Selling Aussie Dreams at the Houston Rodeo

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Photo by Hallie Jordan

In its celebration of all things cowboy, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is the perfect venue for someone like Paul Watkins, an Australian now living in San Antonio.

Watkins is holding down a booth in the Reliant Center. He's there selling the chance to spend days in the saddle on the other side of the globe as part of The Great Australian Outback Cattle Drive.

It is a select experience -- only 100 people from the United States are allowed into the every two-year event -- that gives participants the chance to spend a varying number of days (depending on which packet you buy) moving cattle in the South Australian outback. "It goes from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. at night," Watkins said and participants spend six to seven of those hours in the saddle.

The drive runs through August this year, their early spring, Watkins said. At night, riders gather around the campfire. "Ringers," their word for cowboys, keep everything moving and in line.

Surprisingly enough, a person doesn't have to have any riding experience to go on one of these drives -- each rider is matched up with a horse that won't overpower him or her. (Though the idea of seven hours in the saddle with no prior experience sounds painful to Hair Balls, but to each his own.)

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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
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