Winter has just about settled its dreariness across the face of the Northwest, and while there are many fun opportunities that come with the season, it is not my favorite. While there’s plenty to keep a person occupied and engaged, I don’t like being cold, I don’t like being wet, and there aren’t any full-on rodeos happening around here.
That last part tends to get to me. As soon as I get chilly, I start wishing for the sun high over an arena, the sound of stock in the pens, announcers cramming through their lists, and cowboys telling stories with varying degrees of truth. You just can’t get all of that in the Winter — except for that thing about stories, and my favorite way to hear the story is through a good song.
Oddly enough, there are a lot of great cowboy songs, a lot of great horse-riding songs, and a lot of songs about pretty cowgirls, but there just aren’t that many rodeo songs, so here are a few of my favorites. Now, I’m not saying that this is a comprehensive list, or that these are the unqualified “Greatest Ever”, but they’re definitely tops on my list, and I hope they keep you warm this winter!
Most Blatant: “Rodeo” by Garth Brooks
With lyrics like “It’s the white in the knuckles and the gold in the buckle”, and “bulls and blood… dust and mud”, it’s no surprise that this obviously-titled song should pop to mind first when most people think about rodeo songs.
Most Accurate: “Wild Horses” by Garth Brooks
Ask any rodeo widow what she loves the most about her man, and she’s likely to tell you it’s that it’s that he’s a rodeo cowboy. Ask her what she loves the least, and she’s likely to tell you the exact same thing. Ask the cowboy if you will, but he probably isn’t listening anymore by that point.
Most Iconic: “Amarillo By Morning” by George Strait
This tale of a roughstock rider on his way from one rodeo to another is nothing short of a national treasure. From its lonely fiddle lines to its sad story of defeat and poverty, it remains a favorite, holding steady even after thirty years!
Most Fun: “Fever” by Garth Brooks
Not as well known as many of the others, “Fever” cleans up an Aerosmith track, while daring to point out the same thing about bull riders the rest of us notice all the time: “We’re all here ’cause he’s not all there tonight!”
Most Depressing: (tie) “Beaches Of Cheyenne” by Garth Brooks
The haunting tale of death in the arena and its effect on the riders’ family are poignantly carried out in this classic. Moral of the story: tell your loved ones that you care about them.
Most Depressing: (tie) “I Can Still Make Cheyenne” by George Strait
Even though it has the relic known as a “payphone” as a central feature, this is a timeless story of the rodeo cowboy’s stubborn insistence on getting back in the saddle, despite the cost. What did Cheyenne do to be mentioned for the third time here?
Most Universal: “Much Too Young” by Garth Brooks
You don’t have to be a rodeo fan to appreciate this song. Sure, the protagonist is headed to Denver for the next night’s ride, but this tune resonates with anyone who feels the clock ticking faster all the time. Wait, this song was released in 1989? Well, that’s ironic!
(Did you notice all of these are by two artists, and none of them are terribly recent? Come on, Nashville — let’s get with the program and get a few more into circulation!)