My heroes have always been ... well, heroes.
Please don't think I have anything against cowboys. Some of my best friends have been cowboys. Well, more accurately, cowgirls. But that's another story.
Anyway, Sunday, Feb. 27 was the finale of the Tucson Rodeo's 86th annual go-round. Since my sister and I have a novel out right now, Contrary Creek, that features real cowboys, and rodeo stuff like roping and barrel racing, I thought I might mosey on down and pay my respects to La Fiesta de los Vaqueros, as the rodeo is called.
But Sunday morning came, and Tucson woke up with actual snow on the ground, mountains of white surrounding our valley, occasional sleet, and temperatures that never got above 50 degrees. Listen, I went to school a long time and studied really hard, just so I wouldn't have to be outside in weather like that.
In short, I wimped out.
So this is my attempt to honor the cowboys and cowgirls of my rich, ranching heritage -- if only from a distance.
First, some facts, gleaned from the Tucson Rodeo website. The nine-day event is held at the Tucson Rodeo Grounds where a "who's who" of more than 650 contestants compete for $420,000 in prize money. One of the top 25 professional rodeos in North America, the Tucson event draws an average of 11,000 fans a day.
Even on a cold, rainy day like Sunday. There has never been a rain-out in the history of the Tucson Rodeo, organizers say.
Wimp, they added.
Rodeo cowboys through the years have had colorful names like Trevor Brazile, Ty Murray, Cody Custer, Casey Tibbs, Jim Shoulders, Everett Bowman, and the bull-rider "Tuff" Hedeman.
A glance through the list of the 2011 Tucson Rodeo champions shows that the same tradition of cowboy-soundin' names continues, even if the people wearing the names are different. The All-Around Cowboy was a guy named Clint Robinson of Spanish Fork, Utah. Kelly Timberman was the bareback bronc champ, Josh Peek took the steer wrestling prize, and Jacob O'Mara was the bull- riding champion.
Brittany Pozzi, of Victoria, Texas, came in first in barrel-racing, with an average time of 17.4 seconds for three runs. She would have finished well behind the "16 seconds flat" posted by B.J. Cloud, of Faraway, Arizona, in our novel, Contrary Creek.
But that's only fiction. Kind of the way I like my rodeos.