Total Pageviews

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Into the Arena

Saturday early morning greetings to all.

I tried to get this out before the clock struck midnight but I just couldn't do it. No worries though really, I know that y'all don't care, it is just another of my self-imposed things.

The past week has been filled with finally being able to purchase and then use the grout for the sun room tile floor project. Yes, the cracks are now filled in, 8 months later! That is what spending every waking moment working on the Reno AG does for you. Your entire life gets put on hold.

My grandsons Nicholas and Chase helped me, mixing the grout and then crawling the floor, tile by tile, pushing grout into the cracks and then the worst part by far... trying to clean the stuff off of the once shiny floor! Between the boys, myself and Anna, we have spent more than double the installation time cleaning the floor. Probably three times the number of hours.

We suggest that rather than the traditional method of slopping a gob of grout down and then shoving it back and forth with a rubber trowel, it would be smarter, and certainly cleaner, to utilize a caulking gun and whatever form of grout you can find, or even caulk, to fill the spaces between the tiles.

I still have baseboard tile, a facing of the step, and four window ledges to go before we can call the sun room tile job complete. If you want something done in a hurry, you must hire the professionals and pay the price.

The grass is also taking on that "lost in the jungle" look, so I will need to deal with that too.

Today we had to take Mr S to lunch and then the doctor, followed by my own appointment. We finished lunch too early, so we had to stall so that we would not be in the waiting room too long. Mr S gets really impatient and fusses every few minutes about how long it is taking, usually well before his appointment time even. The ride in the countryside worked out well and our timing was good. He still grumbled, and they were within 5 minutes of his scheduled time. Too bad the lab tests we had done did not meet with the approval of the specialist, who ended the appointment early and told us to come back after we got the right tests done.
If the doctors would speak in the same medical language to each lab and hospital, then everyone would know which tests are wanted on their orders. Ridiculous extra confusion!

My own visit was simple. My BP was 116/59 and we are in a wait mode until the VA and Reno Open Air MRI agree on another date for my left shoulder MRI, get it done and then get the results back to the potential surgeon who wants to fix my damage. Or at least collect the money for it. I am not sure that he cares one way or the other if he fixes anything. He seems to be very impressed with himself. Maybe that is just the way of ortho guys.

Today is feeding day for Victoria and Albert, but I want to weigh them first to get a baseline for their growth. This should have been done two feedings ago, but I didn't have a scale sensitive enough to weigh them then. They should also have their length measured, but that is a squirmy proposition too. I think it will take three of us to get an accurate measurement.

The stories offered up in this edition are good evidence for why I did not pursue a career in Professional Rodeo, even though I did pretty well for several years and didn't get killed. I got tenderized, broke several bones, and was knocked out multiple times, yet still considered myself having fun. It is the insanity of youth.
Of course moving away from my rodeo mates did put a serious crimp in things too. Enjoy the ride!

Into the Arena

These events took place just after the Orange Blossom Festival Rodeo in 1969, which heralded the beginning of rodeo season in South Florida. The crowds were hungry for action and sometimes the promoters would bend the rules a little... or a lot, depending on how desperate they were to increase the "gate". It was definitely a case of let the riders beware, you must defend yourself at all times.

I was one of several young bull riders that were competing, trying to win for the joy of winning. The purse wasn't much in those days, you had to really like what you were doing to take that much abuse. After you paid an entry fee, for the privilege of getting stomped, or busted up, (all in the name of fun, right?) you wouldn't have much cash left to eat on, or travel to the next rodeo.

It really was fun to us, how else do you think that you would ever get teenagers to do something that took so much work and effort? There was prestige that went with being the best, beating guys older and more experienced, and most importantly to me; beating 2,000 pounds of angry bull. A creature which often came equipped with horns to gore you and an attitude filled with hate for the guys who climbed on his back, even if it was for just a few seconds at a time.

The stock promoter and rodeo promoter were the same person in our little community of Davie, Florida, except when it was a Nationally sanctioned event, (RCA, PRCA,etc.) and then they had to play by a different set of rules to comply with the "big time".

Our promoter was a man by the name of R. D. (name removed to protect the guilty). We never had much to do with him personally, just his cowboys and stock wranglers. He did have some of the rankest, nastiest, evil tempered bovine creatures to ever stand on four legs, and that I can attest to personally!

We bull riders would "clown" for each other during these small rodeos, and we took the job very seriously. Bull riders could get badly hurt and possibly killed in such a short space of time, that indifference or a lapse of attention could be the final act. None of us wanted to let a fellow rider down, and so, worked as hard at clowning as we did riding the bulls, sometimes harder. If I got hurt riding, it was no big deal to me, you have to expect it. But if someone else got hurt when I was in the arena as his protector (clown), that would be inexcusable to me.

