I got to take my youngest brother to his first rodeo on Saturday last.  It was the final day of the rodeo before the finals (though it was not the last performance).  That makes for a great show.  We had a blast.

Four years ago, on the same relative day (at the evening performance), I attended my first rodeo at the same rodeo.  I went with a few co-workers/friends.  We had a blast. 

Many things have not changed in the intervening years.  There is still a laser and fireworks show to open every performance (and that should never change).  I still go to the rodeo half-scared, half-proud, as much of the behind-the-scenes work is work that I have done.  I still have a love-hate relationship with the entertainment factor of rodeo, as I talk to the injured of the contestants daily–everywhere from the mildly hurt to the permanently crippled–and cannot fathom how I will feel if I witness a truly horrific accident.

But a lot of those feeling were shifted to the back-burner this time around.  I was seeing rodeo through a fresh set of eyes.  I have taken one neophyte to a rodeo before (my mother) and it was a small county affair.  Nothing like the twenty something performance international event that is the National Western Stockshow. 

It did not take long before I was seeing all the things that I fell in love with back at the beginning.  The family atmosphere.  The showmanship.  The love of the animals.  The pure athleticism of the contestants.  And the smell! I don’t think there is a smell that can make me feel more at home than leather, horse, dirt, sweat, and yes, the crap that’s in the dirt.  This is rodeo to me.  This was my respite at school and every chance I get, this is where I go to remind myself why I do what I do every day at work.

Sometimes I do still forget, though.  I take pride in my work and get annoyed by the inconvenience of having to involve people who just want to get into the arena.  I’m not always treated nicely when trying to help them achieve that goal, and I wonder if they remember that there are two people on the ends of the phone line.  Then again, sometimes I’m guilty of the same thing in the rush to justgetitalldonesoIcancallitaday!

My brother–his questions, his new eyes, his observations–reminded me of what this dream is.  Why we all–cowboys and office workers alike–call it “living the dream.” It’s not just me working hard and being fiercely proud of the results.  It’s not just these extraordinary athletes beating themselves up for the chance to do it again.  It’s all of us working together to create a new and better rodeo for tomorrow so that this way of life doesn’t just not die out in this increasingly uninviting world, but thrives in it.