Eleven years ago, I had just arrived in Sheridan and spent the week leading up to Sheridan WYO Rodeo wondering what I had gotten myself into taking a reporter position at The Sheridan Press.

I listened in confusion as locals tossed around words and phrases my ears had never heard — butt darts? buckle bunnies? slack? chutes? I had no idea what any of it meant. My colleagues got a kick out of my naiveté.

Now, while certainly not an expert, I feel pretty comfortable navigating Sheridan WYO Rodeo week. I know the dos and don’ts. I know the events you can’t miss and the ones you can use as recovery from the fun. We’ve also gotten the whole thing figured out at The Press (see editor Ashleigh Snoozy’s column from Tuesday outlining how we plan all our coverage).

This summer, I get to introduce my best friend from college to the WYO. She moved to Sheridan in September 2018 and has settled into the community well. This year will be her very first rodeo — yee haw!

She has already participated in some of the festivities and she’s helping her company manage its sponsorship responsibilities with the rodeo.

Leading up to the week, she asked a lot of questions — many of them similar to the ones that escaped my lips 11 years ago. What does that mean? Where do I go? They actually kick boots? What should I wear?

Oh, the memories.

On Wednesday, we made our way up to the fairgrounds to enjoy the Gold Buckle Club with some friends and take in the first night of this year’s rodeo. Experiencing the rodeo with her — somebody new to the whole thing — reminded me how special the Sheridan WYO Rodeo really is.

It’s easy to get used to the WYO’s extravagance — the many events to enjoy, friends back in town, etc. We’re downright spoiled. Many residents even bemoan when the Sheridan WYO Rodeo dates arrive. The crowds, the out-of-towners and other factors stress some locals to the extreme.

But, the magic that happens should be admired. Volunteers step up to make the whole thing run smoothly. Cowboys — including some locals —compete at their best and Sheridan typically puts its best foot forward to impress visitors.

If you’re sick of it all, find a friend who has never been to the WYO and regain your wonder.