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|| News Item: Posted 2000-06-28

You Can't Beat Fun at the Ol' Rodeo Arena
By Joe Gosen, Reno Gazette-Journal

Photo by Joe Gosen/Reno Gazette-Journal

Photo by Joe Gosen/Reno Gazette-Journal
Boy was I feeling the dry Nevada heat today. And man, was I ever sweating. I was sweating more than Gary Bogdon sweats while mowing his Florida lawn in August. At one point I thought I might even faint. But I knew if I held on just a little longer I'd get some great shots of "da bulls."

I'm not talking hoops, I'm talking rodeo. The Reno Rodeo in Reno, Nev., is one of the best rodeos in the nation. Dubbed the "Wildest, Richest, Rodeo in the West," the nine-day rodeo features some of the best cowboys and cowgirls competing in events like calf roping, bareback riding, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, team roping, barrel racing and, of course, bull riding.

Bull riding is always the last event in Reno. And Sundays are the only time you can photograph it in daylight. On other days the rodeo starts after 7 p.m., so it's nearly 10 p.m. before the bulls are ridden. But the bulls are worth the wait.

If you show up at the rodeo wearing shorts, tennis shoes and a T-shirt don't expect to get a good photo position. Folks who put on the Reno Rodeo appreciate it if members of the media look a little more like the participants than the spectators, regardless of how hot it is. Today (June
Photo by
25) was no exception. With temperatures in the mid 90s, I dawned my black jeans and a long-sleeve shirt, waited for the bulls and watched five brush fires burning in the not-so-distance hillsides. It was hot.

But it's not the heat, it's the stupidity, right? You just gotta love it when a short, stocky, tough cowboy straps his hand to an 1,800-pound bull for an eight-second ride. Bull riding is definitely the original extreme sport, and it always makes for some great pictures.

What doesn't make for great pictures, however, is having me stand in the middle of the rodeo arena waving to about 8,000 people in the stands. But it happened.

My friend and colleague Guy Clifton and I were presented with authentic, silver rodeo belt buckles from the rodeo's president a few nights earlier. We were recognized for producing a book about the history of the Reno Rodeo, which was fresh off the press a week earlier.

Photo by
I felt like a cowboy for about two minutes during that embarrassing moment but I knew I wasn't fooling anyone in the stands. I'm about as far from being a cowboy as it gets. Having been raised in a California burb, I only rode horses when I could finagle a quarter from my mom to ride them metal ones in front of Safeway.

For the project, Clifton voluntarily used his vacation time and weekends to research and write this book knowing well that all the proceeds would go to the Reno Rodeo Foundation Youth Program. Somehow he managed to talk me into helping him edit photos and helping design the book.

We spent many Saturday afternoons at the Nevada Historical Society, digging through boxes of rodeo outtakes from the 1920s through the 1960s. Weeknights were spent going through Reno Gazette-Journal photos from the 1970s, 80s and 90s. We ended up using at least one photo for each of the 163 pages in the book.

The book shows rodeo cowboys of today wearing padded vests, padded neck collars and an occasional helmet. But photos we found in the archives often showed a cowboy with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, one hand on the rope and the other on his hat while hanging on for a wild ride.

Photo by Joe Gosen/Reno Gazette-Journal

Photo by Joe Gosen/Reno Gazette-Journal
Pads or no pads, these rodeo cowboys are tough guys and many of them have been captured in this book by Gazette-Journal staffers. Marilyn Newton, Jean Dixon and Dave Parker contributed some of their favorite photos and even I managed to get a couple of pictures in the book.

Although I enjoyed reading about bull riders in the book, I really loved watching them ride on Sunday. Only two cowboys out of 12 managed to stay on for those eight seconds. It was a long wait for such short rides, but it was worth it. Watching bulls lunge from their chutes, kicking, snorting and spinning cowboys off their backs, one after another made for great pictures.

After spending several hours at the rodeo, I left the arena feeling hot, dirty and smelling like manure, sort of like Gary Bogdon feels after doing yard work on a humid summer day. But I didn't mind it at all because I got to see "da bulls."

(Joe Gosen is currently a graphic artist for the Reno Gazette-Journal and formerly a staff photographer. Note: you can order "Reno Rodeo: A History - The First 80 Years" at

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