By Jesse Marx
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"Life starts after 45," Linda Rhuby says. That's how old she was when she made her cowgirl debut as a member of a wild drag-race team at a North Star Gay Rodeo Association event. "I felt I was too old to do it because I was 45. But then I thought, 'Oh, the hell with it. I'm going for it.'" Around the same time, she also decided to check out the Rainbow Cloggers.
Rhuby had never been to a rodeo and claims not to have had "the foggiest idea" what clogging was. Five years later, she's a regular rodeo gal, competing across the country; last year she won the cowgirl buckle in Detroit. And she's still clip-clopping with the Rainbow Cloggers.
The Great Northern Shindig, July 10-12 at the Washington County Fairgrounds, ensures that this will be a busy month for Rhuby. At the rodeo, she plans to compete in the equestrian barrel race, pole bending, and flag race, as well as the wild drag-race, chute dogging (steer
wrestling), and, for the first time, calf roping on foot. She'll also trade her cowgirl boots for dancing shoes--the Rainbow Cloggers will be providing entertainment during the course of the weekend, which is expected to draw 75 competitors and 2,000 onlookers.
"She's a real go-getter. I find her to be very inspirational," says NSGRA fundraising chair Colin Smith. At 50, she competes in multiple events in spite of arthritis and impaired eyesight; during chute-dogging competitions, in which the contestant must cross a 10-foot line with a steer and wrestle it to the ground in less than 60 seconds, Smith stays in the chute and holds Rhuby's glasses as he barks out directions.
"In chute dogging, if I take off my glasses, I can't see a thing. I just get in there and do it," Rhuby says. "If I get a good hold on the steer in the chute, and if I can see the white line, that's all I need."
Chute dogging was the first event that interested Rhuby after participating in the wild drag race--an event involving a man and woman wrangling a steer across a 70-foot line while a drag queen or king rides. You'd be hard-pressed to see that--or goat dressing (slipping a pair of underwear onto a goat )--at most mainstream rodeos.
Rhuby, who owns two horses, has also come a long way in the horse-riding events. The first time she competed in the barrel race (a slalom on horseback around barrels), she fell off her horse. Now that she has more experience and trains with her horse, it's unlikely you'll see her face-down in the mud.
This year, the odds are better that Rhuby will ride or chute dog her way to victory: She's determined to win a Shindig buckle for chute dogging, if not her other five events. And with her ambition, she just might.