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Thursday, February 17, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 97

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Rodeo offers a lot to the Bayou City

Margaret Mitchell

Yee-haw! Tomorrow is the first day of the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. The preparations have been going on for months now, including recent events such as the barbecue and chili cook-offs and parade and trail rides, not to mention all the parties and committee get-togethers. But tomorrow is what it all comes down to.

I think it's fascinating to see how different people react to Rodeo season here in the Bayou City. Opinions fall into three camps on the issue: those who love the Rodeo and all the trimmings that go along with it, those who think it's ridiculous because it makes us lose ground in the quest to be a "center of culture" and those who don't give a damn about it one way or another.

I love Rodeo because it offers us a chance to look at things from a different perspective. For example, we all know that traffic in Houston is slow. But you know that traffic is really slow when the trail riders on the feeder road go faster than the cars on the West Loop. I had a birds-eye view of the event from a 10th floor office window last Friday. It was hilarious to watch cars at a standstill on the freeway while the cowboys just cruised along right past them. Maybe that's the solution to our traffic problems -- forget the bus, car pooling or MetroRail, just get a horse.

I've lived in Houston all my life and have always been amused by the way outsiders see us -- you know, the old stereotype that we all wear Stetsons, live on ranches, have half -- dozen oil wells in the back yard and millions in the bank (we wish).

I'll never forget the time when I was a kid and spent my first (and only) white Christmas with relatives in Minnesota and shocked a cousin when I told her that no, we don't have tumbleweeds blowing down the streets. This is not just the mentality of innocent children: a coworker of mine from up North arrived in Houston for the very first time on Go Texan Day and thought she'd landed in the Twilight Zone.

We can all snicker at this, but there are people out there who just don't get it. And that's OK. But I don't think it takes too long to get into the swing of things once you get started, unless, of course, you are one of them "cultured folks" who wouldn't come near a bandanna or bolo tie if your life depended on it because it's just so "unrefined."

What people like this need to understand, though, is that the only thing around here that's unrefined is the "Texas Tea" as it comes out of the ground before it is shipped off to Mobil, Chevron or Texaco. Yes, y'all, it really is OK to come as you are, whether it is in a 10-gallon hat or not.

I think, though, that the "rodeo dilemma" (revered institution vs. B-movie nightmare) is a great illustration of what's wrong with this city. It's like Houston has an identity crisis. I think that deep down inside many are afraid that we will slide back to the days when this was a little podunk one-horse town filled with a bunch of backwater hicks.

To those who actually believe this could happen, all I have to say is you need to get a clue. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is more than a bunch of guys in big hats with belt buckles the size of serving platters. It is about the real spirit of Texas: teamwork and pulling together to get a job done. It's about ordinary people taking time out of their busy lives to provide a showcase for hard-working kids to show off the animals they've raised, for cowboys to demonstrate skills learned in the school of hard knocks and for raising money for scholarships.

But most importantly, Rodeo is all about everybody having a good time -- and there's nothing unrefined about that.

Mitchell, a junior political science major, 
can be reached at smeggie37@compuserve.com.

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