“Nope,” I’d have nonchalantly shrugged – that is, until recently when I was invited to the Oakley Rodeo over Independence Day weekend. As a dyed in the wool trail running/mountain biking enthusiast, never in a million years would I have guessed Rodeo to be such an inspiring experience. Was it the sweet fusion of funnel cake, livestock and adrenaline? Was it lithe cowboys/gals in fitted denim, well-worn kickers and cattlemans? Or, perhaps, the fact that athletes (yes, cowboys/gals are athletes in their own right) from all over the United States came to a little town on the Wasatch Back to compete for their slice of the considerable prize-money pie? No.
What stuck hardest, and still resonates down deep, was a glimpse into a culture that honors some of humanity’s most noble virtues. Especially in that moment when the stadium packed with people representing many walks of life stood still and silent, but for a lone cowgirl’s sweet voice rising above the dust. Hats were removed, children hushed, right hands covered hearts and, as the trumpet sounded oh-oh say can you see, the chaotic buzz of Rodeo dimmed to a calm, powerful moment of reverence and unity.
In those moments while America’s national anthem floated on cool mountain air to the hearts of an audience 6,000 strong, skin color, nationality, economic status, and the myriad ‘us vs. them’ platforms upon which today’s media stands screaming that We the People are divided, were a distant, false flicker fading to the bonfire of patriotism and goodwill illuminating the stadium.
Slowly glancing around, wondering if this profound testament of human spirit was just an imagination, the answer resounded clearly: I stood among – no, I stood with and for – my neighbors. . . in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
God bless and happy birthday America!