Monday, October 22, 2007


To continue my immersion into the regional culture, Nathalie and I went to a rodeo this weekend. Neither one of us have been to one before, so it was a great experience for the both of us. We got to the stadium early so that we could wander around, browse the handicrafts on sale, and eat at the food stands selling local-regional favorites. Among the many, we sampled: funnel cake, smoked meats of all kinds, boiled peanuts, hot-links, and cracklins.

I've never had boiled peanuts before. They weren't bad, but I'll probably never buy them again. Just a texture issue. I'm just not used to eating warm and moist peanuts that squish in your mouth.

The hot-link was also something I'll probably avoid in the future. Although juicy and spicy and good, the unnaturally red artificial casing left a lot to be desired.

And the cracklins? Who doesn't like fried pork fat? Hell, the only reason I didn't buy any more for the drive home was that I was so full by the end of the rodeo that I was about to throw up.

But enough about the food. The rodeo itself was more entertaining than I thought possible. There's just something fascinating about watching a man try to tame a 2-ton beast. Nobody got seriously injured, but we lost track of the number of men who were flung across the arena by the horns of an angered bull or the rear of a bucking horse. In most cases, these guys simply got up and limped out of the arena. It's absolutely amazing what punishment these guys can take.

One of the funniest side acts we watched between the major rodeo acts was something called a the Ghost Riders. A man actually trained monkeys to sit on the back of Australian shepherds and then trained them to herd sheep around the arena. It was the most bizarre thing I've ever seen. There were four sheep left to run amok and then three dogs (with monkey riders) were let loose. These dogs were able to herd three sheep into a small pen, and despite all the running around the dogs did, not a single monkey fell off. This probably got one of the loudest applauses when it was over.

If there was one message I got from the rodeo, it's that Jesus and national pride are two very important things to rodeo enthusiasts: The national anthem was sang at least twice, about 15 minutes were spent watching Christ's crusaders in flowing robes with swords on horseback as they raced around the arena to inspirational bible verses read aloud over the PA system, followed by about 5 minutes of men on horses riding around with the American flag waving behind them, 2 group prayers were said, one of which required holding hands with the person next to you, as well as a full-on military salute to fallen soldiers.

During the dull moments of the show, which were few and far between, I scanned the crowd and people watched. And of the 5000 or so people at the show, I think I was the only Asian in attendance. I probably stuck out like a sore thumb.

Nobody acted any different towards Nathalie and me, but I couldn't help but feel terribly out of place. Kind of the same way I felt eating at the BBQ joint in South Carolina where they had photos of klansmen in full regalia on the walls. Neither my Jewish friend or the Indian guy with us had any idea about the history of that restaurant. We just knew they had great BBQ pork (which they did). It was only after we sat down and placed our orders that we noticed the decor. Nobody paid any attention to us, and we actually got great service. It was just strange to be eating someplace that used to harbor such close-minded discrimination.

Not to say that I felt uneasy at the rodeo, far from it. I got the same indifference anybody else would get at most large sporting venues. It was just an amusing observation that I was the only Asian guy there, unlike, say at any other major social gathering.

Regardless, the rodeo was great fun. Who knows, I may go watch a NASCAR event next.