Buckle Bunnies: Travels in Another America


For five days in February I sit behind the rough stock gates at the rodeo in San Antonio, Texas. I watch the bull riders, the saddle bronc and bareback bronc riders.

I know who supplies the stock, I recognize some of the cattle. I’ve seen some of these cowboys ride before.

I watch the clowns tell the same jokes, every day, every session, every year. I listen to the emcee praise an America where we can come together as one nation and pray to god in a public place. I watch every single person take off their hat and descend into silence for the national anthem.

I watch the boys put their bodies on large fierce animals and flow back and forth with violence and grace. I watch them bend in ways that most people don’t bend, I know how they are scored, how their feet should move over their heads, how they should dance on these strong backs.

I secretly hope they don’t get hurt, not gored nor stomped. I wonder if they have brain damage from the motion of their brains within their skulls.

I watch the winners get gas cards and a little money. I watch them take a loop around the ring in the back of a pick-up. I watch the crowds scream and reach out to touch them. And I know the winners get buckles. And the buckles bring bunnies, the cute young girls who follow these fluid strong boys on the circuit.

Buckle bunnies, like groupies, have things to give and none to take. I have my own bunny buckle now. I wear it a like a secret.