Tonight, Channel 4 will be broadcasting a sepcial installment of “Unreported World” focussing on America’s Cowboy Kids, which prompted me to share some photos from my Rodeo experience in Oregon. In the summer of 2013 I took on a pretty exciting travel photography assignment, joining a an amateur land speed race team to document their journey as they built a race car and took it to race at the Bonneville Salt flats. See this post for more information! But for me, this trip was more than just watching a bunch of gear-heads get their hands dirty. I was fascinated by the rural American way of life that I found myself immersed in.
There were two boys who I got to know quite well during my time in Oregon, one was 10 and one 13. I was staggered by their discipline and maturity. They had absolute respect for their elders and rarely stepped a foot out of line. I knew that they were bull riders but I had kind of imagined some kind of tame, kids version of bull riding… I don’t know what I had imagined really, but the thought of putting small children on agressive, bucking bulls seemed ludicrous to me! They promised to take us along to a competition with them so that we could see what it was all about… So off we went to the Central Point Rodeo, a couple of hours drive away.
All I can say is… wow. This was an adult competition and the kids were competing amougnst the pros. It transpired that these kids have earned some serious cash from this sport as well. Obviously their bulls are slightly smaller than the big bucking bulls but… This sport is brutal! Staying on the bull for 8 seconds is considered to be a win, and most riders seem to loose. I would say 50% of the dismounts resulted in some kind of injury and one rider was rushed to hospital. I was assured that the bulls were treated well and that the sport was not cruel. Someone even claimed that the bulls enjoy it… Really?
Take a look at some of these pics and see what you think…