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RODEO - The sport of the west

Rodeo is to America what bull-fighting is to Spain or horse-racing is to Britain: the nation's most popular animal sport, and a very popular sport at that. Paul Denman recently spent a day at the Deschutes County Fair, in Redmond Oregon, and joined hundreds of Oregonians to watch the highlight of the fair, the annual Deschutes Rodeo.

Rodeo Bull riding - a uniquely Wild-West sport.
             At 1 p.m. the air is still, heavy with a confusion of smells that drifts among the stalls and the barbeques, the ani­mal enclo­sures and the ice-cream ven­dors. In the hot midday sun, the fair throngs with visitors, but there's little shade to sit in, just narrow strips of shadow alongside the buildings and the tents. All around, the music is play­ing while kids run riot and and stall-holders beckon passing visitors with their col­orful displays.
Then, as the time moves towards 2.30, there is a new sense of excitement in the air: people are no longer moving round ran­domly, but heading in the same di­rection, towards the dusty arena to the south of the showground. It's almost time for the rodeo!
   Here at last there is shade for ev­eryone: the grandstand, with its tiered seating, rapidly fills up, as thou­sands of fair-goers pile in, eager for a good view of the excitement that is soon to begin.
Junior rodeo Microlight kids on minuscule (matching) ponies
               For some people it has al­ready be­gun. Microlight kids on mi­nuscule ponies are cavorting round the empty arena, while a handful of cowboys, astride impeccably trained horses, walk or trot sedately round the ring. Suddenly a little blonde girl, hardly four feet tall, careers into view, rid­ing bareback at the speed of light on bright white pony. No-one pays much at­tention. The folk in the stands are too busy talking about horses and rodeo-rid­ers, dis­cussing the last rodeo, predicting the win­ners of the next. Somehow, as someone who has not been brought up in the company of horses, I feel slightly out of place, as if everyone here except me knows everything about what is going on.
     I had been to a couple of rodeos before, including the biggest of them all, the Calgary Stampede; but the other rodeos I had been to were put on for the tourists. Not this one; in central Oregon, there are few tourists. Rodeos here are for the locals, people who know them and understand them; most of the folk round me are from Redmond, or Prineville or Madras or Bend, certainly not from Europe!
   Then action: suddenly the gates at the end of the arena burst open, and a posse of flag-carrying girls erupts into view, circling the arena in formation on shining dark ponies. Dressed in patriotic red white and blue, courtesy of Pepsi-Cola, the girls come to a stop in the middle of the ring, as the crowd rise to their feet, the men take off their stetson hats, and everyone joins in the singing of God Bless America. The rodeo has begun!
  The rodeo has begun! For the next couple of hours, spectators watch with excitement as local heroes perform feats of dexterity on the backs of bucking animals! While some show their skills at calf roping — catching a running calf with a lasso and tying it up in just a few seconds — others demonstrate their daredevil skills by riding untamed broncos or bounding round on the backs of enormous raging bulls. As intrepid riders master or fall off their wild mounts, the crowd cheer wildly or aah in apprehension, then burst into laughter as the obligatory clown, the matador of the rodeo, distracts the attention of the raging animals while mounted cowboys round them up, calm them down, and coax them away into the pens from which they originally emerged, their day's work over.
Rodeo queen Every rodeo has its rodeo queen
   Katie Sharpe, 21, the local Rodeo Queen, does a lap of honour, then participates in the ladies' events; but in this macho part of the world, the ladies do not get to pit themselves against untamed bulls and broncs! That's men's stuff! Katie and the other young ladies show their skills at "barrel racing", hurling their horses at breakneck speed round an triangular shaped race-course, marked out with barrels, in the middle of the arena. It's not as dramatic as bull-riding, but it's exciting, and the crowd roar their approval.
   As the sun falls lower in the sky and the shadows begin to lengthen, the final rounds of calf-roping and saddle-bronc riding bring another half hour of thrills and spills before the commentator finally announces that the Rodeo is drawing to an end. The last prizes are handed out, the last riders leave the arena, and the show is over. As the spectators pick up their belongings and move slowly towards the exits, the kids on their ponies come back again for another few minutes as imaginary champions, tomorrow's local heroes in the arena of the stars. Here, it seems, if rodeo does not flow in the blood, at least it's all in the family.

WORDS

run riot: run without control - beckon: call - random: without any order - grandstand: covered area where spectators sit at a stadium - tiered: rising up in steps - cavort: run excitedly - sedate: calm - feat: act, achievement - dexterity: skill, some­thing difficult - buck: jump up and down - daredevil: intrepid - bound: jump - lap: circuit - pit oneself: struggle - hurl: throw
 
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Exercises and activities

Rodeo ! The West's national sport

 
 Text study: style. What linguistic features does the writer use to bring the description of the rodeo to life? Ask your students. They should perhaps notice: a) use of the historic present, reserved in English for this type of style; b) use of expressive vocabulary (run riot, microlight kids, etc.), use of very short sentences, sometimes without verbs (No-one pays much attention. / Not this one. / Then action: etc.).

Style and vocabulary; look at paragraph 4 of the printed article, as far as the words bright white pony. The writer has deliberately chosen some very expressive words in this paragraph. Have students pick out the expressive words, and then try to rewrite this article using only very basic words. (Teacher: words that should be picked out are: microlight, minuscule, cavort, a handful, astride, impeccably, sedately, careers, the speed of light ).

 Words: have students analyse the context and explain these words as well as they can: throngs / fair-goers / bareback / posse / mounts / coax / pens / men's stuff / thrills and spills.

 Phrasal verbs. Have students pick out and explain: move round, pile in, go on, put on, burst open, join in, round up, calm down, mark out, hand out, be over

 


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Advanced level English resource


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The short story of English


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