The University of Oklahoma Press is an astonishing enterprise. In the face of diminishing rewards for anything printed, they forge ahead with unique and adventurous titles.
One of their latest productions is "Arena Legacy: The Heritage of American Rodeo." Surely the printing cost of this huge, photographic essay featuring Oklahoma City’s Cowboy Western Heritage Museum’s collection is shared between museum and publisher. The massive tome has over 400 pages and 620 illustrations; it’s larger and much heavier than an old laptop, but the "wow" factor is as big as the book.
You really need to be a rodeo fan to appreciate the endless photos of belt buckles and cowboy hats. But as a novice, I was surprised to learn that in the rodeo heyday between 1870-1950, many women starred in these wild western shows as cutting horse and barrel-racing contestants and trick riders. At one time, there were all-girl rodeos on the circuit.
For a more personal perspective, read the novel "Lady Buckaroo: A Western Story" by Suzanne Lyon (Five Star, 2000) about a professional rodeo female steer rider who first tests her mettle at age fifteen.
Richard Rattenbury, curator at the Cowboy Museum and Ed Munro, former curator, compiled this awesome book. Rodeos are an iconic symbol of the West and Oklahoma. If you haven’t seen a trick rider in the dirt ring, shimmy into your jeans and boots, go the arena and open your eyes. Close them when cowboys rope a calf, twist its neck and hammer it to the ground.
If you ride the bull or are a rodeo regular, buy this book.