The 4th of July is here! It’s our Independence Day (from Great Britain), a Happy Birthday America. It’s a time for picnics and fireworks, a gathering of friends and family.
It’s also time for the rodeo, one of the oldest American traditions going back to the 1700’s when Spain ruled the west. This was the days of the vaqueros, the original working cowboys known for their skills with a horse and the lariat.
The vaqueros, literally meaning cow-man, fostered a proud heritage unique in their adeptness at roping, herding, and branding from a saddle. At the end of a day’s work out on the open range the vaqueros would find friendly competitions where they could show off their skills. Here the American rodeo had it’s beginning.
At the turn of the century along came the railroad and barbed wire.
Soon there was no need for the long cattle drives and many vaqueros had to look elsewhere for work. They turned to small town stock horse shows called “rodeos” and the grand Wild West Shows to make a living and also to preserve what they saw as a quickly disappearing American Frontier.
The rodeo survived. The grand American tradition of the cowboy also survived.