RODEO - BANDERA, TEXAS
By Rhiannon Taylor, September 2018
Rodeo in Texas is like football in the UK. It's a statewide pastime and the practice and love of rodeo is ingrained in to Texans from a young age. If you're visiting Texas, there's no better way to get the true cowboy feeling under your skin than going to a rodeo. For an authentic experience we visited the tiny town of Bandera (known as the cowboy capital of the world), which could easily be the backdrop of a classic western movie. The tiny street is lined with stores that retain original saloon doors and the town is home to the infamous Twin Elm Rodeo.
Held every Friday on the Twin Elm Ranch (where you can also stay for a true ranch experience), the rodeo starts around 7pm when the sun starts to go down. It's a family affair where kids get to show off their skills first by clutching on to sheep, holding on as long as they can and being chased by a sheepdog. It's great fun and they all get a ribbon for their efforts.
The women's event is perhaps the most graceful, where cowgirls charge their horses around obstacles at extreme angles and speeds faultlessly. It's a powerful display and the women show incredible elegance and strength.
In between there are smaller events, such as lassoing and the crowd is heavily involved. There are murmurs among spectators as to who is a better rider and who has the best horse but they are all silenced once the bulls come out. It's the most dangerous of all the events and there is a sense of respect between the crowd and the riders. All men in the arena hover close to the railing, should a bull go rogue, and a rider is let out of the pen for his first try. He holds on for only a few seconds before he is bucked to the ground with immense force. Men scramble to catch the bull before setting up for the next rider. This time, a cowboy holds on for what seems like an excruciatingly long time before hopping off gracefully to huge applause. It's the longest ride of the night and he's a clear winner.
The next rider is prepped and the crowd hushes. "This bull is very aggressive", we hear. "A bad bull" says another voice. There's an air of fear and anticipation over the next bull, who is known to be a tough ride. The cowboy, a town hero and local favourite, rides him for around ten seconds before he is flung to the ground. The bull is difficult to catch and the cowboy gets caught up underneath. He doesn't move but the crowd doesn't seem fazed. A year ago this same cowboy had a few broken limbs from an accident and in a few months he was back up and riding bulls again. Riding is in his blood and injury is part of the game. Us out-of-towners are assured that the rider is totally fine and will be riding again in no time (sure enough he was).
Later everyone congregates at 11th Street Cowboy Bar in town, a bar cum line dancing nightclub that allows all ages to enter. Cowboys are the superstar of the bar and locals flock to have a yarn. Newcomers, like us, are spotted quickly and made to feel welcome with everyone offering to buy us a beer. Bandera is really starting to feel like home and cowboy culture is really growing on us. One Lone Star beer later (at $1.50), we join the line for some boot-scootin' in to the night.
Western Trail Antiques - A large warehouse with over 100 small vendors and stalls inside selling antique, vintage and second hand goods. You can get everything from Levis, leather jackets and hats to couches, lamps and books. Prepare to spend hours here, its worth it! 200 Main St, Bandera, TX 78003, USA
Silver Dollar - A real soda shop serving up ice cream, fudge and sodas at a counter lined with diner stools. The shop is said to be haunted and also sells vintage cowboy boots. 308 Main St, Bandera, TX 78003, USA
TJ's at The Old Forge - TJ's is a family style restaurant serving up steaks, seafood and salads using fresh produce, Texan style. The space is always bustling and there's a fun atmosphere between fellow diners and staff. 807 Main St, Bandera, TX 78003, USA
Twin Elm Ranch - This historic ranch has accommodation to suit large groups and families on a property that is home to horses and the Twin Elm Rodeo. There's a central pool, barbecue area, wifi and the host cooks up an incredible breakfast. http://www.twinelmranch.com
11th Street Cowboy Bar - This bar attracts famous faces from all over Texas. The drinks are cheap, it's open late and all are welcome. 307 11th St, Bandera, TX 78003, USA
I travelled and stayed courtesy of Texas Tourism and Bandera Tourism.