After photographing horses in Wyndham last year, I fell in love with the animals. I made a mental note to return, thinking next time I would get to Broome for the polo that is played on Cable Beach. But I missed the date. So I was thrilled to find I was in Derby the weekend the rodeo was in town. At dinner my companion noticed a poster on the wall. I needed no convincing. We said, “Let’s go!” simultaneously! With hotel gates closed at 7 pm for security reasons, I had to walk into the bar to get access when I found myself facing a wall of cowboys with beer in hand. That was a surprise! I went back to my room and listened to the carousing that went on until midnight. I could hardly wait for day break while my camera battery charged.
At breakfast the small cafe was crowded and loud. Orders were being requested for tomato juice and double shot expresso (but sadly for sore heads, ‘hair of the dog’ was not on the menu).
We got to the rodeo late afternoon. Amid the noise of the caller, shouts and cheering, Jimmy Buffet sang Margaritaville while we cracked open and drank a cold one. We were in the zone!
This being cattle country, the stations were well represented by station hands, owners and indigenous people (many talked in their dialect). The spirit of community was vibrant. Unprepared for the event, I stood out in a white linen top and pale blue linen shorts. Totally unsuitable for red dust! Yet, I have never felt more included.
The thrill of the gate opening!The roar as the bull charged.I loved how the light and dust moved!This was magic town.The teens were just as brave as they hung on as long as they could.The bulls were fiesty, and after dislodging rider, came straight for the stands, snorting and grunting.There were times the bull kicked up heels, free of rider.An exceptional young indigenous man, who punched the air in victory, was clearly a crowd favourite. His self-esteem glowed at dusk.Soon the light faded, but I doubt, my memory will.
I read the rodeo is considered cruel by some folks. I don’t know enough about it to make up my mind. I will say this though, the spirit of this gathering of cattle stations that compete, brought together a whole community. I did not hear a single swear word that one hears so frequently on streets in the city. Not even in the bar area that was cordoned off. Nor did I see anyone being anti-social. These were folks just having a good time, until they meet again.
The memory of my first rodeo will stay with me. I always knew this region was special but this time I felt the synergy between country and community. It was a powerful emotion. I can’t describe what this felt like except to say, for a few hours that afternoon, this city alien felt right at home in cattle country.
Until next time
a dawn bird