Have you ever seen a monkey riding a dog herding sheep?
I was at the Angola Prison Rodeo in Angola, Louisiana, helping my friend Marrus celebrate her 40th Birthday.
What’s the Angola Prison Rodeo, you may ask? (Unless you’ve seen Stir Crazy, of course.)
Well, it’s a rodeo, only the cowboys are prisoners and Angola is a maximum-security penitentiary and so they go at it like they’ve got nothing left to lose. And maybe they don’t, given that Angola’s nickname used to be “The Bloodiest Prison in the World.” Actually, they’re competing for Commissary money, which I was told translates to better food and maybe cigarettes, so, well, you get the picture.
The Angola Prison Rodeo is the longest running Prison Rodeo in the country. One of the crowd’s favorite events is called Convict Poker. 4 prisoners sit around a table, they let loose a bull, and the last one sitting wins. First time they did that, the bull came in directly behind one of the prisoners, and hit so hard all 4 prisoners and the table went airborne.
And yet, Convict Poker was not the most amazing event I witnessed that day. Nor was Wild Cow Milking, Buddy Pick-Up or Guts & Glory.
Because, you see, I saw 3 Capuchin monkeys riding on 3 Border Collies herding a bunch of sheep. And pretty much simultaneously each and every one of The Marrus Pranksters turned to each other and said, “Now I’ve seen everything.”
From our nosebleed seats it was hard to tell if the monkeys were strapped on, drugged or the best darned Border Collie-ridin’ monkeys this side of the Pecos. But I developed a strong opinion when one of them kind of slipped and was sideways to the dog. His little hands were flailing trying to fend off the ground against which the Border Collie seemed determined to bounce him. The trainer came out and righted the monkey, so I’m betting definitely strapped and quite possibly drugged.
We left Angola prison, safely aboard The Hoosegow Express, and took the hours long ride back to New Orleans. The ride was made more enjoyable by mixed drinks and incredible conversation. And every once in a while, someone would blurt out “Holy shit! I just saw monkeys riding dogs herding sheep.” or something to that effect, and then go back to their conversation.
I pulled out my souvenir program to read about it and found, much to my surprise, not a single mention of monkeys riding dogs herding sheep. No pictures. Not even listed on the program. And it’s not the first time they’ve had monkeys riding dogs herding sheep at the Angola Prison Rodeo, according to one of The Marrus Pranksters who’d been there before and accidentally “forgot” to tell us about the spectacle in advance.
In fact, the website doesn’t mention it either. Or the posters. Or the videos. Or the press release. Or the Advertising Opportunity page on the website. Of course they sell advertising. The rodeo attracts over 70,000 people annually, who spend their money on inmate-created crafts and feast on delicacies like Fried Coca Cola and Alligator Po’ Boys.
And yet, what do you think the first thing everyone who went to that rodeo tells their friends about? What do they tweet and blog and Facebook about?
Monkeys riding dogs herding sheep.
What if it were your business? What if you had something utterly remarkable, a true Seth Godin-worthy Purple Cow? Would you never mention it in any of your marketing materials? Never once discuss it in a press release?
I hear some of you whispering about the practice of not advertising certain off-menu secret items at places like In ‘n Out Burger, and maybe you’ve got a point. Sometimes not talking about something is cooler than talking about it. But I don’t think that’s the case here. And besides, as compelling as Gummy Bear Smoothies at Jamba Juice or Mochi topping at Pinkberry may be, they’re not as remarkable as what we all saw at Angola Prison that day.
So can someone please explain to me why in blazes the Angola Prison Rodeo doesn’t tell people that if they just come on by they’ll get to see monkeys riding dogs herding sheep?