Sure, there were bucking broncos and bulls to ride, but our favorite things at the Rodeo of the Ozarks were the sheep and the goats. Muttonbusting is an event in which little buckaroos attempt to ride sheep. It was a muddy evening when we went, so the kids were attempting to ride slippery sheep through mud and standing water. There were some valiant little riders, too!
Goat dressing involves getting a goat out of the stall, across the field, into a pair of boxer shorts, and back to the stall. This doesn’t hurt the goats, but I guess it embarrasses them. They are completely uncooperative.
By the time the goats had their drawers on, the kids were covered in mud. It was a terrific exercise in teamwork for the goat dressers.
Rodeos were originally a way for cowboys to hone their skills and strut their stuff. The annual cattle drive or gathering up of the cows for branding would culminate in competitions among the cowboys. As railroads replaced cattle drives and the great ranchos were broken up, cowboys had less chance to make a living as cowboys — or more opportunities, to look at it another way, to make a living as showmen. Famous shows like Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show brought in spectators, and the modern rodeo was born.
In 1929, rodeo cowboys got together to establish rules so that regional and national competitions could be held. Now, millions of rodeo fans follow the action and watch the national finals on TV, and rodeo cowboys are professional athletes more often than they’re professional cowboys.
- Young students will enjoy Jan Brett’s book Armadillo Rodeo . Brett’s author site has rodeo-centered activities for the book.
Bill Pickett: Rodeo-Ridin' Cowboy
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- Older students can explore YouTube for rodeo videos. Have them work in groups to find the best rodeo video they can, finding at least three specific points of excellence. Then have each group present their favorite video with their reasons for choosing it. Use the same criteria as for book reports. This not only helps students practice critical thinking and visual literacy, but it will also give them practice with search, an essential research skill for future writing projects.
- If you have a rodeo where you live, invite participants to visit the class. If that’s not practical, choose some rodeo cowboys and write to them. Either way, involve students in deciding the best questions to ask, and have students write about what they learn from the visit. My focus for this activity would be on learning how to conduct a good interview for later writing, and how to narrow the focus of a profile to make a strong piece of writing — your goals will depend on your subject and grade level.
- Check out our Pecos Bill Lesson Plans for a rootin’ tootin’ literature connection.
- Don’t miss our Cowboy Classroom ideas, either — it makes a great theme for summer school or the beginning of the school year.