I've had a request for information on this rodeo thing with my niece, Sara Ross Foster, and her children.
It all started at Christmas when I told all my family that rodeo time would be a great fun time to visit us in Houston! For the uneducated, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is a HUGE thing. It lasts for 3 weeks every March. Each night there are rodeo events leading up to the championship on the final night. In addition, there are concerts every night by some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry; Jonas Brothers, Mary J. Blige, Lady Antebellum, Brad Paisley, and a myriad of others. If you are that interested, go to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo website. There is a barbecue cookoff, a parade, a trail ride on horseback across the state of Texas to get here, etc......really over the top and unbelievable.
Sara was all on it. She planned and waited and arrived on Thursday. Our first stop was Cavendar's Boot Country to outfit the children in their boots and cowboy hats. Emma-Claire chose a striking pair of pink leather boots with matching hat. Tee went for a classic brown leather boot with a straw hat embellished with a longhorn bearing brad on the brim. So cute. As we were leaving the store, he clung his hat to his chest and said, "I've always wanted this 'weawy badwy." I could just eat him up!
That night we had a Pampered Chef party......a good reason for Sara to come and a tax advantage for her! Double fun as lady friends of mine gathered in my kitchen and we cooked and ate the night away!
Friday dawned and we ventured to the rodeo for our first day. I was a total novice as well, so it was a learn as we go experience. Suffice it to say that this rodeo thing is a state fair on steroids. They have a HUGE area for kids in the Reliant Center called Agventure. The FFA and 4Hers were there with their animals ready for show. The hides on those cows looked like the finest velvet in shades of black, brown, red, taupe, etc. There are exhibits of all things farming. There is a birthing area where if you are lucky you can witness the birth of calves, piglets, lambs, kids, and chicks. We were lucky enough to see baby chicks hatch and a calf only hours old. The cutest, though, were the hours old piglets......I wanted to bring one home......until I looked over at mama.....a heaping sow boasting about 700 pounds! She was a BIG, BIG, REALLY BIG girl! WOW!
We (of course I mean the children) rode ponies, shopped, (Sara got some really hot boots for mama!) and ate corndogs and chicken on a stick. We went into the petting zoo and loved on sheep, pigs, goats, a llama, a donkey, and bunnies.
We went outside to the carnival area. I wanted to see the child-sized mechanical bulls and find the pig races and mutton bustin'. We found the mutton bustin' first. Emma-Claire and Tee were mesmerized. Children donning helmets and protective vests were put on the backs of sheep by sheep wranglers and told to hold on for as long as they could. The shoot was opened and away they went! And off they came! It was hilarious! About 8 or 9 children participated. They awarded prizes and ribbons to all the children and a silver belt buckle to the first place winner. Emma-Claire looked up at her mama and said, "I want to do it!" We didn't know that just anyone could until we heard the announcement: "Sign up your child for the noon session." After investigation, we discovered that indeed any child under 60 pounds with the fortitude to stand the odor of the sheep could give it a try. However, being who they are, our darling children were dressed in very cute outfits without forethought to rolling in the dust/dirt/sheep stuff or being trampled by a mutton. The rules say that the children need long pants and a shirt with sleeves. EC in a dress to match her boots and hat and Tee in shorts and shirt were not attired properly. So, we said we would come back. We left happy and full of mutton dreams.
Saturday dawned and we loaded up to go to a farm owned by a friend of mine in Weimer, Texas, about an hour west of us. It was a beautiful spread. About 40 head of the cattle roamed around us, 11 or 12 newly birthed calves included. They raise brangus cattle, a lovely reddish color. In fact the color of the cattle matched Tee's hair.....a lovely coppery red color. We had a picnic lunch under a huge live oak tree next to a "tank" or pond to those who don't live in Texas. EC and Tee went fishing in the tank with Uncle Mark and struck! Tee caught a bass about as long as your forearm. We did throw him back to go live with his family, but it was so fun to catch him! After fishing, we got in the back of Mr. Darrell's pick up truck and went looking for the other bull and some 7 month old heifers he keeps in the back 50. We came back up to the house. The "old folks" went to the front to sit on the lovely porch while Tee got his turn to drive the tractor. I mean a really big John Deere farm tractor. As they came to the front of the house, I said to my friend,"He is having such a fun time riding." Kay responded, "He's not just riding, he's driving....Darrell only intervenes if they are getting into trouble." Ok, Tee was driving a tractor at age 3 1/2. Emma-Claire got her turn and had a great time. Tee got another turn, which if you know him, was something he had to do. That boy loves a tractor!
Sunday we took time at my house to recuperate and chill. We did go to one of our neighborhood parks and bake cookies, but it was generally a rest day. Isn't that what the sabbath is for? :) I will say that the children decided to practice for their mutton bustin' debuts. Our chocolate lab, Bear, was a willing participant. They would have him sit. Tee would get on Bear's back. Emma-Claire would control Bear's movements by having a dog biscuit in her hand. She would throw the biscuit across the den and Bear would run after it like lightning. Tee did his best to hang on, but he was slung all over the room by day's end.......need I say hilarious!?
Monday dawned and we ventured back to the rodeo properly attired for our turn at mutton bustin'. They ask the children their favorite foods, what they want to be when they grow up and to name their sheep. As they announce each child it goes something like this. "Folks, This is Tee Foster. He's from Alabama and he likes to eat corndogs. He wants to be a cowboy when he grows up. Let's see if he can break in this sheep he's riding. Let's go, Tee, and have a good ride!" They open the gate and away he goes for about 4.5 seconds of sheer delight. He rolled off, jumped up with the help of the rodeo sheep wranglers, waves to the crowd and runs out of the arena. Emma-Claire's turn was next. "Well, folks, here is is Emma-Claire Foster. She's from Alabama, loves to eat strawberries and wants to be a teacher when she grows up. Let's see if she can teach this sheep a thing or two." Well, EC's first sheep was a little lazy (or just tired of children riding her) and just stood there, so she got a second chance. She changed from Princess to Bosheepus and he gave her a thrilling 3 or 4 second ride. She too jumped up, waved to the crowd and ran off. The youngster who won our round stayed on the sheep all the way across the arena. However, our mutton busters were thrilled with the backpack filled with a real ribbon, chest number and other prizes. It was a fabulous time. The practice on Bear paid off.
Needless to say we had a terrific time with our little ones. Luke at 3 months old was the champion of the weekend. He went along with all our shenanigans with little or no fussing. He ate and slept and rode in the stroller and got out to look around and go back again. I see a completely cooperative little boy in the Foster's future. What a darling.
Can't wait for next year. We didn't even get to the mechanical bulls or pig races! Something to look forward to! y'all come!
Sorry, Sara has all the pictures on her camera. She'll be sending them to me soon! I'll post later!