Now this is the post that I have been looking forward to writing the most. We had a blast in Abilene, of all places. The drive from Austin to Abilene was incredible, it is spring so all the wild flowers are blooming and we saw so much wildlife. The were a lot of tortoises and we even had to pull over because one was crossing the road in front of us and Andrew gave him a hand!
We arrived in Abilene pretty late and stayed at your typical roadside motel. The next morning we headed to the Western Heritage Classic. Check out their website at this link. It is basically an event that celebrates Western culture. Before we left New Zealand we were looking for a rodeo or something similar to attend while we were in Texas, and we stumbled across this. And it was incredible. First thing we noticed is that everyone where’s cowboy hats. Everyone. Andrew was the only male without a hat; his accent saved him. People were so incredibly nice to us, one stall even gave us free jerky!
The first event of the day was a whole bunch of kids showing off their lassoing skills. Andrew reckoned the 8 year olds were already more manly than him. Some kids even attempted to lasso him later in the day, and were successful. Another kid tried to show off his bull whipping skills, but Andrew wasn’t keen to be the guinea pig.
Next we headed to the chuckwagon cook-off. This is a competition where teams start at 8am and have to produce the best meal cooked like it was done back in the day from a chuckwagon. Excellent. The meals all consisted of beans, potatoes, biscuit (type of bread), and chicken fried steak (looks like fried chicken but is actually fried steak, whaaaaaat). We went to a different stall each and they were both fantastic.
We spent the afternoon checking out various stalls and listening to live country music. Who could ask for more? Andrew even got to try out some engraving, which he was pretty thrilled about. People continued to be so friendly towards us, and Andrew’s Sasquatch shirt got a lot of comments, people loved it!
We then bought some beers and made our way over to the matched horse racing track. Matched horse racing is basically drag racing but on a horse, two riders race each other down the track and the fastest times move on to the semi finals and finals. It is probably the best and craziest form horse racing there is! Nobody wears helmets. It had rained a lot the night before and had been pretty overcast all day so the track was extremely muddy; we are talking foot-sinking, shoe-losing kind of mud. Everyone removed their hats and we had to pray, followed by singing the national anthem. One of the things that really strikes you about Texas is that everyone is extremely patriotic. Soon after everyone was wagering bets as the horses lined up for each round, the crowd was huge. We got some good tips from a Texan man named Darryl, with a glorious moustache, who was next to us.
About half way through the competition, it was announced that there would be a foot race and the winner would receive a new pair of cowboy boots. The boys were up first and a big group climbed on to the very muddy track. Everyone was now waging bets on the men in the race. Once the hooter went off there was mayhem. Men went flying and boots got wedged in the mud. We all had a good laugh, but then it was time for the girls. Andrew was adamant that I would be running in it. Oh no my poor boots! After a lot of persuading, even from Darryl, I felt I had no choice. I climbed onto the track and instantaneously sunk into the mud. I immediately regretted my decision, but no turning back now. I lined up with the other girls and found a somewhat less foot sinking spot. The hooter went off and it was the girls’ turn to go flying, so many boots were lost in the mud. I still maintain that if it weren’t for a girl falling over right in front of me I would have won myself some new boots! But maybe that is just my competitive nature coming out.
It is hard to explain how much fun we had at the matched horse racing; it was one of our top experiences ever. Afterwards we had a bit of down time to clean up some of the mud and grab some food before the rodeo was starting.
We grabbed some more beers and settled down for what was our first rodeo ever. The crowd was big and excited and first up the flag bearers rode out followed by each ranch team that was competing. Once they were all assembled we rose for another prayer (“Lord bless Texas”) followed by the national anthem. The patriotism was infectious and we were almost being converted into Texans.
The first event was the broncos. Cowboys from each ranch had to have a crack staying on some wildly bucking horses. It was crazy! And no one was wearing a helmet obviously. Some managed to stay on and jump onto the horse riders that were following them, but most got tossed off. It was one of the most insane sports I have ever seen.
The next events were a bit tamer but really showed off the talents that the people on the ranches use everyday. Events included lassoing a cow from the front and back and bringing it to the ground before releasing it, and other event had the teams separating certain cows from a herd and steering them into an enclosure. These guys and gals are seriously talented. We thought the kids were good at lassoing, but these guys were on a whole different level! They could lasso a cow’s hind legs just as they lifted their hooves off the ground. Mad skills. The most bizarre event was when the teams had to lasso a cow and hold her still while another team member milked her.
The last event of the day/night was the dance. There was a country music band playing called the Jake Hooker & The Outsiders, they were brilliant, but then again I am a big country fan. We were a bit nervous because both Andrew and I cannot dance, and everyone else seemed to have learnt to dance as soon as they could walk. However, our new friend Darryl came to the rescue and taught us how to dance the two-step. At first Andrew and I were pretty clumsy and there was a bit of knocking into people. But towards the end we were not bad at all, if I don’t say so myself. We were even able to throw in a few turns! It was the best end to our time in Abilene and we had a blast. I love Texas!
Here is a breakdown of our costs for 2 days:
Budget = US$621 (NZ$900)
Accommodation – US$160
Activities – US$115
Food/Drink – US$129
Miscellaneous (Petrol etc) – US$67
Total spent – US$471 (NZ$697)
So we ended up being US$150 (NZ$222) under budget. We were pretty happy with this. I guess we just overestimated the amount of money we would spend on food and alcohol.