There are two individual rides, on two different bulls that I would like to tell you about. Neither would put me in the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma, and that's for sure. They did however, imprint themselves indelibly on my memory for life, if not longer, and illustrate just how crazy the sport can be.


Some of you are fans of rodeo, and some could care less, but let me tell you about a large, ugly, red Brahma bull called "Red Dirt". He was aptly named for his disposition, into the dirt of the arena, of would be riders, and in short order usually. Very few had successfully ridden him to the buzzer, however I had, the only other time that I "drew" him in the lottery, or bull selection process. I believe that he never forgot me, or forgave me either. I think that somehow these big, supposedly stupid, bovine warriors, had a sense of pride or something similar; because they hated to get ridden to the buzzer with a passion, and would seemingly be out to get even afterward, for as long as it took to do so. Much like a polar bear.

If I could repeat my luck with this bull, I would surely score high and conceivably win the event. Forget the all-around, you have to do other events to qualify, and it was all I could do to manage one. After I drew Red Dirt I was alternately congratulated and consoled by my fellow riders. They joked around so much, that it was impossible to take them serious about anything. If one of them said that their butt was on fire, throw the water... I would say, "show me the fire first."

But there I was, trying my best to recall everything that I could about how he behaved and what his "trademark" characteristics were; whether he hooked and twisted, etc. What I managed to do mostly, was make myself nervous. For me what worked best was to let it go and relax; just handle what the bull does while you're there. The one thing that I couldn't get out of my mind, was that he was a proven cowboy hater. Meaning that throwing you off of his back was not the "end of it" with him, he wanted his "pound of flesh" too.

I had drawn a number three ride in the first go around and I was pretty happy about that, I didn't have to go first when the judges were at their worst as far as scoring goes, but yet I didn't have to wait "forever" either.
My bull rope was as worked and sticky as I could get it, and my gloves had just the right feel. As I stood behind the chutes watching the first two guys getting ready, waiting for a little less congestion up over the animals, trying to keep everything as safe as possible, I saw something that I didn't believe, and would not have suspected from this outfit. They were "hot-shotting" the bulls out of the gate!

What that means, is that the people promoting the rodeo, in order to get an even more "lively" jump out of the chute, (all to please the audience) were shocking the bulls with electric cattle-prods to make them "shoot " out of the gate with a big crowd pleasing jump. This is a major "NO, NO". It is against the rules of all of the organizations, and just wasn't supposed to be done.

While I was deep in thought, my turn came up and I had to scramble up the back of the #3 chute and try to get straddled over this already angry beast. When I did get down onto his back, we played "climb the chute" for a little while, with him acting like he was going to climb out of there and me trying to protect my knees. When he finally settled down, it really made me start to worry. I was used to seeing him angry.

The entire time that I was trying to get ready to come out of the gate for my ride, the announcer was maintaining a steady flow of BS, about how bad this bull was and how much he hated cowboys, and how I was one of the few to ever successfully ride Red Dirt. I could have done without that, it was bad luck to say things like that.

I was finally situated and ready and asked for the gate. I could feel the muscles in the bull's back tensing up and quivering, ready to explode into violent action any second now.

It was then that I felt a sharp, painful burning sensation on my leg. The next thing that I knew, I was flying through the air and landed face first in the freshly watered arena dirt, thinking "Oh God, I hope this is freshly watered"... it was not. Reality began screaming in my brain saying, where is that cowboy hating bull? He's going to kill me lying here in the dirt! I jumped up and turned around looking for Mister Red Dirt, ready to defend myself with all of the clowning skills that I had learned.

The big red bull was still standing in the chute; just standing there, with my bullrope on him, and my glove securely wrapped into it... right where I left it.

This was a supreme moment of victory for the bull; as I stood there in a ready position with my legs spread apart, and my hands out, like a wrestler, waiting... with fresh cow patty on my face and shirt front.

Then that damned bull just calmly walked out of the chute and right past me, without even acknowledging my existence. Well almost; as he passed me he raised his tail and adding a new supply of "cowboy targets" to the arena. Insult added with great style to the injury!

The crowds at rodeos are there more to see things go wrong, than witness a good ride. I firmly believe this. This crowd was laughing so hard that I hope they all wet their pants!

From the instant that the gate opened and I got "hot-shotted" out of the chute (without benefit of a bull under me) flying to a landing face first in cow crap; then jumping up to defend myself, from nothing; to the bull with a reputation for attacking cowboys,walking past me without a look, to the final comment, with his tail in the air. It was better than a scripted comedy movie.

Well, if a Brahma Bull could have a more complete payback for getting rode, I sure don't want to be part of it. Once was enough for me... more than enough.


The names didn't always mean anything special about the animal, sometimes the person who named it just thought it sounded cool. That was the case with "Purple People Eater". It is true that he did develop into a very ornery bull over time, but he didn't start out that way.

