I just spent the last week as the rodeo chaplain at the “Rooftop Rodeo” the best “small” rodeo in America 5 of the last 9 years. Now I assume you are thinking what I was doing taking part in such an event. But I want to tell you it was an experience not to be missed.
For the most part my role was to hang out with the “rough stock” cowboys. These are the guys who ride the bucking Broncs and the bulls. I imagine that most of us imagine these guys to be tough ass kicking Son’s with maybe a couple cards missing from the deck. What I discovered was that they may not have much fear strapping themselves to these huge animals and attempting to ride them for 8 seconds but they are some of the best people I’ve met in a long time.
I spent time listening to their stories, learning about their life so far. (I would estimate the average age to be in the mid 20’s). What I expected to hear was not what I learned.
They wanted to tell me who they were and about their love or rodeo. They wanted to tell me they loved life living moment to moment. They wanted to tell me about passion for life. They were not some stereo typical hick (although I can’t say the same about the rodeo announcer). These young men may have had a strange passion but they were anything but strange. I have not be called sir so many times in my life and looked straight in the eye and experienced a heartfelt thank you to me for listening to them.
On the first night of the rodeo the unexpected happened. A bull landed funny shattering his leg. The bull was unable to bear any weight on this leg and was going to have to be destroyed. I would have assumed everybody would be indifferent to this but I first had to console a cowboy upset for being at the reigns of this animal and then work with the animals’ owner to assure the animal was as comfortable as he could be getting him back to be with the bulls he knew someone well. They knew the animal would have to be destroyed but they first wanted to make sure he was comfortable and with the other animals he knew.
I was not sure at first how to process this entire time but in retrospect I feel the people around the bull truly wanted the best for him. They were saddened by the loss of this athlete, as they referred to him. They did not see it as just some animal but mourned his loss.
What I learned in this week again is that just because people seek out their passion in different ways, who am, I to judge before I truly spend some time in their shoes, or cowboy boots as the case may be!
I guess I need to chalk this up to another lesson in humility in my experience with life.
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