No one is perfect, they say, and it’s true. Everyone has things they do well, and things they don’t do well, and it’s important to know what those things are. It has been well established that Idaho knows to rodeo better than just about anyone else, so checking out the Gold Dust Rodeo in Idaho City didn’t provide many surprises on that front. Oddly enough, though, it showed me something that Idaho doesn’t do very well, and frankly, we don’t do well at all.
June 5th, 2015 was not a good day in Idaho City. At 2:45 that morning, a fire started at the end of the first block of the historic district, and tore through the first five businesses, quickly and completely destroying them. In the smallest part of the wee small hours, a substantial part of the small mountain town’s heart and soul was reduced – quite literally – to rubble. While no one was hurt, the fire took with it all the inventory, fixtures, structure, and income, but there was one thing it couldn’t claim in it’s destructive path.
There’s one thing Idaho doesn’t do well, and that is quit. We do support. We do neighborliness. We do kindness. We do community. We do all sorts of things to make the lives of those around us better, but we just don’t seem to do well at quitting. Idaho is a state that seems to have a sense of community at its very core, and that was clear and prevalent as I walked the streets of this little mining town. Nowhere was it more on display more noticeably, though, than at the event that took me there: the rodeo itself.
The Gold Dust Rodeo is a quintessential small-town Idaho rodeo, complete with all the dusty, gritty charm that accompanies these events all across the state, and even across the region. It isn’t big on the glamour or exorbitant style, preferring instead to take a hard-working, traditional, and gravelly approach to the greatest of the western sports. One gets the idea that outside of the PA blaring George Strait and Alan Jackson (with a little “Uptown Funk” thrown in at one point in the evening), and allowing the announcer to exchange barbs with the barrelman, this might be pretty much what a rodeo might have looked like when the town was established in 1862. Part of the beauty of that is that the sport itself has hardly changed, with the rules and events being essentially the same as they always have been, but another part is that this little town retains a sense of togetherness that is both a welcome sight to see, and a welcoming feeling for its guests.
As a part of the Idaho Cowboys Association, the Gold Dust Rodeo holds company with the state’s long heritage of providing the highest quality rodeo possible to towns of all sizes. They host a full slate of events, and bring in competitors from a wide radius around, no doubt in part due to the beauty that surrounds Jim Haswell arena and the town in general. Mountains, pine trees, wildflowers, and big, beautiful skies all framed the evening, and surely that, along with the top-notch venue and the best local stock from Superior Rodeo, makes this particular rodeo one to be sought-after by many. Yes, all these, and the one other thing, but it has been mentioned before.
One of the finest things about the sport of rodeo is that competitors root for each other, and the crowd roots for everybody. When someone is hurt, everyone holds their breath. When a contestant posts a great time or high score, everyone cheers. We might have our favorites that we root for more than some others, but for the most part, everyone is on the same side, cheering for stock and contestant alike. In Idaho City, everyone sits on the same side of the arena, and when the cheer goes up, be it for a high-scoring ride, a fast time, or consolation for a bucked-off attempter, it all goes up as one voice. Everyone knows that if you’re willing to put down your entry money, saddle up, and nod, you’re going to give it your best until you just can’t anymore. That’s when someone picks you up, and the crowd sends you out feeling appreciated and un-alone.
That’s kind of how I feel about the town of Idaho City. They’re not letting hard times or difficulty stop them from doing what they do. Fire and tragedy may not have been avoidable, but the town isn’t about to let it stop them, and the community has rallied around to lift up those around them.
It all goes to prove again what Idaho does well, and the rodeo will stand as solid evidence of that. But it goes to show, too, that Idaho really is terrible at this thing called “quitting,” and if you have to be bad at something, that’s a good thing to pick.