Miss Rodeo Hawaii never rides alone
SAMANTHA Souza is a lucky young lady. She's only 18. But she's already found her soul mate.
His name is Amigo.
He's a horse.
She's Miss Rodeo Hawaii 2007, which if you know anything about the sport, is a heck of a lot better than being named Miss Anything Else. Tougher, too.
"It's kind of like Miss America," Souza says, "except you're adding horses to it. You're taking out the bikinis and adding horses to it."
We're familiar with all the other "scholarship pageants." None of them seem to involve the strength and agility and the toughness and the teamwork of thundering through the dirt on a 1,000-pound animal with a mind of its own.
And there are better questions, too. All of those Miss America inquiries seem to revolve around world peace.
What kinds of questions does Miss Rodeo Hawaii get?
How come when we go to the rodeo and they gallop by so fast their cowboy hats don't fly off?
"My grandchildren always ask me that," Al Minn said yesterday at the Honolulu Quarterback Club.
And there is an answer. It has to do with science and physics and the secrets of the Old West.
They stuff newspaper in the brim so it fits extra tight.
Maybe Mr. Minn should just tell the grandkids that when you're a real cowboy or cowgirl, your hat doesn't come off.
SOUZA IS A Waianae cowgirl who always knew she'd be a Waianae cowgirl.
"To me it's a culture," she says. "I was raised up in it."
The saying goes that she was born on a horse, which isn't technically true. But it could have been. Her mother was still riding when she was 6 months pregnant, "against doctor's wishes."
Her father put her on a horse when she was 6 months old.
"That's how he got me to fall asleep," she says.
But it wasn't always that peaceful and easy. A horse slammed her into a post, once. "I have a callous on my knee now," she says.
Her father made her get back in the saddle the next day. It's what cowgirls do.
Then, when she was 9, her dad died. She won her first buckle not long after, having dedicated that rodeo season to him. When she was 10, the great Fern White told her she had the right stuff.
Today she has the best title a little girl could hope to grow up to win.
Miss America is alone up there on that stage, in her crown.
Miss Rodeo never is.
"It's, you guys are one," she says, "soul mates. You guys are partners. That's how it is. That's how it's supposed to be. If you're having a bad day the horse is going to feel it. The energy through your body is going to go down into the horse's heart and it's going to start pumping ..."
She motions to where the energy is going down her jeans, to her boots; to where her best friend would be.
In those moments, "Everything is what you give to the horse, what you show the horse and what he gives to you."
It is in these moments that without swimsuits, without evening wear, this Miss has found the answer to achieving world peace.