The Late, Late Frontier

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To many observers, no worthwhile purpose is served by the rodeo. The animals consumed in this fun industry don’t feed us, clothe us, or promote the general welfare. They are simply props in a theatrical production, something to shout at. There is skepticism as to how rigorously the cowboy sport polices itself. There is the moral problem of how much pain and abuse the rodeo animals should have to endure for such a trivial purpose, or whether they should have to endure any at all. Pro-rodeo witnesses are not especially sensitive to the issues involved, judging by their lighthearted remarks given during the hearings conducted on the Baltimore anticruelty bill. One councilman said that a horse with a bucking strap is no more uncomfortable than “a South Sea native who puts on a girdle for a couple of minutes.” As for the hot-shot prods, a county-fair official declared : “They just tickle, like your wife sticking you with a pin.”

Why, then, are there rodeos? Perhaps Max Lerner put his finger on the reason when he wrote in America as Civilization: “Every people … must have a chance to yell for blood.”