God damn, it’s hot.
In that moment, the situation presented me with those thoughts. Spend five minutes where I was at? You’d see how complicated these thoughts could have been. You see it could have been a few different things. The actual temperature in the air, the eternal flames I would burn in if I didn’t heed the message I was hearing, or the vivid breath of the animals that were beyond the gate in front of me.
“They’ve taken prayer out of our schools, out of our sporting events, and out of our government. They can’t take it out of bull riding,” The announcer told us which lead to the inevitable command to bow our heads.
“It was a lovely monologue on the romanticizing nature of a piece of fabric also known as the American Flag.”
This was followed by pure magic: A two minute soliloquy about if the ‘little lady who celebrated her 241st birthday recently’ could talk, what she would say. It was a lovely monologue on the romanticizing nature of a piece of fabric also known as the American Flag.
This was a rodeo seen through the lens of a Highlands resident. This was a rodeo seen through the lens of a vegetarian. This was a rodeo in a county in which 89% of the population voted for Trump. Beforehand, that fact didn’t seem relevant, at all but it couldn’t have became more pertinent once in the moment. Harrowing, hardly describes. This certainly wasn’t Louisville anymore. Though we were less than hour away, it felt as if we were days away. If geographical circumstances weren’t a lie, they were at least deceiving.
“Good lord he rode that bull,” the announcer said with a crippling squeal that disrupted what I was gathering in my head.
The man went on for a few more minutes, rambling some incoherent words, music begin to play and we took a small break from the festivities. As the sun beat down, I gathered myself then my thoughts. It was the young lady in front of me garnering much of my attention. Ten minutes beforehand, arm-by-arm, her parents gripped her sternly to an upright position. She had arrived in a wheelchair. She had no leg braces of any sort, so one could reasonably infer that her condition was the result of a disease, rather than injury. Troubling sights and thoughts were abundant. She was being forced to find a way to stand during the proceedings honoring our great republic – medical diagnosis be damned. Out of the grips of her caretakers she would fall, fiercely she would be pulled up again. Over and over, throughout the duration of this celebration for America. This bothered me. Who were these people? Why do they act like this? I found myself in deep contemplation while surrounded by others that perhaps hadn’t contemplated for a while. These were not a group I had accustomed myself with regular encounters. I wrestled with opinion, then suddenly, Nelly played.
“I found myself in deep contemplation while surrounded by others that perhaps hadn’t contemplated for a while.”
“I am number one, no matter how you like it, here take it, sit down and write it.” The familiar rap voice rang over the barred speakers of the fair.
By now, distractions had became common. Whether they were disrupting thoughts or the actual event – they were there. This however may have been the most pleasant one. Beautifully unfit for the environment, like a grasshopper in the middle of a snowstorm. At the same time though, it seemed to fit. In this place, it was hard to believe that anything would appear displaced. Nelly most definitely challenged that.
“Lord, thank you for letting us live this gypsy life.” The man who had been leading things for the night said in a subtle, even sobering tone.
That was the last memory I have of my adventure at the rodeo in such a far away place. Everything that happened after that was a sandstorm of confusion. You’re sure you were there, you lived through it and you live through it with a sober mind. Despite this, you can’t seem recall specific events from it. It was no matter though, this was the last memory that I needed to solidify my instincts about what was going on around me.
This was Kentucky. In a lot of ways this was America. You know throughout your entire life that a major city like Louisville is outlier compared to the rest of Kentucky, but your eyes aren’t alert to this until being surrounded by it. And who is it that is privileged? Those that are surrounded in these twisted circumstances without blinking or those who are alarmed by it like myself. Ignorance is bliss. Knowledge is power. You don’t know you need a reminder, until you get one. Even those that venture out of their comfort zones do so with people of likeminded views. Is it more rewarding that way? I’m not sure. This felt good, it felt different. Maybe it was the town, maybe it was the heat, but on this day the rodeo was more than the rodeo.
Chris Hatfield has written words for various publications like SBNation and Lou Mag. Find more out about him here.