was an excuse pure and simple to act out our cowboy fantasies as I'd found a cowboy hotel right in the complex and right opposite a place where we ate lunch and whose speciality was 'Calf Fries'.  Those of you who think that may be a veal chop or something like that, think again.  They are the unmentionable dangly bits of the bull deep fried!  Apparently this is a delicacy of the first order, however as it happened to be the day after our tequila evening, it was not even up for consideration.

Calf Fries do not mix with Tequila!

The Stockyards are a throwback to the 1870's and an important consolidation point for the cattle drives being on the Chisholm Trail that lead up from the south and continued up north to the rail crossroad town of Kansas City.  It was also the place where local ranchers from Texas itself brought their cattle to add to the drive which on average amounted to 2,500 or so head of cattle (slipping back into the vernacular again!).  At its peak before the railways came to Dallas in the late 1870's, some drives grew to 10,000 cattle, an enormous number when you consider that the average cattle drive used less than 20 people -- cowboys, support staff like cook, wranglers to look after the horses, etc.  This meant that the cowboys themselves had to be very, very good with horse, lassoo and controlling the longhorn which is a monstrous sized ornery critter.

The venue for all cowboy shows
Cattle drive through the streets

We went to an afternoon wild west show that included horse riding, shooting and lassoo demonstrations all of which the cowboys of today handled very adeptly (to my untrained eye anyway). I still cannot imagine how only 15 of them handled 2,500 ornery longhorns some of which weighed in excess of 1,000 lbs.

Amazingly there was an office suite in the midst of the yards themselves comprising regular offices as well as a museum and live auction which was ongoing when we visited.  Odd to think that a law or accounting firm would choose that location for an office but they did.

Nice museum too with an impressive array of cowboy pictures assembled in a sort of gallery of fame.


Later on was the rodeo itself.  Apparently the Fort Worth stockyard is the only place that has weekly rodeos nationwide.  Other places host them on occasion.  The format apparently is the same: bull riding (men only), individual lassooing and hog-tying of the smaller calves (men and women), speed riding (women only), team lassooing of a grown up steer (mixed but usually men), and finally bull riding again.  In between there were events for children from the audience: the older 8-12 year olds having to manhandle a calf whilst the even younger ones worked with a sheep!

Great fun throughout but on this day, bull won.  No rider stayed on for more than about 3 seconds compared to the target time of 8 seconds so the prize money and points were earned by nobody.  Not surprising really as the bulls are huge and very, very angry by the time they get into the ring with that whipper snapper on his back.  It often took ages to get the bull out of the ring as he appeared keen on goring something or someone right now, don't care who or what and raced around the rink in a threatening manner with people jumping out of the way to left and right.

Final thing on the agenda was Billy Bob's Honky Tonk right next door, a 6,000 person hall where BarBQ and country music ruled.  We watched a cajun sounding band there but missed out on the line dancing.

One thing that baffled me and I never managed to get it right is when and how to wear the cowboy hat. Women can wear their boots and/or hat seemingly at any time with any costume.  Guys on the other hand have strict rules of engagement.  No shorts at any time… unless you're an Australian apparently.  Jeans and shirt of some sort are the safest bets.

The right time to wear your cowboy hat
I wore mine at Billy Bob's and found out that I was in the minority of about 6 people who wore hats to the dance.  Loads of women wore hats and boots so Viv committed no fashion faux pas.

No fashion faux pas in sight

Action packed day made even better by the sight of a hen party with everyone wearing pink tu-tu's. Wondrous.

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