You gotta hand it to cowboys. They can turn a birthday cake into a four-alarm fire!
Many years ago the Napa Valley (California) County Fair and Rodeo wanted to do something to attract attention to their big PRCA rodeo. Now I’m not sure how the conversation went at the Fair Board meeting, but maybe something like this...
“Why not have a cattle drive down Main Street. Call it the Texas Longhorn Cattle Stampede.”
Detractors, stick-in-the-muds, spoil sports and accountants would have reacted with reasonable objections;
“Are you crazy! What if they got loose! You ought to be committed! What if somebody gets hurt! And where on God’s green earth could you get anybody who’d let you borrow thirty-three head of full grown longhorn steers to turn loose on Main Street!”
Into the spotlight stepped COTTON’S RENT-A-COW & BAIL BONDS. They assured the city officials that they had steers that were ‘street-wise and couldn’t be spooked and were absolutely controllable! (you can almost hear a cowboy sayin’ that, can’t you…!)
Well, friends, Texas Longhorn Cattle Stampede made the front page. Quotes from onlookers and police included;
“I almost got gored!”
“Not under complete control!”
“We ain’t doin’ this again!”
“People could have been injured!”
“Why don’t they just load ‘em on the truck before someone gets hurt?”
According to the Napa County Sheriff’s Posse and local cowboys, it did get a little western. Cattle bolting every which way, clattering against the front door of the Redwood Bank, running through the parking lot, scattering protesters, grazing on City Hall lawn, side mirrors snapping off parked cars and lots of screaming. To put the problem in a nutshell, you could say the steers followed the parade route just a little wider and a littler faster than everyone expected.
The Texas Longhorn Cattle Stampede did what the Fair Board wanted. It drummed up attention for the big rodeo that night. Lots of TV coverage, front page in the paper and a story that the citizens of Napa told for years.
That’s good. Although the Fair Board might have been a little embarrassed, it’s the kind of news story that lives on. And to top it off, it’s a cowboy story.
The Stampede did not become an annual event in Napa, but as one onlooker who’d seen the running of the bulls in Pamplona remarked, “Some people go all the way to Spain to see this sort of thing.”