Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I suppose I'd forgotten what they do at rodeos. Our family was up at Lake George, NY for the Labor Day Weekend, and the Rodeo at nearby Lake Luzerne seemed like a good idea. Early on in the proceedings, the calf roping event got underway and I realized I hadn't prepped my kids for the sight of a calf being roped, jolted rearwards, thrown to the ground and then given the humiliating leg tie as a finale. My son and daughter recoiled at this sight, looking to me for answers for what all this meant. I came up empty.

Don't get me wrong. I eat veal like anybody else, but midway through this rodeo, I started rooting for the animals along with my children. But here's why:

As we initially got to our seats, a rather lengthy opening ceremony was just getting underway. A mounted cowboy emcee was asking for all veterans to stand and be recognized. I was happy to chime in with the well deserved applause of appreciation. But then things got weird.

The emcee then announced that it was time to bring out a lady who'd been around for over two hundred and forty years (Old Glory, the Stars & Stripes). At this time, one end of the pen opened up and a woman, bedazzled in a flashing red, white and blue cowgirl outfit came racing out on horseback holding an American flag. Well deserved whoops and hollers greeted her.

But the national anthem I was expecting at this time had to wait as the mounted emcee began a long address about what the spirit of the stars and stripes really meant. And you know what? I'm all for a good American patriotically rendered boo-yah, but when his address led to gratuitous September 11th gravitas, I had to take exception.

I'm willing to wager a fair sum that of all the contestants and spectators at that rodeo that night, no one there had as hellish a 9/11 as I did. I don't want to say this to put myself on some sort of pedestal as there are so many who endured worse than I did that day and who've told their tale far more eloquently than I can. But I was across the street from the North Tower. My desk shook when American Flight 11 slammed into the North Tower. I went running in the streets with the crowds wondering if this was the end of the world. So...that lecturing cowboy with the microphone at the Painted Pony Rodeo? I don't know where he was that day. But I know where I was.

So, needless to say, I didn't appreciate the sloppy layering of 9/11 into his opening remarks. And I could tolerate it until the point when his lecture blasted: "it's the spirit found in that man who called his wife that day and told her 'you tell my daughter every day that her daddy loves her' just before he and those brave men brought that plane down in Shanksville, PA.")

His address ended with the trite macho declaration: "These colors DON'T RUN!!", delivered with a pro-wrestling cadence. I couldn't help but to be relieved that he didn't add: and they don't have to press 1 for English!

By this time, our National Anthem was a welcome relief. But as soon as that beautiful song concluded our emcee came back with this: "Now we're gonna exercise OUR FREEDOM OF RELIGION and say a prayer for all our contestants tonight!!"

Now, I was completely exasperated. I just wanted to shout out, "Dude, I just wanted to show my kids some cowboys. Can you ease off on the fabricated culture war crusade?"

This was my breaking point. If he'd just said, "Hey everybody, let's all bow our heads and say a quick prayer for our contestants..." - I would have been fine. But this whole bellowing (again with pro-wrestling cadence) 'freedom of religion' thing reeked of self-pitying right-wing nonsense. I went there that night with the expectation that we'd just take in some great rodeo. But suddenly we'd been thrust into the pathetic agenda of someone wanting to turn this event into some diorama of an isolated, imagined America that's never really existed. It was sad.

Thankfully, the competitions got underway and the bombastic rhetoric eased. Though the emcee made a muted Obama remark I wished I'd caught. (Another Expedia commenter had remarked that an anti-Hillary comment had blessed her visit).

So anyway...if you're visiting Lake George, NY....AVOID the Painted Pony Rodeo.

Oh yeah, their BBQ buffet beforehand was overpriced, the service was rude and the food was awful.

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