I’ve never been to Arizona other than layovers in Phoenix, but I came pretty close after the eighth go-round of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
That night, Arizonans Sherry Cervi (barrel racing), Derrick Begay and Cesar de la Cruz (team roping) were at the South Point Hotel & Casino to be recognized during the Montana Silversmiths Go-Round Buckle Presentation, and so was a good portion of Arizona.
I was there snapping photographs of bareback riding winner Justin McDaniel, so I wormed my way through the wave of people to get close to the stage, excusing myself and explaining I’d be out of their way right after Justin grabbed his rewards.
One kind Navajo man said, “You take pictures of team roping.”
I thought he was asking me if I’d be there that long, and I assured him I’d be out of way very quickly. But he repeated, “You take pictures of team roping.”
I looked at him, his stern stance and his matter-of-fact manner and said, “No, I’ll get bareback riding and be gone so you can get as close to the stage as you want.”
That’s when he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “No, you take pictures of team roping, or I kill you.”
That’s when he started laugh, “No, I just joking; I won’t kill you.” I’m not sure if he could see the fear in my eyes, but he let me in on his little joke. And he let me snap a few photos before I scurried out of his way, thanking him profusely in the process.