“What people don’t understand is this is something that we only have in America. There is no other country in the world where the ordinary citizen can go out and enjoy hunting and fishing. There’s no other nation in the world where that happens. And it’s very much a part of our heritage.”
I grew up in Kissimmee, Florida home of the Silver Spurs Rodeo. The rodeo was so important to the community that school was canceled for a day and there was a parade down main street. I remember as a youth working the stands hawking cokes. Since it was the biggest arena in the area, it also doubled as the football field for the Osceola High School Kowboys. Each season after the July rodeo, they would reseed the field to try and get it ready for football season which started in September.
At our home games we all knew we were in the rodeo arena. We came in and out of the chutes where the cowboys walked. It was part of our culture and we loved it. In those days, it was not unusual for a pickup truck to come to high school with a rifle in a rack in the back window. Life was simple.
I now live in Tangerine, Florida which is about an hour away from Kissimmee. My 40 year high school reunion is coming up which is hard to believe. When my wife and I received an invitation to go to the rodeo this year and attend a private party it was an instant yes from both of us. Even though we rarely go “out on the town”, we both thought this would be fun. So fun that the day before the event, we went down to the local feed store (and leather shop) to buy some boots. Once I got started, I could not stop myself. I bought everything cowboy I could find. The most fun was that my wife went along with it and let me buy her every cowboy bling thing there was. New belts and pants and boots and shirts and….well, if they would have had chaps and a cap gun I probably would have bought them.
Friday night we loaded up in our jacked up black Ford pickup and drove to Kissimmee. First we texted a picture of us to our grown kids who couldn’t believe that we were actually going out to have some fun. “Smokin!” was the comment made from my kids about the way my wife was dressed and I couldn’t have agreed more. I made sure we didn’t have any tags showing from all of our new clothes.
Since we are both recovering from old age related foot problems, we were able to park in the handicapped area which may have taken a little of our cowboy shine off but we let that go because it was about a half mile closer than where everyone else was parking…and hopefully nobody noticed us struggling to get in and out of our lifted vehicle which was left over from when it used to be driven by the kids several years ago. It would have been easier to get up on one of the horses!
The sight of the line of cars arriving to see the event, the big Ferris wheel at the accompanying fair, the sign of horses and horse trailers everywhere, instantly took me back to the Kissimmee memories of my youth. Once inside the building, we found the party and it was like a high school reunion. Yes… maybe we had over blinged for even Kissimmee but it was so wonderful to be “coming home”.
We had a marvelous evening at the rodeo and enjoyed catching up with so many old friends. The bull riding and calf roping and clowns in barrels brought back so many great memories. The complex is named Osceola Heritage Park and it lived up to its name. The rodeo and the whole agricultural and cattle industry that was so important to this area before tourism took over is still strong and thriving. It is sometimes overshadowed by the bling of the major tourist attractions in the area but it is there and it is a rich heritage that I was reminded, I can call my own.
I bought new leather stuff and was a cowboy for the evening but last night I was reminded that I will be a Kowboy forever. Heritage is a wonderful thing and nice to come home to if you are lucky enough to have that opportunity.
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