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Posted 12/08/10 (Wed)


We’ve been enjoying the National Finals Rodeo from the comfort of our living room this week. And this week, we have a special interest in the Finals. Our nephew, Dane Hanna, is competing in the Finals. Through the first four perfs, he has won just over $10,000 and is in fourth place in the average. Six to go!
Each night, they show a list of injured cowboys. And with the jerking cowboys take in the bareback riding, to the stomping and hooking they take in the bull riding, the list is getting longer. That reminded me of a bull rider I knew years ago.
Shorty was a bull rider. And he got down in the well on a spinning bull and got stomped. I mean that old bull camped on him for it seemed like minutes. The clowns got tossed out of the way, and Shorty took a horn shower.
As they carted him off in the ambulance, he was moaning and groaning. They got him into the hospital in Hettinger and right to the emergency room. The doctor asked where he hurt. “All over,” Shorty moaned. To show the doctor, Shorty reached down and touched his own knee and let out a scream. Then he touched his own side and let out a loud scream. He reached up and touched the side of his head. Again, another terrible scream. The doctor ordered an MRI and complete x-rays. Turned out Shorty had a broken finger! Never mind…
We went to Vegas years ago and I learned one thing, exotic dancers are not Norwegian girls who know how to polka. It’s a few years ago, but here is how I remember it…
The Finals is the “the greatest show on earth.” It kind of ruins watching other rodeos for you. The best cowboys and cowgirls in the world, riding the best bucking horses, best bulls, and best-timed event horses in the world. It’s good watching on TV. But when you are there, it is electric.
But I’m going to tell you about a couple of happenings that didn’t make the headlines on the sports page. Or probably weren’t even mentioned on the TV broadcasts.
One took place in a lounge at a casino. I guess it probably took place in bars all over Vegas. The rodeo is being broadcast live on big screens all over the city. People are laughing and talking and drinking and playing games of chance. But up on that screen, when a young lady came riding into the arena, carrying the Flag, a cowboy stood up and took his hat off. And without a second’s hesitation, every cowboy and cowgirl and rodeo fan in Las Vegas was standing in silence, or singing the National Anthem. And you know what, it was contagious. People coming into the hotels with their luggage, would look up curiously, and stop and stand with their hand on their heart. They don’t do that when they play the anthem at a football game on TV.
The last afternoon of the rodeo was special. You’re sitting in a packed house. 18,000 rodeo people. Old people. Young people. Men like Jim Shoulders and Larry Mahan and Tim McGraw. And moms and dads and grandpas and grandmas. And as the lights dim down, a silence starts to fall over a crowd that was, just a second ago, buzzing with excitement. From under the arena fence, a gray, smoky, heavy fog starts drifting across the arena floor. Like you’re sitting above a cloud. And all of a sudden you are in a war zone. The big screen shows a helicopter flying and the sound surrounds you. The whooomp…. Whoomp… whoomp of the blades. Fireworks begin blasting around the arena. There are smoke bombs being set off. And then, out of the rafters comes soldiers rappelling down from the sky! With simulated machine gun fire and bombs making your ears ring. And eighteen thousand people rise in a thunderous ovation.
And you know what? There wasn’t a Republican or a Democrat amongst us. There weren’t people “for” or “against” a far away war. There wasn’t one liberal or one conservative. There were 18,000 Americans standing, with tears in their eyes, cheering on a bunch of kids from the Dakotas, or the Bronx, or Georgia, or Georgetown.
And as the chorus from the Airborne finished the National Anthem, eighteen thousand people raised the roof in the Thomas and Mack, and the whole world could hear.
I hope you did too.