Day 82 – Abilene to Fort Worth

I was really looking forward to Fort Worth as we were staying in the Stockyards, a historic (touristy) part of Fort Worth with cowboys, rodeos and honky tonk, whatever that means! It also happened to be the National Day of the Cowboy, something we only realised when we got there. The trip from Abilene to Fort Worth was fine and we got to Fort Worth about 2pm (I think – hard to remember!). It was ridiculously hot but our room was nice and cool – in fact, it had aircon, a ceiling fan and some central fan system that was also blowing cold air into the very small room. We were staying in the Hotel Texas (another one with mixed reviews) and it was an expensive night for what we got really (double bed, small room, tiny, tiny shower) but we weren’t too bothered as we were planning to be out most of the time!
We went exploring and walked around the stockyard area for a while, with sweat dripping off us – I don’t think I’ve ever sweated this much other than doing a Shaun T routine! The whole area is set up for tourists and very child friendly, with loads of activities and old fashioned games, i.e. milking a cow, bean bag tossing, available. They also have long horn cattle and I have to say those horns are utterly ridiculous! I have no idea how the animals keep their heads up. The cattle take part in the ‘cattle drive’ that is staged twice a day and is essentially just some cattle walking down the road with some cowboys riding alongside, making sure they go in the right direction. We had a quick walk around Billy Bob’s – actually the reason why we were here in the first place as that’s the place Brian read about and made us decide to spend the night here! In the end we didn’t go back to Billy Bob’s in the evening as they have music acts on the weekend, meaning you pay a substantial entrance fee even if you just want to walk around the place and have a quick drink.
There’s ‘cowboys’ roaming the streets everywhere and it is quite hard to tell which ones are dressed up as part of a show, which ones are real and which ones are tourists who just bought the hat and shoes. Generally the ones hobbling along in agony in their cowboy boots are the tourists! After a couple of hours in the heat and getting tickets for the evening’s rodeo at the Cowtown Coliseum we went back to the hotel to cool down for a bit.
We ventured out again at about 6:45pm with a couple of beers in hand – everyone seems to be walking around with drinks here so we decided to follow suit. The real cowboys seemed to start making more of an appearance and there were lots of cowboy hats, jeans and boots in attendance – how people wear jeans in this heat I don’t really get, but it is simply the way it is. It was also the first time in quite a while that I saw jeans ‘pressed’ and with a crease!. We found some seats in the Coliseum and waited for the show to start at 8:00pm, along with a LOT of other people as the place was packed. The evening started with some bull riding, and I think people must be insane for taking part in it! There was also bronco riding later on, but with the horses there is a chance you may stay on or you get helped off by the riders, but you WILL get thrown off the bulls so it is a mystery to me why anyone would do it. It was interesting to watch though, and the riders take it quite seriously as the rodeo is on every Friday and Saturday and there’s leagues and tables (and money) involved. The rodeo lasted about 2.5 hours so was well worth the $17.50 in terms of entertainment – though I didn’t like all of the events, especially not the roping. There were a few events that cowgirls took part in, but on the whole women didn’t feature too much, other than riding around parading flags to advertise local businesses! There was also the obligatory rendition of the national anthem before the rodeo started; something that still send shivers down my spine when I hear it and see how patriotic and seriously people take it (almost like at a Springboks rugby match!). We’ve also been seeing a lot of American flags flying at half mast after the latest shooting in Chattanooga (somewhere we’ll be staying over soon).
When we got out of the rodeo we walked along the main drag looking for somewhere to have a drink. There aren’t that many bars, and there’s a lot of tourists so we ended up paying a $10 entrance fee at Lil’ Red’s Longhorn Saloon where they had a band and a lot of locals – I suppose the entrance fee keeps out the drunk and silly tourists and the place seemed like somewhere where the locals hang out regularly and we observed what they call honky tonk – essentially dancing to country music! Of course, for a South African growing up in the countryside, this all looked very familiar as it is really just people dancing ‘lang-arm’ to music very similar to boere-musiek! Probably ever male in the place was wearing a Stetson and all we could see from our perch behind the bar (the place has different levels) was a sea of white hats. I really enjoyed the place, the people and watching the dancing and people enjoying themselves but I think Brian found it a bit odd as he is definitely not a fan of country music! We still stayed until after 12, when we stumbled over the road and straight into bed.
I didn’t get many usable pictures at the rodeo, but I have a few video clips that I’ll post to Facebook!

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