Off to the Rodeo!!!

IMG_1497-ANIMATIONOn July 3rd (2015), my country music band played after the rodeo that took place Hickory Creek Wilderness Ranch & Campground in Tidioute, Pennsylvania. I haven’t played music at a Rodeo since the late 90’s, and back then I didn’t pay attention to things the way I do now.

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Chris_LeDoux_promo_photoThere is one story that stays with me from the 90’s, though, and it involves Chris LeDoux. Broncos, a bar in Alliance, OH hosted a rodeo every year. We had an in because we played Broncos bar several times a year.

So we were the opening act for LeDoux after the rodeo, and our bass player got word to us that his wife went into labor and he wouldn’t be coming (pre-cell phone days for all of us!). This was a huge show for us, and we were contemplating what to do. The bar was closed, and the crowd was outside, so the only people inside were my band (Coyote Joe) and Chris LeDoux and his crew. His bass player heard us talking, and came over and said he’d be glad to help us out. It was a pretty fun time, and I’ll always remember how cool it felt at that time of my life to be playing with this musician. When I was young I didn’t really pay attention to detail, so I never got his name. Sad.

Moving forward to the July 3rd rodeo:

I was able to learn a lot at this rodeo, much of it was interesting: (All of these names are made up for my benefit. I don’t think they rodeo clowns “clowns” anymore, but who has time to do accurate research?)

The Riders: The riders are crazy insane. They have to ride a bull for as long as they can. 8 seconds is the goal, and not too many of them made it. But even if they scored big, they were still going to get thrown. Nobody can ride a bucking bull. 

The Clowns:  The clowns are crazy insane. Their job is to make the bull chase after them after the rider falls, so the rider can get away, off the field. If your job is to make a bull chase you, you are crazy insane. Life is hard enough without getting a job like that. 

The Horseman: The man on the horse is crazy insane. If the clowns can’t get the bull, or the bull runs off in another direction, the horseman chases the bull and ropes him, and pulls him back to where he’s supposed to be. But on Friday night I saw this guy get in some pretty hairy situations being chased by a bull as well. 

The Timer: This guy is just a little bit crazy, because he stands on the field with a timer to time the riders – how long they stay on the bull. He’s not crazy insane – he’s close the fence, he can get away pretty quickly. But his job is still inside the ring with an angry bull. 

All jesting aside, this seems to be difficult job, and these guys were the hardest workers I’ve ever seen in my life. They had to constantly move, they were good at their jobs, and they fearlessly took on dangerous animals.

(My pics were all taken with an iPhone, at night, against bright lights – it was the only place I could see, or I would have looked for better shooting conditions.)

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(not quite) Midnight in Montgomery

By Matthew Bennett IMG_6711

Growing up, I heard more Johnny Cash and Gaither Trio songs than Hank Williams songs, but Hank was a part of my music listening experience from an early age, and I often consider Hank’s life, amazing story, and tragic ending. Perhaps this is why I ended up a country musician even though I it is not my favorite type of music. I will say that it is definitely my favorite type of music to play live.

Neither Hank WIlliams nor The Oakwood Annex Cemetery were running through my mind at all as we drove Interstate 85 into Montgomery, Alabama on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Also absent were any thoughts of Civil Rights, the Civil War, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., segregation, the Confederacy, or any other aspects and events that are part of the eye-opening history of Montgomery. I knew about these events, and even where they took place, but there was a disconnect in my mind between the history and the actual place.

Fortunately, what was running through my mind was Alan Jackson’s song “Midnight in Montgomery”. I was singing the song, and I remembered what it was about. Alan Jackson, in his bus, the Silver Eagle, visiting Hank’s gravesite in Montgomery. I’m not commonly prone to the middle school reaction of OMG!, but that is the moment, on I85, that my mind made the connect. OMG – Hank Williams is buried here! We decided to go visit the site the next day, hopefully get some good pictures, and then figure out what else we could learn about Montgomery as a whole.

I learned how little I knew about what happened with Rosa Parks, and even watched a re-enactment in the Rosa Parks Museum. Now when I hear about the incident, I feel like I was there – understanding the event itself much better, as well as the events leading up to, and where history turned immediately after the incident. All of this was only a tiny portion of the things we did and saw walking the streets of this historic city.

I learned so much, all because of one little spark of history that came to me as a song running through my head. So for these random thoughts that come to me that change my life forever in surprising ways, I have to thank my parents for playing the music, Alan Jackson for writing about the MAN, and last but never least, Hank Williams, for writing the songs that made me want to visit you when I was close.