Saturday night was rodeo night here in Montana. At least for those of us visiting from out of state. There is a small arena only a few miles from Mom’s that hosts a rodeo every week, so we decided to join the crowd and see what happens at the rodeo.

In order to vicariously participate in our experience, I must first set the stage. Saturday morning we floated the middle fork of the Flathead River. We opted to put in at West Glacier, the entrance to Glacier National Park. This stretch of the river runs through a canyon and is absolutely breathtaking. This Saturay, the scene was made complete by a couple of bald eagles swooping through the canyon.

By the end of the float, we were exhausted and had decided to skip the rodeo. That is until my nephew and his wife called to say they were there and wondered if we were coming. FOMO set in and before you could say “Howdy Cowboy!” we were packed in the car and on our way, in spite of our exhaustion.

It is exceptionally dry in this part of the state and there are forest fires burning in the mountains. This creates a dusty hazy atmosphere everywhere you go. It only gets worse when you have crowds of people and animals kicking up the dust. So my first observation of the rodeo and arena is how very dirty I would get. In no time, my sandaled feet were caked in dust but my enthusiasm wasn’t dampened — yet.

We arrived a bit after the 7 p.m. starting time, but found seats next to my nephew’s family without any problem. Unbeknownst to us, the seats had to be the worst in the arena. Let me explain why.

Our seats were on the same side as the chutes where the bare back riders and bull riders came into the arena. If the rider managed to stay on long enough and the animal moved into the middle of the arena, we could see. Otherwise, it was impossible to see the animal and rider.

Secondly, there were iron gates in front of us that children loved to stand on and watch the events. While fun for them, this completely blocked our view of the arena. We held our tongues for a long time, but finally asked kindly if they would get off the fence so we could enjoy the rodeo. They complied, but it was still hard to see the competitors.

Then there was the very nice, not at all scary-looking, clown. He interacted with the crowd in ways that regular rodeo goers understood and enjoyed. I wasn’t as familiar with his antics, and I was fine until he decided that a water rifle would double the fun of those in the stands. I am not fond of being sprayed with water — ever.

Eventually, we were able to secure seats in the top row of the bleachers which certainly improved our ability to see the events. But there was still so much dust, the seats were dirty, the bleachers rickety and the limitations of my kind spirit were being stretched.

About that time, I felt more water drops hit me. I thought, “Now someone is spitting on me.” I turned around in time to see a water gun and before my mind registered who might be holding the said water gun, I said quite loudly, “SERIOUSLY!”

Oh my! It was the rodeo clown! Dave, in an effort to lighten the mood, greeted him like a long lost friend. After he walked past, I turned to Dave and asked, “Do we know him?” No, we didn’t. Dave was just being friendly.

My friendly had been stretched to the limit!

We watched a bit more of the competition which we could now actually see and enjoy. As events were winding down, the clown (who was not creepy at all), came into the stands and straight for us. He thanked us for coming, asked where we were from and shook hands all the way around. I have no way of knowing if this was his usual practice, but it sure seemed like he intentionally came up to smooth things over.

I was profoundly impacted by that simple act. He knew we – well, at least I, didn’t enjoy the water. He could have so easily brushed me aside as a grumpy rodeo attendee. In some ways, he would have been correct. But he didn’t. He didn’t think about what I should have done or that it was a part of the event. He saw it from my perspective and, regardless of how he felt about it, he met me where I was. He embodied Paul’s admonition to the believers in Philippi.

3Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

Philippians 2:3-4

Thank you, Eddy Fox, for showing me what it looks like to put your own interests aside and reach out to a dusty, frustrated rodeo attender. You make me want to be a better person!

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