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Neighbor to Neighbor: Man, beast show grit as rodeo comes to town

When The Black Cowboys participated in the Laurelton Street Fair earlier this year, one of them, Howie) told me they would appear in a rodeo at the National Guard Armory in Jamaica in November. I marked the dates on my calendar: Nov. 10 and 11.

The weather wasn't great Friday, Nov. 10, but my friend, Bess Jones, and I are both gardeners so we appreciated the rain - and we wanted to support our Black Cowboy friends in the evening.

The massive concrete floor of the armory had been transformed into a huge corral complex, covered by a deep bed of earth. The outer edge was made up of bleachers with food, drink, and other items for sale near the entrance.

The horses and cattle were penned at both ends of the arena. The show began with a tribute to each branch of the U. S. armed services, since it was the Veterans' Day weekend. Each branch was represented by a rider carrying the flag of that group. When each was in the arena, the audience rose as The Star Spangled Banner was sung. As our national anthem came to a close, there was a cheer, and then a hush, as the first bucking bronco was readied for release.

The gate to the stall opened and that very honest horse charged out, kicking his heels high in the air, snorting, and showing great determination to get rid of his rider in a hurry, we were surprised that the cowboy stayed on all the nag to the middle of the arena, but finally, he went off in a heap.

Other riders, and a clown, moved in between the downed rider and the still kicking bronco. Bess and I had bumped into another friend, Chita Brathwaite, her daughter, and a youngster friend. I heard Chita say, "I think he's really hurt." I thought the same thing. Luckily, we were both wrong, or, at least, he was not too badly hurt. He limped away to the cheers of the crowd,

Rider after rider fell to the same fate, although some never even made it to the center of the arena. The foot of one rider, in fact, got caught in the tackle as he was being tossed off, and he was dragged around for quite some distance. That was a frightening sight for me to see, and Bess laughed at me for covering my eyes. Cowboys and cowgirls are tough people though, and even he came up smiling

There is always a variety of events at rodeos, and this one had them all, since this was a sanctioned show - Steer wrestling, barrel racing with the ladies participating, calf roping, and, or course, bull riding. They were all exciting!

The crowd, I'm very happy to report, was extremely well-behaved and appreciative of the good time they afforded all of us. We were particularly glad to see so many youngsters and parents having an enjoyable evening together, and to know none or the performers, human or animal, was hurt.

Those beautiful horses reminded me of the days when riding wasn't so expensive and my sister and I would go over the bridge to Whitey's Riding Academy in Rosedale every week, or I would go, after work, to Claremont Riding Academy in Manhattan.

Five minutes atop a horse and I would forget all of the day's turmoils. It was wonderful! Even then, though, I could not imagine how anyone in a right mind would voluntarily climb onto a bucking bronco or bull. There is, I'm told, big money for the winners, so I guess there will always be someone willing to take that risk.

I'm no real gambler, so I guess I'll stick to some less risky way to possibly come into a windfall -like the fund-raiser for one of my favorite volunteer groups, The Cornucopia Society. Their raffles are $20, which may be only a donation for non-winners, but it might be a chance to have a good start on a nest egg for the winner. And it's for a good cause - helping the food pantry and other worthwhile community projects and, maybe, help get water and a bathroom back into the Rosedale Sports Building.

Interested? Call 718-341-1395. Come on, take a chance, but most important, help others, and yourself, have a really HAPPY THANKSGIVING.

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