This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
Stocks Under $10 with 50-100% upside potential - 14 days FREE!

Saddle Up

After his catastrophic two-second ride on Black Bandit, Ruiz, his face drenched with sweat, told me: "No money today, so it's a bad day at the office."

But at least Black Bandit hadn't stomped or kicked him, he said. A week earlier in Arizona, a bull's horn had grazed Ruiz's arm; he walked away with a bad bruise, but in the world of rodeo, that's not a big deal. Ruiz has endured far worse.

To underscore how dangerous the competition -- or work -- is, broken bones, concussions and otherwise serious injuries are considered minor setbacks. Back injuries are common, and often end careers.

Despite the fame, fortune and celebrity of some riders like McBride, most barely earn enough to recover their high travel costs.

Backlash

Not everybody sees rodeos as benign pageantries of musical entertainment or talented cowboys. Humane groups harshly condemn them as cruelty to animals.

Events such as steer "wrestling" or bull and bronc riding (where the rider must stay on a kicking, untamed animal) do not pay homage to traditional ranching skills. Rights groups say the animals experience fright and even harm, especially during the riding.

Corporate sponsors of rodeos, including Starbucks, have been targeted across the country. An Illinois animal rights group last year launched a nationwide "Buck Starbucks" boycott campaign, and the company ended its rodeo sponsorships. The boycott hasn't ended, however, because Starbucks still often sells coffee at rodeos.

But other companies, such as truck, food, alcohol and cigarette makers, happily vie to sponsor rodeos. The rodeo's audience, it's believed, is broad and deep, and similar to that of car racing.

The cowboys, on the other hand, are sensitive to the animal abuse accusations, insisting they respect rodeo animals and that few are injured.

The rodeo, they say, reflects their heritage and rural lifestyle. Many participants have grown up on ranches; the rodeo is simply a passion and a way to make a living for them.

Rodeo Scribe

At the Days of '47 Rodeo I attended, I wanted to see and feel some of the thrill these cowboys talked about.

Instead, as a spectator and reporter, I found long pauses between events, which proceeded without explanation for the audience. Nor was there a printed program with details about rules, scoring or judging. The promoters instead stimulated the crowd with laser lights and a pounding mix of music, ranging from hip hop to country music to disco.

Cowboys Ready to Ride

The judging is subjective, based on the rider's style, and often colored by the rider's earnings, much as scoring in Olympic figure skating can be tainted by the star's fame or the judge's country of origin.

In multiday competitions, the daily events don't necessarily conclude with a known victor. Results are announced later, when the cowboys are long gone to the next rodeo.

The cowboys I met mostly knew one another but showed little camaraderie. They seemed very focused on their own events, which include bareback horse riding, saddled bronco riding, steer wrestling, steer roping, team roping and for the cowgirls, barrel racing. (Bull riding is usually the climactic finale of the rodeo.)

Ruiz, though, was smiling, even after his disastrous truncated ride on Black Bandit. Earlier, he had confidently predicted that his ride would last for ten seconds. That determination, in cowboy speak, is called "try." Moments later, Ruiz was back at the corral. "Black Bandit drilled me, out the door and on the floor," he said.

A two-second ride. No prize money. A hard fall on his rear. As Ruiz continued talking about the pleasures of the rodeo, he began laughing, and then he couldn't stop until he was wiping away tears.



Enjoy the Good Life? Email us with what you'd like to see in future articles.

Martin Stolz is a freelance writer living in Salt Lake City. He previously worked as a newspaper reporter in New York and California.
2 of 2

Select the service that is right for you!

COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Action Alerts PLUS
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
  • Weekly roundups
TheStreet Quant Ratings
Try it NOW
Only $49.95/yr

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
  • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Stocks Under $10
Try it NOW

David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
  • Weekly roundups
Dividend Stock Advisor
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
  • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Real Money Pro
Try it NOW

All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

Product Features:
  • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
  • Intraday commentary & news
  • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Options Profits
Try it NOW

Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
  • Actionable options commentary & news
  • Real-time trading community
  • Options TV
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!
DOW 16,960.57 -123.23 -0.72%
S&P 500 1,978.34 -9.64 -0.48%
NASDAQ 4,449.5640 -22.5440 -0.50%

Brokerage Partners

Rates from Bankrate.com

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs