John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.
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Nobody is ever going to mistake me for a cowboy.
I could drop an entire month’s salary on boots, shirts and Wrangler jeans at F.M. Light & Sons, but when I walk out the door, I still would not have what it takes.
Sure I can dress part — anyone can — but I understand it takes a lot more than a straw hat to be a cowboy.
The good news it that I’ve met a lot of cowboys in the more than two decades that I’ve spent in Steamboat Springs, and they have helped me understand what the western lifestyle is all about.
It’s that lifestyle that sets our town apart from just about every other community where I’ve lived. Last week, thousands of visitors to our mountain town headed to the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena to get a taste of that lifestyle and discover what it means to cowboy up in the mountains of Colorado.
Far too often, those of us that live in this mountain valley take the PRCA rodeo series for granted. We’ve been to the rodeo so many times that we’ve memorized John Shipley’s lines, we know the order of events forward and back and we know many of the cowboy’s who have made the summer-long series a regular stop.
But for the visitors who come to Steamboat Springs in the summer, the rodeo, and normally the Fourth of July rodeo, may be as close as they get to an angry bull or a hard-bucking horse.
In some cases, the rodeo might be the visitor’s only chance to hear the hooves of a fast-moving steer as it races across the arena or taste the dust that’s being kicked into the cool night air by a two-ton bull. It gives many of the visitors a chance to know what it feels like to be a cowboy — even those that happen to be wearing Bermuda shorts and flip-flops.
To them, the rodeo inspires visions of John Wayne, Alan Ladd or Gary Cooper as they play a role in those classic western movies like “The Searchers,” “Shane” or “High Noon.”
The truth is that the image of the American cowboy is a powerful one, and as long as I’ve been here, the rodeo series has done a great job of promoting that image.
It’s an image that fills little boys’ dreams and defines the qualities that most Americans hold close to their hearts — they see cowboys as hard working, tough and driven.
It’s an image that helps give our town a character that’s its own and the kind of reputation that brings visitors back year after year.
So this year, I want to tip my hat to the people who are behind the weekly rodeo series in our town.
There is no question that this event sets our town apart and keeps our western heritage alive in a world were we need a few more people who not only dress the part of a cowboy, but live the lifestyle.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com