After a port-a-potty stabbing, a trail ride trampling, a chuckwagon disaster and a burglary sting gone awry, Rodeo Houston has had a pretty wild opening week.
The rodeo's bad luck started before the event officially began, when the trail ride heading downtown for the pre-rodeo parade had a frightening hiccup. On Friday, the Los Vaqueros riders were making their way from Reynosa, Mexico, and made their usual visit to elementary schools along the way. As the riders were pulling out from Condit Elementary School in Bellaire, one of the horses pulling a wagon got "spooked," before knocking over and trampling a 54-year-old woman riding a horse up ahead. The entire incident unfolded right before the eyes of horrified, shrieking Conduit students. On Tuesday, Bellaire police said the woman was still in the hospital and was expected to be released.
Later that night, the rodeo's annual cookoff was marred by a knifing, which was first reported by KTRK. According to Houston Police Department spokesman Kese Smith, two brothers were waiting for a port-a-potty at 11:45 p.m. when 40-year-old Juan Zaragoza-Navarro cut them in line. The three men argued before Zaragoza-Navarro pulled out a knife and allegedly attacked the two men, who sustained non-life-threatening injuries before security broke the brawlers up (Zaragoza-Navarro told police the other men attacked him first, and that he knifed them in self-defense). Zaragoza-Navarro was charged with aggravated assault.
On Tuesday night, a chuckwagon driver fell off his wagon while taking a high-speed turn during a race inside the arena. The man tumbled out of his wagon onto the dirt. As medics rushed to the man's side, the riderless wagon kept going and crashed into a fence, injuring one horse. Rodeo officials said the man was awake and alert and was taken to the hospital for further examination, while the horse is expected to make a full recovery. KTRK, the apparent harbinger of bad rodeo news, was the first to report this incident as well.
Early the next morning, a suspected carjacker led HPD on a chase after he allegedly took off in one of HPD's "bait cars" that was planted in the rodeo parking lot to catch potential thieves. According to the Houston Chronicle, a dark-colored 4-by-4 pickup was stolen at about 12:30 a.m. during the rodeo. Police spotted the truck and followed it to a dead-end road. But HPD couldn't rope the robber, who fled on foot into the thick woods nearby. Although HPD's Smith said late yesterday afternoon that the culprit was still at large, HPD's Lt. Larry Crowson did inform the Chron that his crack search team was able to "locate a family of hogs and a deer in the woods." Solid detective work, guys.
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Even before the rodeo turned to sideshow, event organizers were forced into a pretty uncomfortable position by the recent open-carry law, and they decided to clearly prohibit guns throughout the event. Joel Cowley, president and chief executive officer of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, said at the time that it was a choice made to "promote a family-friendly atmosphere" at the rodeo.
It was a smart move, anticipating the potential hazard a loaded gun could be in a large crowd of people. But there's no way anyone could have anticipated tramplings, crashes, carjackers and port-a-potty bloodshed. We're only one week in at the rodeo, and the atmosphere already appears to have eroded from "family-friendly" to downright frightening. What could be next? Bone spurs? Flannel fires? Drowning in a ten-gallon hat? A Rodeosaurus Rex mauling?
If you're heading to the Houston Rodeo, please be safe. Watch out for wayward horses, lock your car doors and (we really shouldn't have to tell you this) avoid the port-a-potties at all costs. If you absolutely must use a portable restroom, please just patiently wait in line like the rest of us.
Of course, the rodeo isn't always so rowdy. Here are a few quieter moments from this year's rodeo: