Yippie-yi-o-ki-yay

Mesquite Rodeo facing sexual harassment lawsuit

For those of you not from these parts, the preceding phrase--yippie etc.--is cowboy talk for "Hooray!"

At least we think it is. It could very well mean something else, like, "Hey, honey, show me them there panties you're wearin'."

Or it could be the sound a plaintiff's lawyer makes when he's delivered a bizarre set of claims like those outlined in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed this week against Mesquite Rodeo Inc., Southwest Sports Group and other rodeo organizers.

According to the lawsuit filed by lawyer Geoff Henley on behalf of former rodeo employees Latisha Marie Dudik and Tammy Elgersma, the two women were victims of harassment at the hands of their rodeo boss, Alfred "Butch" Overbaugh, that began with their underwear. Among other things, Overbaugh is accused of requiring the women to wear cotton panties and reserving for himself the right to check.

Overbaugh, the suit says, insisted on cotton drawers because the women were required to work outdoors in the heat. He wanted to prevent heatstroke, and insisted that cotton--it is a breathable, natural fiber--was the key.

Overbaugh, who Henley says is no longer employed by the rodeo, also is accused of stealing kisses, making untoward remarks, retaliation and all sorts of misdeeds over the course of two years. The suit accuses his employers and rodeo organizers of doing nothing to stop his actions even after the women complained.

Overbaugh's phone number is unlisted. Spokesmen for Mesquite Championship Rodeo and Southwest Sports Group said they had not been served with the suit and could not comment.

The suit alleges that during interviews with teen and young women seeking seasonal work, Overbaugh would give what was known at the rodeo as "Butch's panty speech," where he touted the virtues of all-natural undergarments. In June 2000, he told Dudik, now 19, that if she passed out, he would be forced to strip her naked and place ice on various parts of her person.

Cotton panties. Ice on the vagina and breastbone. We're not sure what medical text these treatments came from--the Penthouse Forum Home Medical Guide, perhaps.

It's hard not to snicker, even though these are serious charges--horrible for the women if true, horrible for Overbaugh if not. But we wonder in this case the same thing we wonder whenever a strange claim of sexual harassment crosses our desk: How does this still happen?

In Buzz's office, and in the professional offices our friends work in, most men would rip out their tongues before they'd even mentiona woman's bloomers to her face, let alone ask to inspect them. Not that they're not pigs. They're just smart pigs, and they know the women know the law as well as the men.

We put the question to Henley.

"Remember the location of where this has taken place," he says. "This is the Mesquite Rodeo. You're going to be dealing with a lot of older men who certainly don't have all the sensitivity that comports with modern mores."

Put that together with young women who need work, are attracted by the rodeo's cachet and supervised by an older male authority figure, and you can see how the situation might arise, he adds.

And, we suspect, how it might end: ka-ching.

 
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