It was literally my first rodeo. My sister Stef and her husband Jeff Curtis from Broomfield, Colo., have been competing and having fun in gay rodeo events for a couple of years.
When we learned the rodeo was coming to Banning, Stef asked me to compete with her in the goat dressing competition.
Yes, I am thinking what you are thinking, what is goat dressing? Turns out, it's a fast little event where two contestants compete to get men's fruit-of-the-looms on a goat in the shortest time.
So, I thought . . . sure, why not? How hard can it be?
Full disclosure: I'm 40 years old, 5'5" and not gay. What interested me about the gay rodeo was the people I had heard so much about from my sister and her husband, the community they had joined, and all the fun they have.
We all go to register for events on Friday evening, and I am greeted by rodeo veterans who were very welcoming to a "rodeo virgin" - my new title for the weekend.
Trust me when I say I had plenty of misconceptions on what gay rodeo was all about. This is actually a very serious rodeo, with fantastic riders and competitors, some that have been in the national circuit for years. Gay, straight, male, female, Republican, Democrat, everyone is welcome to compete.
In the middle of registering, my mom and sister come up to me very excited and ask if I want to enter into the "steer deco" competition. In their exuberance, they oversimplified and said that my brother-in-law Jeff will hold a steer and I would simply tie a bow on its tail. Jeff wanted to enter and needed a partner.
So I thought . . . sure, why not? How hard can it be?
Let me repeat, I have never been to a rodeo. I don't even know what a steer is.
John Beck, one of the founders of the International Gay Rodeo Association asks me if I know how much a steer weighs. I'm thinking, it's like a bull right? Good lord, I'm in trouble!
So, it turns out a steer is a castrated young male bull. Just when I think I've had a
little luck, Jeff lets me know that the tail end may be a covered in baby bull dung. Umm, okay, I'm a trooper. I will do this! I go home that night and start looking all over for a pair of latex gloves, and by sheer luck, I have one pair.
Okay, now I'm ready.
Saturday morning the events start at 9:30 a.m., I am on time and ready!
Calf roping on foot, team roping on horseback, and breakaway roping are the first three events . . . then the steer deco. Contestants are called down to the arena, and while walking to the contestant area, Jeff's giving me pointers. I figure I will just be calm and let the steer do what the steer's gonna do.
The first two teams head out and get into position. One team member is 10 feet from the chute and holding the rope that's tied to the steer. The other team member is another 30 feet behind the first person.
The judge drops the flag and the steers are pulled out past the 10-foot mark. Once the steer is past the 10-foot line, then the second team member runs up and tries to tie a ribbon on the tail of the steer.
That's right, I said "tries." Now, if the steer were just mellow and standing there it wouldn't be much of a problem. Since, they are being pulled out of the chute, their natural tendency is to resist, so they are bucking, kicking and trying to get away.
I see the first two teams go and the steers are jumping and bucking all over. I'm thinking, oh crap! I will just try my best and chances are the timer will run out long before I get close to the crazy thing.
The bovine gods must have been on my side, as we were in one if the last few groups to go and the steers were a little tired. The judge drops the flag, the steer is let out of the chute . . . I'm still thinking this is futile.
Jeff gets the steer right next to him and I get right behind Jeff, and this is when I see the steer's whole rear end is covered in fresh dung. But I've got my latex gloves on and I tie that bow on and run back to tag the judge in 13.5 seconds!
The crowd is cheering. Okay so it's the few folks we brought along with us, but I can hear them nonetheless. Jeff's beaming and people are giving us accolades on our walk out of the arena. As I strip off my latex gloves and dispose of them, the other contestants were giving us a rub about how the steer just handed us his rear and made it easy.
Fine by me! I did it! I'm done! My gloves saved me. Seriously, had I been bare-handed, I would have seen the awesomeness of mother nature and would have walked away or just stood there dumbfounded.
Turns out for my first rodeo event, we finished fourth place on the first day! Not bad for a rodeo virgin, although it was mostly thanks to a tired steer and beginner's luck.
The day's events continue with pole bending, a "Grand Entry" parade, junior bullriding, and then the long-anticipated goat dressing.
Goat dressing is another timed event. Contestants have to sprint 50 feet to a tethered goat, put a pair of large men's fruit-of-the-looms on the goat, and run back to the starting line.
My sister has the whole thing figured out and is reminding me more for days - hold the underwear with the waistband side up and hold the holes so I can just slip them on. Oh, and run as fast as you can!
We are in the second heat, get up to the starting line and the announcer starts chatting it up, so I am looking at him when the flag drops and my sister takes off.
I hear the crowd laugh and just start to run as fast as I can. I'm not the competitive kind, but I don't want to let anyone down either.
My sister has to grab the goat's front feet, and again I have the rear end of some domesticated farm animal. I'm just slipping on the underwear, but the goat has dewclaws, like extra thumbs partway up their leg - and the tighty whiteys get caught.
I tug, she pulls, we get them on and high tail it back to the starting line, 17.01 seconds round trip. Not bad considering I wasn't even paying attention.
The funny thing was these goats were very friendly and once any team got the underwear on the goats, they would chase or follow the contestants as they ran back. It was really kind of cute.
The animal gods had already blessed me with one success and as usual, beginners luck wanes. We didn't place for goat dressing, and I was officially and quickly no longer a rodeo virgin.
The day continues with chute dogging, barrel racing, flag racing, wild drag, and bullriding. As this was also my first rodeo as a spectator, I was awed by the finesse, courage and tenacity of the participants in horse riding, speed and agility events as well as the bullriders and ropers.
Don't be fooled by any titles, these were real cowboys and cowgirls giving it their all.