Saturday August 20th, Highs in the mid 70’s and down to the low 50’s at sundown

We took advantage of our Black Hills VIP cards since we have been working so hard (13 hours/week) at the campground, and went to the Mount Rushmore Rodeo at Palmer Gulch. The event was held at the campground KOA nearest to Mount Rushmore, and it was the perfect setting.  The arena was smack in the middle of outcroppings of black hills rocks, with an abundance of ponderosa pines and fresh air.  As we drove up to the venue we were greeted by an attendant.  We told her we were here for the rodeo and she said, “Are you watching or participating?”

We had to laugh at this question.  Several weeks before, Dave and I had a discussion about bucket list items.  The conversation was after a long day of gathering firewood and was likely influenced by too many glasses of cabernet, but both of us agreed our bucket lists should include riding a bull. As we pondered the rodeo attendants question, we looked at each other and seemed to mutually and silently agree that this would not be the day for this bucket list item.  “We’re just here to watch”, Dave said and I breathed a little sigh of relief!

We arrived before the rodeo started and the pre-event included Mutton Bustin’.  For those of you that are not rodeo followers, Mutton Bustin’ is an event where little kids jump on the back of a sheep and hang on as long as they can.  This is so fun to watch.  The kids are hanging on for dear life and the sheep look pretty irritated.  They run and buck and the usual result is a kid hanging on the side and eventually planting themselves in the dirt.  Nearly every time, regardless of an easy or violent dismount, the little buckaroos would jump up with big smiles, wipe the dirt and hoof prints off of their clothes, and wave or victoriously pump their fists in the air celebrating their brave feat of riding the sheep.  The crowd loved it too.


Not my pic, but a good demo of Mutton Bustin


Then the real rodeo began.  It started with the crowd reading a “Cowboy Prayer” and of course the National Anthem playing while a rodeo chic rode her beautiful horse around the arena carrying an enormous American Flag.  We love the patriotic heartland.

The events came one after the next, bronco riding, steer roping, barrel racing and of course, bull riding.  If you have ever seen these events on RFD TV or at the movies, they just don’t compare to seeing them through the fence in person.  You can feel the reverberation of a bull kicking the steel gate before it opens; it is loud and gives you a sense of apprehension you won’t get from hearing it on TV.  The perspective of seeing how high the broncos actually jump and kick with the ragdoll riders on their back would not convey through the screen.  You have to be there in person to really get it.

Another highlight was the “Boot Race” for the kiddies at intermission.  The announcer said, “Any kids out there who want to participate in the boot race, come out to the arena….you don’t have to find a gate, just climb over the fence!”  There were hundreds of kids climbing into the arena.  They looked like ants swarming on a discarded piece of food, or the zombies in the movie Apocalypse Z as they climbed over the walls…they just kept coming.  All the kids were instructed to remove their shoes and put them in a pile, we are talking a mountain of shoes.  Then they went to the opposite end of the arena and the rodeo clowns threw their shoes in all directions.  The announcer said, “Go!” and they ran around trying to find their shoes.  The winners found their shoes the fastest and were rewarded with…..wait for it….toy guns that shoot rubber bands.  We are pretty sure there are many places in the country where parents would NOT approve of guns as prizes, but here in cowboy country nobody griped.

The sun went down and the mountain air turned cool very quickly.  The real rodeo players returned to the arena and the main event, bull riding, took the stage.  The condensation of the bulls’ exhalations made it look like they were angry and breathing fire.  The cowboys were undaunted and many of them held on for the full 8 seconds. Some did not and one rider was almost launched over the arena side into the crowd.  It was crazy, exciting and fun to watch.

As we drove home, we both decided to edit our bucket lists, changing “Ride a Bull” to “Ride an electric bull in a Honkey Tonk Bar.”