Sunday, July 6, 2014

Ka'u - Rodeo

Cowboys aren't extinct. Yeee-haa!  Not here in Ka'u. Ranch life is different in Hawaii than say, Montana or Wyoming. But using horses to work cattle is the real thing here. Drive around Ka'u and you'll see plenty of cows, horses, and cowboys, though you won't recognize the cowboys since they look pretty much like anyone else. But come rodeo day, things change. Ah, they don cowboy hats! And get rather comfy with a horse. 
Rodeo is a community event here. And a family event. And it's old fashion style. 
The horses are working ranch horses that are also trained for occasional rodeo. Very few are actual rodeo horses. The calves and steers are right off somebody's ranch. Sometimes they're too large, sometimes too old compared to what you'd see at a"real" rodeo. But we make do with what we have. 
(Bulls just hanging out.)

The bulls are mostly breeding bulls that happen to dislike being touched. Uh, don't they all? Today's bulls had just one in the group that is kept just because he's a bucker.  
So you won't see super fast times, spectacular run outs, amazing bull rides. But you will see some pretty good skills and horses. And bulls that don't buck very hard but are still buggahs to try to sit on. I wouldn't even try. 
Mainland rodeo has both people and livestock that are 100% professional rodeo. You won't see that here. But you will see your neighbors having fun showing off or trying to beat "cuz" or "uncle". 
Many of the rodeo participants grew up in paniola/rodeo families. 
At 3-4 years of age they are trying to lasso steer dummies. By 4-5 they are trying to ride sheep, an event termed mutton busting. 
 I've seen 6-7 year olds riding horses better than I do, and their boots often don't even reach the stirrups. 
By 10 they have graduated to mini bucking bulls. And at that age they can handle a rope better than I could ever hope to. 

Hawaiian rodeo events are a bit different than those on the mainland. Not much, but the better reflect skills actually used on the ranches here. There are dally events where the cowboy first ropes a steer by the horns. Since the steers today weren't naturally horned they had to wear "hats" with artificial horns, making them all look like white faced steers. 
(Side story: Sometimes when the steer is roped by these artificial horns, the steer's hat pops off and flies, sending the horns and attached rope clear across the arena. The first time this happened today my poor mother let out a gasp, horrified. She thought that the poor steer had been beheaded! ) 
The cowboy takes the steer over to a "Y" shaped post in the center of the arena, then loops the rope through the center of the "Y". At this point the rider jumps off his horse and the horse's job is to keep the rope snug. The cowboy now runs down the rope, puts a noose on the steer's neck and ties the other end to the post.
 Sounds easy, no? Lots can go wrong and steers aren't all that cooperative, though this one pictured stood fairly quietly. Luck of the draw. 

Another uniquely Hawaiian event is called Mugging. Depending upon the event, there is one rider and one or two cowboys on foot, and one often totally uncooperative, pissed off steer (he's done this before and isn't to keen on the idea of doing it again.)
Mounted cowboy catches the steer. 
The cowboy on the ground runs across the arena and catches the steer, trying to hold it in one spot. 
Now the first cowboy dismounts, runs to join his team mate, whereupon they try to tip the steer over onto its side and tie three of his feet together. Simple. In reality, the steer wins the competition about half the time. And the cowboys get beaten up and stamped on plenty! I bet those cowboys sport bruises for a couple of weeks. 

There's a class  for Wahine Mugging, where two cowgirls work with a calf doing the same thing. Today's calves were big strapping fellas and the girls really got the short stick. Muddied, dragged around, thrown over, trod on, clothing ripped. The calves won every time! Wow. 

A fun event for kids is "Undressing the Goat". It's really cute to watch. Take one smelly, wise, old billy goat one a long rope and tie a ribbon to his tail. Now you've got an indigent goat in a bit of a huff. 
Now tell a small kid to go grab the ribbon on its tail.....that's the undressing part. The kid races 20 feet over to the goat, but Mr Billy has been watching. By the time the kid arrives, the goat has decided that he's not going to cooperate. 
The kids try all sorts of tactics I'm sure their friends or relatives had suggested. But none of them work very well. But after chasing that tail in circles and dealing with a set of horns, the kid finally gets that ribbon. Happy as heck, the kid sports his trophy ribbon for the rest of the rodeo. And the fastest kid earns his first rodeo buckle! 

Half time entertainment........
Sort of like being at a hockey game and watching the zamboni. Yup, we all sat there eating our beef stew plates, fried ice cream, or sucking on dreamcicles. Watched that truck going round, and round, and round again. Just like at the hockey game! 

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