New Yorker: Out Loud

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A weekly conversation about what's new in The New Yorker.


Growing Up in the Rodeo

December 1st, 2014

Episode 402 of 447 episodes

In this week’s magazine, Burkhard Bilger writes about the children who compete in rodeo in his home state of Oklahoma. Bull riding is the most dangerous sport in the world, and it’s become even riskier in recent years, as bull breeders have begun selecting for extreme aggression. But in the families Bilger interviewed for his story, little boys as young as three or four years old participate in rodeo events, and begin riding bulls around the age of ten. Bilger and Mark Singer, another staff writer and Oklahoma native, join host Amelia Lester on this week’s Out Loud podcast to discuss the kids who compete in rodeo, the parents who let them do it, and the attraction of trying to ride an angry two-thousand-pound animal. As Bilger describes it, when the kids start out, riding sheep and calves, “it’s like the best bumper-car ride you’ve ever been on. And then what you’re doing is just gradually turning up the volume. Or another metaphor might be the frog in the water that’s getting turned up hotter and hotter until it dies.”