A friend of mine invited me to go with him to a rodeo. Having never been to one and having nothing really important (or entertaining) to do in Demopolis, I accepted. His father has some connections to the Alabama Cattle Rancher’s Association and got us free tickets as well as passes to the hospitality suite. So, I drove to his apartment in Tuscaloosa the night before. We stayed up watching movies like Signs and Donnie Darko before finally retiring to bed.
The next morning we loaded up in his Neon and drove down to Montgomery. After a two hour drive, we arrived. The area outside the venue was filled with cowboy hats, pony rides, and manure. Many companies such as John Deere and Dodge were there peddling their farm-related equipment. Also, many smaller vendors were there selling trinkets and yet more cowboy hats. We meandered our way to the hospitality suite for some snack food and beverages.
It was then that my friend heard a Scottish accent. He looked around, tapped me on the shoulder and asked, ‘Is that Ewan McGregor?’ and sure it enough, it was. It took a few seconds for that to register in my mind and for my brain to actually accept that he was at a rodeo in Montgomery, Alabama. Being overly perplexed we had to know why he was there, so we approached him and inquired ‘So, what brings you to a rodeo in Montgomery, Alabama?’ It turns out that he was in town shooting a new movie Big Fish with Steve Buscemi and Tim Burton. From the looks of it, we were the only two people there to recognize him as the actor in A Life Less Ordinary, Trainspotting, The Phantom Menace, and Attack of the Clones.
We then went to the stadium proper and found our seats. A few minutes before the activities were to start, my friend told me to look behind me. The McGregor family’s seats were directly behind us. He had brought his wife and son with him. His son was quite young and did drool on my shoulder once during the event.
The rodeo itself began with some Dodge trucks driving around on the dirt field and the announcer rattling on about how tough, dependable and American these trucks were. Followed was a bit of forced patriotism as women in teal, lycra cowgirl outfits rode around the arena wielding a history of the flags that have flown over this country. (The McGregor’s gave out a cheer when the Union Jack went by). The announcer went on to talk about how great ‘Merica was and they had the veterans in the audience stand up for a round of applause. Maybe it was actually being patriotic, but I had the feeling it was all forced in order to get the crowd in a good mood.
Over the next several hours, we witnessed an array of calf roping, steer wrestling, bronco riding, tacky outfits, rodeo clowns, the afore mentioned drool of McGregor spawn and bull riding. Near the end, my allergies got the best of me and I had to step outside for some fresh air.
The various small shops and activities going around before and after the event gave me the feeling that it was a twisted, redneck version of a science fiction convention. Overall, I was happy I went and had that experience.