Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cowboy Up!

A bull rider head butts the bull he was thrown from at the Grand Canyon Professional Rodeo Association (GCPRA) finals at Rawhide in Chandler, AZ, Saturday. The cowboy lost the head butting contest and was taken to local hospital. 

I really like photographing rodeo. It's a chance to see a part of America that's disappearing as people leave small towns and rural areas. It's a connection to the ranching heritage that helped settle the west.

The Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) rodeos get all the attention, and they are excellent rodeos, but I prefer the smaller rodeos, which there are plenty of in Arizona. Access to the cowboys and action behind the chutes is much better at small rodeos, and that's a big deal for photographers.

This weekend the Grand Canyon Professional Rodeo Association held their finals at Rawhide. The finals are the culmination of the year's rodeo, when the GCPRA names its champions. The rodeo was a lot of fun, up to the bull riding when the cowboy in the picture had a wreck in the process of getting bucked off his bull. After the head butting, the bull came back at the cowboy, who was unconscious on the ground, and rammed him into the posts in the chute area. The cowboy ended up requiring facial surgery, was hospitalized overnight and discharged from the hospital today.

Injuries happen pretty frequently in rodeo. It's a tough sport, whether it's the rough stock events like bronc and bull riding or steer wrestling, when cowboys throw themselves off of a galloping horse and onto a galloping steer and wrestling it to the ground. "Playing through the pain" is a just another day at work for rodeo cowboys - hence the phrase "Cowboy Up."

There are more rodeo photos, including photos from the GCPRA Finals, in my archive and available from ZUMA Press.