Helmville, Montana lies 69 miles east of Missoula. Every Labor Day weekend, this town of 500 people holds a rodeo, which has come to be called “the biggest little rodeo in Montana”. It is an old-school rodeo: no hard hats, no staged shoot-outs for the tourists, no billboards advertising Diet Coke. We headed there this weekend and sat on the edge of our cold metal bleecher seats while watching the Bareback Riding, Barrel Racing, Steer Wrestling, Saddle Bronc Riding, and Team Roping. The bareback riding is one of the most anxiety-inducing sports to witness. Men ride bareback on bucking horses, holding on for dear life before being thrown to the ground. The lucky ones avoid being trampled under the hooves of their horses. This past weekend, rain had turned the ground muddy and a horse fell and landed on his rider, who miraculously got up and walked away.
The names of the riders conjure up Westerns on the big screen and symbolise those who live the myth of the American West: Kit, Wyatt, Jackson, Cody, Sterling, Tanner, Hayden, Butch, Calvin, and Kyle.