This Ain’t My First Rodeo

A few weeks ago, I asked a co-worker to take the lead on a complex situation involving a partner. When I asked him whether he was comfortable being on point, my co-worker replied:

This ain’t my first rodeo.

If you’re not familiar with the expression, it’s a colorful way of telling someone you’re prepared for a situation and it doesn’t offer a significant challenge to you. Where I grew up, locals used a similar vivid expression:

I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck.

In my experience, both expressions have a touch of sarcasm. They are often used when someone is being given unjustified and unwanted advice. Apparently my co-worker didn’t think the situation was particularly challenging.

Since I’m interested in the origin of phrases, I spent some time trying to figure out where the rodeo expression came from. The earliest instance I could find was from the 1981 movie, Mommie Dearest, which chronicles the life of Joan Crawford. When told she is going to be removed from the Board of Directors of Pepsi, Faye Dunaway (the actress playing Crawford) responds “This ain’t my first time at the rodeo.” This classic scene is a fiery performance with strong language:

Who gets credit for inventing the rodeo phrase? The phrase isn’t in the book that the movie was based on and I couldn’t find any evidence this scene happened in real life. As such, the quote should probably be attributed to Frank Yablans, who wrote the screenplay.

For those of you who prefer an exact quote, I found it in the 1988 Judd family biography. From the book,

Naomi is not a shy woman; she has never claimed to be.
“I’m divorced and I’ve been to the circus and I’ve seen the clowns,” as she put it “This ain’t my first rodeo.”

It’s a fantastic thought that Naomi Judd might have been channeling Faye Dunaway.

Now if I could only figure out where that turnip truck came from. Any ideas?

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6 Responses to This Ain’t My First Rodeo

  1. Avery Horzewski April 20, 2015 at 7:19 am #

    Love word/phrase origins. Earliest usage I could find was on But you probably already knew that. 🙂

    • Jonathan Becher April 20, 2015 at 8:48 am #

      Thanks Avery. I had not seen the 1975 quote Van Nuys, California Valley News. But somehow I doubt that’s the first one…

  2. wildoakonestepahead April 20, 2015 at 8:38 am #

    If your colleague turns out not to be up to the lead role, you may find out he is “all hat and no cowboy.”

  3. paulo April 20, 2015 at 8:45 am #

    johnny carson popularized it i believe …

    • Jonathan Becher April 20, 2015 at 1:51 pm #

      Thanks Paulo. I do see lots of places online that give credit to Carson. However, I did a quick search of YouTube of his show and don’t see any references. Would be great if someone found a link.

  4. seaofgold2012 April 26, 2015 at 7:33 am #

    My guess would be that phrase dates at least from the early 19th century and originated from cattlemen and cow country. I remember hearing “this ain’t my first rodeo” when I was six and seven, growing up in the prairie country of southeastern Colorado. The phrase was about as common as “he looks like he was rode hard and put away wet.” Which refers to the awful way a horse looks when ridden to exhaustion, and put in the corral without being property cooled down, and leaving the sweat and foam to dry without being bushed and cleaned off.

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