the Rock Creek rodeo: excess and constraint in men's lives



In a society whose members believe that it is based on choices made by individuals, choices that involve sacrifices of individuality, men who lead conventional lives are likely to ponder whether they have given up too much. This American dilemma is, I argue, confronted and temporarily resolved for certain of the men of Rock Creek, Montana, during the local Fourth of July rodeo. Through this event men are able to relive and transcend their pasts in such a way as to conclude that they, as responsible citizens, have indeed appropriately controlled but not significantly relinquished their autonomy as men. In conclusion I suggest that the oscillations in rodeo (and other rituals) between the liminal and the normal have, by virtue of their very structure, their movement in and out of society, a special salience and efficacy in the American context for the enactment of such existential issues concerning the relationship of the individual to society.