Git ‘er Done: Chute Dogging in the L.A. Rodeo

It’s 110 degrees and I’m in a chute which is about 3′ x 8′, next to a steer that weighs around 600 lbs. I’ve been standing there for about five minutes, watching Sam in the previous chute. I’m calming the animal, and positioning his rump to the back corner of the chute while I calmly ask myself, “What the hell am I doing here?” I wonder how I got myself into this, kind of replaying the whole thing: the mechanical bull, Sonny, Sam, Rodeo School in Phoenix, Palm Springs, and now Los Angeles, and I still can’t believe it. It’s not until the chute attendant tells me, “The arena is ready,” that I reach down and take hold of the animal and become keenly aware that I’m being watched by my competitors – a lot of great cowboys and cowgirls. My safety (Sonny) talks me through my prep and keeps me focused and calm. The chute attendant asks me how I’ll tell him (or her) to open the chute. Some cowboys nod, some say ‘go’, some do both. I say ‘go’ and he opens the chute.

This guy was a little feisty so the trip to the chalk line ten feet away was a bit of a battle. At this point, everyone’s cheering and coaching, but I can’t really hear anything. All I see is the ground, and the steer’s head in my arms. I suddenly flash on the fact that this is the first time my Mom is watching me compete in a sport and wonder what it must be like for her. I’d better dog this steer. I feel his weight and heat against my leg. I’m in full fight-or-flight mode and letting go is not an option. In this case, he bucked a little and we moved out pretty quick. You can see his forelegs off the ground as we approach the line, where I can dog him. This is about four seconds in and my bloodstream is flooded with adrenaline.

We’ve crossed the line, I’ve turned the animal, and fallen back to take him down. This is about six seconds in. Once he’s completely on his side, he is considered ‘dogged’, and the last whistle blows. 6.75 seconds, this time.

We both get up, dust off and return to the corral, unhurt. I climb the fence and go back behind the chutes to see Sam and Sonny. We hug and holler. I get choked up every time, but I’m new at this, so maybe that’s to be expected.

Mad love to Jonathan for the great photos of the action.

3 Responses to “Git ‘er Done: Chute Dogging in the L.A. Rodeo”

  1. Thursday, June 26, 2008 at 7:32 am

    How did your mom feel while watching you? She felt, yet again, that it is moments like this that are why she was born. She had never had a momentn in her life that gave her more of a rush or that made her so glad to be in the moment.Your mom felt the tug on the invisible umbilicle cord and was glad that you always have had enough “rope” to do do what you want to do and just the right amount of “rope” to stay near her. She yahooed louder than any cowboy in the arena and glowed with the pride of any good Cowboy Mama. She also remembered that your Uncle Van had nicknamed you “Bronco”…must have been for this.

  2. 2 waltzinexile
    Thursday, June 26, 2008 at 8:36 am

    I just know you meant to say “first time my Mom is watching me compete in THIS sport”….right?

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