I just saw the first newspaper ad of the year for a “Real Colorado Rodeo,” which jolted this malodorous memory:

Our kids were 3, 5, and 7 years old, wide-eyed wrangler wannabes, eating corn dogs and cotton candy on the bleachers at the rodeo. Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson ballads blared from the loudspeakers. A bright blue weekend afternoon, complete with a country twang and a cowboy drawl.

Our oldest was a competitor (still is as a 25 year old, actually). There was nothing like a kids’ sports event with trophies or a contest with prizes to get his 2nd grade juices flowing. So, when the Snowmass Rodeo announcer invited all the young cowpokes onto the arena floor for the “catch-as-catch-can-calf-chasing” event, Matt bolted from the stands and headed straight for the corral. Well, to be completely honest, he didn’t bolt until we told him it looked like some the kids running toward the field looked really fast, probably even faster than he. Then he bolted. Twenty calves stood looking bored at the far end of the arena; six had red ribbons loosely tied to their tails. About 40 little kids stood at the near side corral gate waiting to be released, like bulls from the chute. With the sound of the cowbell, the gate opened and the “roundup” began. When the calves saw the little wrangler stampede, they took off like, well like calves being chased by a herd of screaming kids. It was a mini cattle drive on steroids.

The kids in sneakers seemed to have an edge over the kids in cowboy boots; Matt was wearing sneakers. The kids in cowboy hats were slowed trying to keep their hats on while running; Matt wasn’t wearing a hat. Nevertheless, other kids were, indeed, faster. There were only six ribbons to be had, and you only won a prize if you captured a red ribbon. Five of the ribbons had been quickly snatched by other little rustlers when Matt began closing in on the last of the adorned calves. Two other kids, a boy and a girl, spotted the same last-chance target, but Matt was not to be denied. With the speed of the Lone Ranger and the dexterity of Zorro, Matt caught up with the puzzled calf and in one smooth motion slid the ribbon from its tail.

In retrospect, the motion may have been a little too smooth, and the look on the calf may have been more purged than puzzled. As Matt victoriously held the ribbon high in the air for his proud parents and siblings to see, brown goo dripped down his arm and onto his cheek. That’s when he first reacted to the smell. Completely clueless as to the origin of the ooze, and holding the ribbon as far from his face as his arm could reach, he ran for the stands screaming, “Yuck, Yuck, Ewww,” a much smellier variation of “Duck, Duck, Goose” I guess you could say. “Get it off, get it off, what is that stuff?!!” Fortunately, our van was parked nearby with one of the largest collections of wet wipes in the country (recall our kids were 3, 5, and 7!). By the time we were done birdy-bathing Matt with the perfumed wipes, our young tenderfoot smelled like a walking, talking diaper change.

Oh, you’re wondering about the prize Matt won for capturing the ribbon? A plastic cowboy hat with no resemblance whatsoever to anything a real cowboy would wear.  “Dorky,” he said, and graciously gave it to his little brother, who didn’t take it off his head for the next two years.


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