The Wall Street Journal on Friday ran a story about the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo containing two things we thought we would never see. First, we never thought anyone would accuse the rodeo of being erudite. Second, we never imagined it would be a paper from New York City leveling such a charge. Isn't that where that watered-down salsa in the Pace Picante Sauce commercials is from. Git a rope!
While the piece did make some valid points -- this is the first time in 50 years the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association wouldn't back the show because the rodeo took out calf roping and steer wrestling during the popular Sunday performances because of the violent nature of the events -- it also made some rather awkward generalizations seemingly more common to a carpet-baggin' yankee than anyone 'round these here parts.
It's not much of a surprise to us when publications, particularly in the northeastern part of our country, confuse Houston with some backwater town full of saloons, tumbleweeds and shit-kicking hicks. We're used to it. But, pardon our surprise when our rodeo is a little too delicate for the hardscrabble cowboys of Manhattan.
They appear shocked we would dare to offer wine to patrons, as if country folk wouldn't be caught dead drinking anything more sophisticated than boxed wine from Wal-Mart. Do they not realize that people who run vineyards are farmers, not doily-dropping socialites?
Hell, we're certain we could find a cowboy or two who would be as happy to sip a robust pinot noir with us just as quickly as they'd knock back a couple of Lone Stars.
Then there's the subtle jab at the rodeo's Go Tejano Day, which they say "caters to the city's growing Hispanic population." Growing? How about grown? Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the country and Texas is built as much on the backs of caballleros as it was on oil barons. In their own story, they quote someone named Baljit Singh -- not exactly John Smith -- which only serves to underline the diversity of our city.
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Finally, they mention the fact that Janet Jackson and KISS are in the music lineup. Where exactly have you been, WSJ? We are loathe to admit it, but we saw Leif Garrett at the rodeo in the 1970s because it was the only act booked to the rodeo we could stomach. We would have killed to see KISS because, like many other Houstonians, we don't walk around in ten-gallon hats every day and hum George Strait songs.
The story concludes with this little bit from Jerry Nelson, a rodeo producer and livestock breeder:
Mr. Nelson says a more traditional, bare-bones rodeo he helped put on last weekend in Arcadia, Fla., sold out every day, with 12,000 spectators cramming the stands to watch men ride bulls and wrestle steers.
"They're not there to taste wine or eat cheese or see llamas," he says. "They're there to see rodeo."
Well, congratulations, Mr. Nelson, but, in case you hadn't noticed, Houston isn't exactly a small town in rural Florida. This is a city of two million people. And while we admire your little effort in Arcadia, our rodeo brought in almost 150,000 people...last Wednesday night.