CBS Sports is covering all ten daily rounds of the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, continuing through next Saturday.
Of course the event I'm most interested in is once again bull riding, but since a key character in my latest attempt at fiction writing is a former steer wrestler, I'm paying attention to that event as well.
Before I started watching these events on TV I couldn't have explained the differences between bareback and saddle bronc riding (hint, there's more to it than the presence or absence of a saddle), but I've learned enough to recognize that the event depicted in Wyoming's "Bucking Horse and Rider" logo (you'll see it on the University of Wyoming's football helmets as well as on Wyoming license plates) is saddle-bronc riding -- because of the rider's upright posture and the presence of a rope connected to the horse's bridle.
I have yet to see a saddle-bronc rider in one of these rodeos waving his hat during the ride, even among those who still wear hats instead of helmets.
As a rule, rodeo cowboys have tended not to have facial hair, but I've been seeing beards and mustaches on some -- and in Thursday's first round of team roping the heeler on the winning team sports a big mountain-man beard. Well, they're from Canada. No telling what goes through their minds. They placed a little lower in Round 2 last night though.
Barrel racing, professional rodeo's only women's event, has the widest age range in the sport; one contender in the 2016 NFR is 68 years old, nearly three times the age of your typical post-college rookie professional. Of course rodeo has college, high school and even junior high school levels, as well as "Little Britches." At those levels you'll also see girls compete in goat roping and breakaway calf roping.
It's a shame those latter two events don't afford opportunities at the professional level, since unlike barrel racing a roping event actually showcases a ranch skill that many a working cattlewoman may use on the job.