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CART CAPTIONING: Oh, the places we go! A day in the life of a CART captioner

Lisa Richardson captions a rodeo
Lisa Richardson captions a rodeo

By Lisa Richardson

I’ve captioned and CARTed a lot of events in my time: graduations, funerals, a wedding, meetings, a bar conversation, and many different classes, just to name a few. But never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d be captioning a rodeo. I mean, really? A rodeo?

How did this happen? Well, I have a client (we’ll call him R.T.) who loves the rodeo and, because of his hearing loss, going to see his friends participate was really frustrating for him, as I’m sure you can imagine. There’s so much going on, and he can’t hear a darn thing.

I’ll admit, though, when he first asked me if I’d do it, I was less than excited. I’m just not the biggest rodeo fan. I had never been to a rodeo in my life! Plus, what about all the dirt and dust? Where will I sit? How will R.T. be able to read the computer screen; will it be too bright outside? How will I hear? Controlled audio is one thing but sitting outside, listening to a general public address system, with lots of folks in the audience? Yikes!

Luckily, R.T. put me in touch with a good friend of his, S.G., who is very involved with this particular rodeo organization, and after a few conversations, we had a tentative plan in place that he felt would work, keeping me and my equipment as protected as possible.

Okay, we’ve got a plan, so my anxiety started to subside … Wait! What would I wear? Deciding on appropriate attire for some of these CART captioning jobs can be really challenging! You always want to fit in with the group, but it can be a real guessing game with some assignments. Like the time I showed up for a retreat in a business suit and everyone else was in sweats!

Anyway, I mentioned my dilemma to my neighbor, and she had the perfect answer: jeans and cowboy boots. Okay, I could’ve figured out the jeans, but I didn’t have any cowboy boots. Why would I have cowboy boots? I’m a city girl! My neighbor, being the dream she is, had cowboy boots! And they fit! Okay, this is all coming together. (And I knew R.T. would love seeing the boots.)

The day finally came, and I made my way to the rodeo. It had been incredibly hot the week before, so along with being nervous about the setup and what I was in for, I was also worried about the heat and hoped for a break from the hot sun, not only for me but for my equipment.

I met up with R.T., along with S.G. and another gentleman, J.G., who told me he was there to take care of me for the day. Wow, I wish I could have one of those at every job.

And take care of me they did. They’d arranged to have a canopy set up right by the arena railing so I could see and hear, and I would also be protected from the sun. Then they ran a long power cord to me, so I had electricity to run both computers all afternoon. And to top it all off, they had a fan, just for me! I felt like a real diva — a rodeo diva! Okay, I thought. Bring it on. I’m ready.

For the setup, I had a separate computer for R.T., so he could sit wherever he wanted. I ended up using a program that allowed me to really manipulate the screen colors and font size to allow for the best screen visibility, even in the sun! He was even able to sit in the bleachers, until he realized I had a better seat, and it was shaded.

It turned out to be a very fun day. Sometimes it was hard to understand the announcer on the public address system, but I was able to get enough so R.T. knew who was in the arena and what was going on. Sometimes people would stand around us, talking and yelling to friends, also making it hard to hear the announcer so I’d write what I could hear the people yelling. Equal access, right? The good and the bad! A lot of people also wanted to know what I was doing and why was I recording the rodeo. It turned into a really good opportunity to promote captioning and court reporting!

There were barrel races, bull riding, steer roping, a parade, and even a goat dressing contest! Yep, you read that one correctly. At a signal, two people would run to the goat and one would hold the goat while the other had to put underpants on the poor adorable goat. The teams were timed and whoever had the best time was the winner. It may sound easy, but it was amusingly difficult. It didn’t help that the goats were not at all happy with being on display in such a way.

And then, just like that, it was all over. The events were done, and it was time to leave. Boy, the time sure went fast. But I was also wiped out and ready to be home. Listening and performing all day is hard work.

Would I do it again? You bet. And next time, I won’t worry so much. For this job, I already know what to wear!

Lisa Richardson, RPR, CRR, CRC, of Robbinsdale, Minn., is a broadcast captioner. She can be reached at