Ranch Rodeo, 4 min, HD, color, digital video, 2014


Recorded, produced, and edited by Abby Sun & Daniel Garber

text by Darrell Hartman


When most people think of a rodeo, a particular type of spectacle comes to mind - it involves arenas full of roaring fans, cowboys clinging tenaciously onto kicking bulls and broncos, advertisements everywhere, and a steady flow of colorful (and kitschy) little sideshows.
As entertaining as all this is, it's far removed from the informal ranch-hand gatherings out of which the today's heavily commercialised rodeos first emerged. Luckily, there's a version that's much closer to the original. They're called 'ranch rodeos,' and they're still organised all over the American West. Events like the one in this film in Kaycee, Wyoming (population: 261) are homespun, low-frill affairs; while professional riders do compete, most events feature actual ranch workers and showcase the skills these real-life cowboys use on a daily basis. Competitive tasks such as penning, roping, branding - the latter using powdery flour or chalk, rather than actually singeing the animal - and milking untamed cows are carried out by teams, a corrective of sorts to the familiar myth of the lone cowboy. The participants know each other, and go back to work when the festivities are done. Unlike the travelling rodeos, these ones are tied - you might say lassoed - to the communities in which they're held.
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