Me neither, which is exactly why Richard C. Rattenbury’s “Arena Legacy: The Heritage of American Rodeo” is worth checking out. Anyone interested in the sport and/or the American cowboy lifestyle will find much over which to pore.
Published by the University of Oklahoma Press, this hefty hardback — a real wrist-killer at more than 400 pages — plunges the reader into the history of the rodeo, starting with its genesis in the late 19th century, and skirting through its early superstars.
But the bulk of the book isn’t text-based, but rather photos — shot sharply by Ed Muno, once a curator at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum — of rodeo’s elements through the ages, including saddles, clothing and awards, whether meant for the mantle or the belt. Best of all is a section of rodeo artwork, from personal to professional, with vintage posters and programs being a particularly colorful highlight.
With an appendix of the sport’s honorees and pages of notes, Rattenbury delves deep enough into his subject to please the hard-core fans, but not in a manner that alienates the casual and curious. And I don’t know about you, but I can never get enough action shots of grown men — and women — about to be bucked off bulls and broncos. A picture is worth a thousand bruises. —Rod Lott