By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
We’re still a full month away from the arrival of spring, but you wouldn’t know it from looking outside. The days have been pleasantly warm —not hot — with cool breezes that refresh and invigorate. The mornings have been kissed by fog lately, too.
Everywhere I’ve gone over the past few weeks, people have remarked about the weather’s perfection. Last week’s Air Fiesta and the South Padre Island Kite Fest the week before certainly benefitted from the mild conditions. It looks like things will remain ideal for this weekend’s Los Fresnos PRCA Rodeo and Cameron County Livestock Show and Fair, as well.
I can remember one year when the rodeo was scheduled for the beginning of February; it was bitterly cold that year. Rain had been deluging the entire region for weeks, so by the time the rodeo rolled around, both the grass parking lots and the bull riding arena had turned into mud pits that entrapped both car tires and cowboy boots alike.
The chaps worn by the rodeo’s bull and bronc riders — custom made leather works of art decked out in colorful embroidery and fringe — were soon caked in the grey-brown goop which flew in large dollops like chocolate pudding every time their bulls or horses bucked beneath them. As I stood on the platform just behind and above the pens to take photographs, wrapped in layers of sweaters and fingerless gloves, I, too, soon became caked in mud. But as often happens when you’re completely engrossed in the task at hand, I noticed neither the mud nor the cold. The elements may have been unfavorable, but I was in my element.
Sometime later, a fellow photographer sent me a candid photo he took while I had been photographing the bull riders. My face is screwed up in concentration as I squinted through the camera’s viewfinder, but a hint of a smile is playing across my lips, too. I’ve taken and shared similar photos of him over the years. I guess it’s just something all photographers do.
That year, I was fortunate to make one of the best photographs I’ve ever taken. It depicts a bronc rider at the exact moment his horse bucks out of the gate. The rodeo staff who open the pens can be seen still pulling on the rope that opens the gate while back-stepping out of the way as quick as they can. The cowboy is gripping the reins tight, one hand in the air for flair, while the horse has just landed his front hooves hard in the deep muck, sending clods of mud flying from his back hooves. You can see those thick gobbets of mud flying right towards the camera.
In what was perhaps a moment of perfect clarity, I knew I had “the” shot as soon as the shutter clicked, and I wasn’t disappointed once I was able to review my photos later.
I’ve tried to make it back to every Los Fresnos rodeo since. In fact, the two photos used in this week’s issue, including the cover photo, I shot just last year. The 2015 rodeo was similarly graced by good weather. Maybe I’m trying to recreate that perfect moment and once again capture “the” shot. Maybe I just really enjoy the fantastic job the City of Los Fresnos does in hosting such a great event.
Whatever the reason, I can say one thing for sure: it’s something you need to see for yourself. I hope to see you out there! And as always, visit us online at www.portisabelsouthpadre.com.
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