Life on and off the waters of the Wood River Valley
Sun Valley Cowboys Up
The big boys (and bulls) of PBR rock the Rodeo Grounds
While people in big cities like Boston and Seattle might think that the only places cowboys actually exist anymore are Louis L’Amour novels and Clint Eastwood movies, the truth is, cowboys are alive and as well as can be expected. And they sure do know how to throw a party!
The roughest, toughest cowboys out there compete in the Pro Bull Riders (PBR, not to be confused with the blue-ribbon winning beer of the same acronym) Touring Division. The national tour made its now annual stop at the Rodeo Grounds in Hailey a week ago Saturday night. In front of a packed and rocking crowd of all ages, the boys and bulls of Sun Valley PBR Classic put on one heck of a show, and showed that the cowboy spirit of the Old West is still alive and well in the Gem State.
The cowboys came from places like Caldwell, Idaho, and Summerville, Georgia, from Grassy Butte, North Dakota and Liberal, Kansas, from Tisdale, Saskatoon, and Edgewood, New Mexico. And they came to do one thing: try to stay on a big ol’ beast of an angry bull for eight seconds!
As the exceptionally entertaining host and MC for the night, the world-renown Racer Botkin, told the festive crowd in his twangy Texas accent: “Eighteen-hundred pounds of bull. A hundred and fifty pounds of cowboy … Romped on! Stomped on! This aint tennis they’re playing out there.”
For three rowdy rounds, the cowboys battled the bulls while the delighted crowd stomped on the bleachers, swilled beer and sang along to a DJ spinning classics tunes from Johnny Cash and Journey to The Village People and the theme to Sponge Bob Square Pants.
“If you’ve got a PBR or a Coors Light or a cold beverage in yer hand, yer gonna have to stomp yer feet!” Racer advised to joyous assemblage, adding, “Where are my rowdies? Come on, it’s party time!”
And rowdy it was. While the crowd hooted and hollered cowboys, bulls and dirt went a-flying, with precious few rides lasting a full eight seconds. One cowboy had a bull land on his head, sending his helmet flying across the grounds. Another got his hand stuck in the rope after getting bucked off and was tossed around like a rag doll. And a third poor fella got a horn caught under his flap-jacket during the action, causing the crowd to groan in pain for the cowboy each time he took another shot to the ribs. They all, amazingly enough, were able to walk away under their own power.
Sun Valley PBR is really more like a party than a regular rodeo. It’s fast-paced, action-packed, loud and a bit insane. The kind of entertainment that most of us God-fearing Americans of all ages love.
Fans of PBR flocked to Hailey from all over the West. In just one row in the parking lot I passed cars from Arizona, Texas, South Dakota, Utah, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and California. And thanks to some courageous—and a bit crazy—cowboys, they all had a great time.
Of course, the bulls had a say in the entertainment as well. Heck, they were bound to with names like Riding Dirty, Sinister Minister, Tantrum, Tuff Stuff and Mini Me (obviously named for a rancher’s spouse). As my five-year-old, Jack, loudly declared when we walked past the holding pens. “Those bucking bulls are huge!”
Racer, as he’s famous for doing, summed up the party perfectly when described the scene of one discarded cowboy and a couple of exceptionally athletic (and probably mentally unstable) rodeo clowns trying to avoid an enraged bull: “That’s a 15-hundred pound suppository looking for a place to land.”
As for PBR fans, we sure are glad that the Touring Pro Division has found an annual home in Hailey. It’s just our type of Old West party. If you missed it this year, don’t worry Sun Valley PBR will be back next summer and will be as rowdy as ever.