Thursday, June 25, 2015
Accidental Rodeo Champion
I have ridden many horses in my life; never once voluntarily and almost always with a, let’s just say, interesting result. One horse in particular factored into two episodes forever burned in my memory, pushing home the reality that I was, for all practical purposes, the East Texas equivalent of Dill from To Kill A Mockingbird.
Throughout my childhood, I was included in all manner of things based solely on the belief that my inherent testosterone would push me, like any other good ol’ boy, toward activities both death-defying and ill-conceived. Case in point, sometime in what had to have been 1983, it was determined that we would ride in the Grand Entry of the Bogata, TX Rodeo.
For those of you who don’t know, the Grand Entry is an opportunity for those who own horses and cowboy finery to non-competitively ride around the rodeo arena while smiling and waving to those who paid for said horses and finery. The steed selected to ferry me about was named Ginger and I sat gingerly atop her pretending I wasn’t scared or planning an escape. Truthfully, the only thing stopping me from fleeing was a fear of heights. What? You get on a horse when you’re 4 foot nothing and you tell me how far you think it is to the ground.
I sat atop this mare, swathed in ill-fitting attire, resigned to my fate, aglow with perspiration, looking like an overgrown Gerber baby in a cowboy hat and vest, waiting for the start of this procession toward what I assumed would be death by trampling.
An upside for someone bereft of the instincts to control an animal is horses are communal by nature and will travel in herds given the opportunity. I found no major issues simply sitting in place, demonstrating how to wave with my eyes as I was not about to take either hand off the saddle horn, gripping it as tightly as the frog does the stork’s neck in the “Never Give Up” cartoon. And we made it around the one allotted loop with no issues and I was home free or so I thought.
When we approached the exit, Ginger, preening starlet that she was, decided to turn and follow the horses that were just entering the arena. And so we made a second sweep in front of the crowd, then a third. Finally, by the fourth go-round, someone had apparently notified the people that you notify in these types of situations and the esteemed Rodeo Queen, Darlene Brooks, wearing a white hat and tiara, appeared at my side, took the reins and led us out of the arena, to the cheers of the crowd. It could have been laughter. They sound the same, don’t they?
And I was hoping any further equine events would fade into the background. But as is the case in mi familia, I was to be disappointed. Whether the purpose of this exercise was the pursuit of fun or the outcome of heat-induced insanity, I was again riding astride the preening Ginger. “Getting back up on the horse” is something my people seem to do with ease; me not so much. However, I thought this could be a good thing as during my first encounter with Ginger, we had simply pranced in a circle. This I could handle. And we were moseying along just fine when something happened. I later learned the cinch had broken and the belt began to slap her stomach. Well she took to running full tilt, y’all, and I didn’t know what to do except panic full tilt.
Suddenly she stopped running and began to buck like the University of Wyoming mascot (look it up) causing me to grip the saddle as I was determined to stay astride my mount, like a proper cowboy. Full disclosure, I had done a quick cost benefit analysis and believed the possibility of flying with the saddle seemed a better option than almost certain death via trampling.
And I proceeded to let loose a scream so loud and piercing and long that the neighbors for several miles thought it was a test of the emergency broadcast system. After what seemed like an hour (but was probably 10 seconds), I and the saddle flew over her head and landed with a resounding thud on the parched, cracked ground. My emergency broadcast scream transitioned immediately into silence as all the breath had been knocked out of my Ocean Pacific-clad lungs.
The response from my Uncle Ronald was, “Woah, Dusty, I think you rode her for more’n 8 seconds! We shoulda put you in the rodeo!”
I’ve been a cowboy from way back, y’all. And that’s all I’m saying for now.