Photo by Sandy Huffaker, Jr.
It seems as if a hundred kids have been trying to sell you a program. Grudgingly, you finally buy one — not to read, but to carry around, hoping the annoyance will decrease. Now that you’ve ditched the high schoolers, your attention focuses on staying close to whomever you came with amidst the sea of bodies. As you circle the stadium, a plethora of smells approaches your nostrils, from cow dung and dirt to delicious barbecue. The bright midday sun temporarily blinds you, helping you realize you haven’t applied nearly enough sunscreen. You can hear the announcer over the intercom from three streets away: the proceedings are about to commence. The cowboys enter the arena, some to take on bulls ten times their size, some just to make the audience laugh. Saddle up your horses and tighten your belt buckles — you’re at the Lakeside Rodeo!
Huge crowds gather for this April weekend to see steers wrestled, broncs ridden, and cowboys trampled. You can’t live in Lakeside long without attending, and stories of gorings and top performances fill the streets like urban legends.
Due largely to the publicity from the rodeo, Lakeside has a reputation of being just another old-fashioned country town inhabited by a bunch of tobacco-chewing, horse-riding, “sheep-luvin’ ” hicks, not to mention being racist, perverted, and generally ignorant. But although the rodeo might be the town’s main attraction, Lakeside has more to offer.
The majority of Lakeside’s large Catholic population gathers regularly at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, two blocks from El Capitan High School. Within a 200-yard radius of the sanctuary you can find yourself at Mapleview Baptist or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Every year the men from about 15 churches, from many denominations, gather for the Steak-Out, where they can share fellowship, eat good meat, and be men. Fragments of plastic knives often go flying as overly zealous (or overly muscular) gentlemen try to cut through their steaks only to find the knives too flimsy. The plastic tablecloth and squeaky folding chairs don’t deter them. A bundle of volunteers helps to keep the food hot and tasty, the music sharp and melodious, the message sharp and inspirational. Lakeside is more than just “Cow Pie High” and the rodeo. These men, along with their families, are out to make their community a better place.