The first time I remember going to a rodeo was when I was around five years old. My parents had brought me to my mom’s hometown of Bellevue, Iowa for the weekend in the middle of June. Bellevue hosts an annual PRCA rodeo which always has the town buzzing with excitement.
I remember sitting on a bull, eating a funnel cake and wearing a white straw hat that had been spray painted purple around the brim. I remember how proud I was of having the rodeo queen’s autograph on the crown of that little ten dollar hat. But the moment I got hooked was the minute I watched the first barrel racer come flying out of the alleyway, and I just knew it was for me.
I didn’t grow up in a family with a rich rodeo history. My grandpa was the only one in the family who rode, and I was the only grand child that ever pursued it. I was that kid who tried everything – ice skating, basketball, violin, piano, volleyball, gymnastics…needless to say, it took some time to convince my parents that I was serious about riding. But after some time and a little piece of paper with a “pony plan” written on it, I had a horse of my own and was free to develop a deep passion for the sport of rodeo.
Even though I was wildly passionate, I learned quickly that rodeo culture was not abundant, and it would be a struggle to be taken seriously sometimes. When I was in high school, I was ashamed to be from Iowa and felt like a fake within the sport I loved. How could I be a cowgirl from a farm state? I tried so hard to be someone else, to rewrite my history to feel like I fit in. Even now, I can feel intimidated every now and again. Working in the industry really made me see how different I was from all those kids who are 4th generation ranch kids or grandkids of NFR legends.
But, even though I’m not from Texas or Montana, I belong. Even though I grew up surrounded by corn fields and combines, I have a passion that connects me to people from all over the country. The more I work and travel, the more I realize how many unique people I get to meet and befriend. How amazing is it that you can tell where someone is from, simply from the way they shape their hat? How cool is it that you can meet someone from California, South Dakota, Maryland and Georgia all in the same arena?
I’ve come to understand that diversity is what keeps life interesting, and what keeps you from becoming stuck in your own ways. It is so freeing to represent your heritage while also being apart of a culture so much bigger than yourself.
So this goes out to all those kids who feel like underdogs because they didn’t grow up in a ranch family. To all those kids who grew up in a farm town or a suburb but fell in love with a lifestyle they pursued on their own, I salute you and stand with you. Never apologize for who you are, how you grew up, your traditions, your culture or your personality. It may not be the most popular thing, but being yourself is so much cooler than trying to be someone else.
Stay authentic & stay proud, y’all.
The Rodeo Mrs.