The parking lot looked like mad max. BBQ flat black painted trucks with giant tires and lift kits were the norm, peel outs, arguments, yelling.
Motorcycles revving. The guy working the entrance didn't look like a bouncer at a place in Calgary. He looked like he'd spent a lifetime dealing with rough 200lb cowboys and bikers, not kids. I'm certain his tax filings didn't show reward commensurate with the challenge of his job.
After I got my meal ticket, I talked to the lady at the fish fry, which seemed lighter than the pound of brisket. She said "cat or cod" - hopefully meaning catfish. I said mix it up. I asked where the washrooms were and if I'd have time to do a trip before the fry was up. She said "in that door, past the arm wrestling machine, and turn right by the pool table". You can't make this stuff up. First time I walked by, it was in use by people I didn't think I should pull out my phone to snap a picture without consent. Later I caught it empty.
After food, there were marshmallows circulated for making smores over the fire pit.
The interior was pure saloon. I thought I'd see Jake and Elwood Blues singing the Rawhide Theme behind chicken wire. Packed. The beer mugs were tall - must be 500ml.
Ray Ray won the bull riding with a ride of 80 points on Bruiser, which was a giant and mean looking animal. My photography equipment doesn't do the speed of bull riding from stands 30 yards back justice. Some of the other cowboys got seriously bruised up, working your way up through the ranks in this sport isn't easy on the body. There were a set of brothers riding, and to be clear, in rural Arizona, brothers are two white guys related by common parents. One won, the other got an ankle landed on by a spinning bull and limped off but I'm sure won't be walking right for a while. One guy couldn't get his hand out of his tie for what seemed like forever and got dragged around while the clowns tried to help; one guy had a mean bull who charged and flipped him in the air with his horns twice after he was down. I've also seen mutton busting with kids on sheep before, but it was young sheep and kids with hockey helmets with full face guards. Here it was adult sheep (they're fast) and kids with bike helmets. The second kid, when we were right up against the fence spectating, held on across the whole infield until the sheep scrubbed him off when he was on its side on the fence at full speed. I've never seen a 70lb body hit steel fence that hard before. I'm guessing the waiver the parents signed was pretty thorough. Couple of the Vancouver girls who'd never seen Stampede or any rodeo before were just beside themselves.
Gun t-shirts were de riguer. "2nd amendment" with a long rifle underneath and an American flag, "5.6mm diplomacy" and a string of bullets, and my favourite "well within my rights" and an M16 pictured. Ladies outfits were… less. There weren't a lot of clothes mammas would be proud of here. And they spanned 18-50 year old bodies. Here's one of my favourites that was less controversial.
There were a few fights, and not all were male.
Welcome to rural Arizona.