The first Celebration of the Cowboys, held in 1925, was three days of events and competitions. Today, the event has grown to a nine-day celebration centered on the Tucson Rodeo, one of the top 25 professional rodeos in North America according to TucsonRodeo.com.
When envisioning a cowboy in Tucson, you probably picture the silhouette of a man in a cowboy hat riding a horse into the desert sunset. ‘Real cowboys’ don’t just prance around on horseback. They spend their days working outside in the dirt amongst the animals. Although being a cowboy isn’t always glamorous, real cowboys are proud of their country roots says author Alan Day.
Day, the author of Cowboy Up! Life Lessons from Lazy B, has been a real cowboy since he was born. His grandfather bought the Lazy B Ranch in 1880, and the next two generations of the Day family grew up on the ranch.
Day was raised with pet horses, cows, javelinas and hawks. He rode his first horse (Chico) when he was just 5 years old.
In Day’s book, he shares his stories about living on his ranch and all the lessons he has learned. From climbing onto windmills on the ranch as a little boy, to operating the ranch for more than 40 years, Day has many stories that the public can read in his book.
Day addresses how people mistake cowboys for people who wear cowboy attire just for the style.
“There’s lot mystique about cowboy lifestyle,” Day said. “A cowboy is on horseback a lot and working with horses and cattle.”
Cowboy culture belongs in the country according to Day, making eastern Arizona a popular ranching area.
“There’s a lotta wanna-be cowboys and not too many of the real thing. You won’t find many of the real cowboys in Tucson, they’re out in the ranch,” Day said.
Day has sold the ranch, but his cowboy soul remains, “I now live in town but my heart is still back out on the ranch.”
Although all cowboys may not be in Tucson city limits, students at the University of Arizona bring cowboy culture to campus.
Shelby Bates, a UA Agribusiness Economics & Management student, runs the UA rodeo team.
“The University of Arizona rodeo team is the nation’s oldest team,” Bates said. “The team competes in 10 collegiate rodeos across the states of Arizona and New Mexico.”
Students can get involved in cowboy culture by supporting the team because, according to Bates, “many people here at the university do not even know what a rodeo is...I think it is important that people are informed that this is a way of life,”
Members of the club learn competition, as well as how to deal with difficult situations and other skills that will help them in their careers, according to Bates.
The club participates in many events at local rodeos, including bull riding, saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, team roping, tie down roping and steer wrestling.
“We would love to get as many students to come support us as we can,” Bates said. “We would love to be something that everyone knows about again.”
On March 17 at 2:00 p.m., the UA rodeo team will be hosting its 79th home rodeo at the Tucson Rodeo Grounds. The event is completely free to the public. This event kicks off the start of Rodeo week.
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