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Superstitious Cowboys

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Superstitious Cowboys

A cowboy and his hat are seldom separated.

Photo © Mary Vogt
Never walk under a ladder. A broken mirror brings 7 years of bad luck. If a black cat crosses your path, you might be in trouble. Superstitions are a prevalent part of life for some people, and this includes rodeo cowboys and cowgirls. While rodeo superstitions may not include cats or mirrors, they are just as real to cowboys entering the arena and the bucking bull he's trying to outride. Sports superstitions are often quirky and mysterious, and those involving the sport of rodeo are as unique as the cowboys themselves.

1. Wear different colored-socks on rodeo day.

This tradition, while not necessarily born of logic, is prevalent in rodeos across the country. A cowboy's boots cover his socks so this superstition is not as obvious as others, but it has been a common practice for decades. This mismatched tradition is also common in other sports, including baseball.

2. Never lay your cowboy hat on the bed.

This is by far one of the most common rodeo superstitions. Cowboy hats often hold powerful memories and emotional connections for their wearers, and cowboys are very particular about where they lay their hats. The root of this superstition is most commonly associated with theory of "the big sleep" or "eternal rest." Cowboys lead a very dangerous life, and a hat on the bed could be an preclude to serious injury or death.

3. Never kick a paper cup at a rodeo.

As silly as this superstition is, it may actually result in a big accident. Paper cups can be very noisy, and kicking a cup across the arena may spook the livestock. If the cowboy or cowgirl is unprepared and the horse charges across the arena in fright, it could result in a painful, and unexpected, dismount.

4. Avoid popcorn or peanuts on rodeo day.

These tasty treats are small, tasty and easy to eat, a seemingly perfect snack for the busy cowboy on the go. However, popcorn and peanuts are on the "do not eat" list for superstitious cowboys and cowgirls. Their tiny size is the exact reason they have become an integral part of rodeo lore; an unsuspecting cowboy could easily inhale and choke on one, effectively ending not only his day, but possibly his life.

5. Don't wear yellow on rodeo day.

The color of a cowboy's clothing should be the last thing on anyone's mind, but this superstition is a powerful one. To a weary cowboy, this vibrant color doesn't represent all this sunny and bright; it is the mark of a lowly coward. Calling someone yellow or "yella" used to be a derogatory term for someone who was afraid, and no strong, tough cowboy wants to be painted a coward.

6. Dump your pocket change before entering the area.

Rodeo athletes are unique in the aspect that they do not earn a steady paycheck and the amount of money they take home every day is determined by how well they ride. The jingle-jangle of pocket change may be a pleasing sound to some, but it can be an indicator of an impending fall to a superstitious cowboy. Carrying your change in your pocket may be an unwelcome announcement to the universe that you're already struggling.

7. Always mount up from the right side.

This is contradictory to many horsemen who were taught to mount with their left foot first, but it is a common superstition, especially among saddle bronc riders. A superstition passed down through the ages, this fear is thought by many to have its roots with the knights of old. Jousting was a popular sport in the Middle Ages, and heroic knights would always mount from the right side first, fearing that the left side was the evil side.

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