Cheyenne Frontier Days: Cowboys Feeling the Pinch

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As some of you know my family is currently in Cheyenne, Wyoming visiting my in-laws while on a furlough break from Papua New Guinea.  After 9 years of marriage to a native Cheyennean this is my first time to be here during the famous Frontier Days rodeo.  Things are all abuzz here in Cheyenne as the town prepares for the “Daddy of ‘em All.”  I am not a farmer nor a cowboy, but being in Cheyenne you can’t miss out on all the fever.  Especially, noteworthy is that this year Frontier Days is remembering Lane Frost 20 years after his shocking death right here in Cheyenne (Lane Frost is the individual who the movie “8 Seconds” is about).

While the town is alive with anticipation, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle ran a story on Friday, July 17, 2009 titled “Tightening their belts.”

Photo by State Library and Archives of Florida

The lead sentence:

The pinch at the gas pump has softened, but rodeo athletes are still absorbing body blows from a hamstrung economy.

Stran Smith (tie-down roper) says:

We’re starting to feel the trickle down effects a lot more.  I’ve had to be more considerate of the situations I’m put into now.

Wow.  Poor guy.  Almost makes you want you to get onto Paypal and make a contribution, right?  Well, poor old Mr. Smith has taken in 1.5 million dollars in earnings since 1994.  Last year he made $181,000 in winnings.  In addition, he has an unmentioned salary from sponsors and advertisers.

So what is Smith doing to be more “considerate of situations?”  He still hires three drivers who each drive a truck he owns.  After his rodeo he hops on a plane to the next rodeo.  The article points out that they are mostly commercial airlines, but at times he does hire a private charter.

The article writes:

Smith earned more than $181,000 last year, which has helped him survive the tough economic times.  He understands he’s one of the most fortunate souls traversing the country to pursue a rodeo career.  “I try to conserve as much as I can, but at the same time the old saying goes, ‘You have to spend money to make money.’ he said.

“Survive.” Now that is ridiculous.  Outrageous!  Was this cowboy on the verge of malnutrition, but the $181,000 helped him eke by and SURVIVE?  Perhaps if we had a little more exposure to the world’s poor we would learn when ‘survive’ is an appropriate word and when it is sensationalism.  Yikes.

The article concludes by quoting Mike Outhier (Bronco rider & tie-down roper):

All of us rodeo cowboys have always been broke, so what’s new.

Anyone still eager to find Smith’s email address so you can forward a Paypal donation?  Perhaps a little frugal living and money management is in order.

Since I am getting ready for my first Cheyenne Frontier Day’s activities I was especially encouraged to see “Tips and tricks to help make your day at Frontier Park enjoyable” in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle Frontier Days Souvenir Edition.  My two favorite suggestions:

  1. Animals dead or alive are prohibited. This one made me second guess if I even wanted to go.  Are people going to be trying to sneak their dead dog into a show?  Do I need to be concerned about snake handlers putting a live snake in their shirts?  I hope they have security beefed up.
  2. Leave weapons in the car. I’ll be honest.  I have never held a loaded gun.  The idea of being around a bunch of people who find it difficult to go a day without their weapons kind of makes me nervous.

By the way, one piece of advice for our financially harmed rodeo participants … “Cowboy Up.”

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