They start gathering early on Sunday afternoons, pulling their horse trailers down the narrow road to the Pig Park Arena, about two miles east of I-45 in South Dallas. You won’t see any fancy rigs, high-dollar horses and silver saddles here, just a lot of first-class steer-roping and friendly palaver among the riders and ropers.
This little-known rodeo started five or six years ago, says Ricky Burns, 38, as a Sunday activity to "give the kids something better to do than hang in (he streets. " It soon became known as a "black rodeo, " although a few white cowboys are now regular participants.
In fact, Burns says it was Charley Walton, a white promoter who owned a nearby ranch, "who taught us how to cowboy." Walton says he’s been cowboying for 50 of his 66 years, and has rodeoed all over, including Madison Square Garden. The kids Walton didn’t teach learned the ropes from Tex Smith, now 72, who likes to sit in the shade and watch his charges compete.
Contestants put up $5 each to make the purse, with four or five events scheduled for the day, "or until the money runs out, " says Burns who, along with his two sons, will compete with 27 others for the $150 prizes.
The highlight of the show occurs when Burns" 11-year-old nephew, Alex ("Bug") Guilder, doesn’t turn loose of the rope fast enough after snagging a steer. The steer pulls the diminuitive cowboy off his horse and he dangles in midair on the taut rope between the horse and the steer, his boots never scraping the ground. "He’s going to be one of our best ropers" says Burns, "but that time, he got hung out like he was on a clothesline."