I had seen this behemoth of a Brahma bull around for ages, and couldn't seem to draw him for anything. I wanted to, he was a money bull if you could stay with him. But therein lies the rub. He was over two thousand pounds of coal black muscle, with a hump that was so large that it came up chest high when you were sitting on his back. Not that you had much chance to view the scenery while the ride was in motion!

Besides being very large, he had a strange horn configuration; one turned up and the other side turned down. These horns were also of longer length than I was happy with (as if that mattered). The promoters all liked him because he looked like an ominous monster, yet he was easy to handle outside of the arena proper. Meaning that loading him in the trailer or shuffling him from pen to pen was easy, he was not hateful like Red Dirt or others.

When I first "met" this critter he was in the holding pen out by the offloading ramp, which was probably 100 feet from the back of the chutes and separate from everything else. He was a pussycat. Just as calm and easy going as could be, with no hint of malice about him at all. I fed him apples on several occasions, and wondered what a sweet guy like him was doing in this business.

And then I got to see the transformation that came over him when he entered the "playing field", up close and personal. I clowned for a friend who drew his Royal Largeness; The People Eater, and OH Boy did that bull ever like to hit! I learned to love that barrel and we lost more dummies to him, than all of the rest combined. He was exciting to watch; preferably from outside the wire!

I knew (at least I hoped) that I would get lucky some day, and someday finally arrived! I drew the one and only Purple People Eater, but a so-so spot, number 7 out of 8 riders. The big bull would be fired up from all the sights and smells of being right next to the chutes and I would be a nervous wreck waiting, knowing that he was getting more excited by every sound of the chutes opening.

I kept telling myself that if you want a good ride, you have to have a good bull; but it didn't help, I knew what he was like in the arena or I thought that I did.

An older cowboy came along and stopped for minute, next to me where I was standing, staring at the PPE. After a few moments of shared silent understanding and respect for our opponent, he offered this advice, "he hooks to the left when you get off, trying to get you... watch him." OK, great, thanks. He looked trustworthy enough, and I didn't know him, so he shouldn't be trying to get back at me for anything that I had done to him. I hope. Cowboys can be merciless when it comes to jokes and tricks, it was hard to tell what was true or real.

I processed the advice and thought to myself; the left side was the "down" horn, that's good, he can't spear you with that one.

A couple of rides gone bad later, and I was nervous all over again. One rider had just gotten a "tour" of the arena when he got dumped (bucked off) and his hand wouldn't come out of the rope. The clown and the pick up man were on him right away, and then all of us who clowned went after them and finally managed to pull his hand free. Damned fool had used a "suicide" wrap, which was a method of wrapping the bullrope around your hand, to where it was in effect, tied. Sure it didn't slip, but you could get killed very easily too.

Two rides before, the guy got kicked in the forehead and they couldn't seem to wake him up. His pulse was fine, as were all the other indicators.... but he just wouldn't, or couldn't, respond to anything. It was scary at the time although he did make a full recovery. (Now I would have even more concern over what damage was done with what we have learned about brain trauma.)

It was finally my turn on the Merry-go-round!

The Purple People Eater just stood in the chute expectantly, and twitched his huge muscles when he was touched, like we were annoying horseflies and he could shake us off; which wasn't too far from the truth. I got down onto him and got my rope pulled up and wrapped my hand very carefully, remembering the last ride all too clearly and not wanting to repeat that trick.

I was settled in deep, right up snug against that monstrous hump and asked for the gate. Out we went, together and at the same time! He was really putting on a show for the crowd; the gyrations and contortions that this huge animal could make his body do, were simply amazing. This monster bull would get all four feet in the air, with his front legs pointed one way and his hind legs pointed the opposite and then snap his head around and make his whole body change directions in mid air!

The really bizarre thing was that I was staying with him on every jump and twist and I made it to the buzzer. Hot Damn! I remembered the old cowboy telling me that he hooked to the left; so I slid off the right side and was briefly very proud of myself as I landed on my feet. That is, until he hit me with that upturned right horn and cracked three ribs.

I was knocked for a flying loop, and rolled up onto my feet and took off running for the fence, with the PPE Express breathing right onto my back as I ran. I timed my jump and grabbed the 2 X 6 top rail and should have gone right on up and over, just like I had done many times clowning. But it was not to be. The board broke off and I landed on my back in what was described to me as the dying cockroach position, with the board still firmly clutched in both hands. The bull was as surprised as I was, (fortunately for me), and I got up and swung that board as hard as I could, right across the nose of the Purple People Eater. I gained enough time to make good my escape while he stood there sneezing, and trying to figure out what had just happened to him.

Later I took him an apple and fed it to him out in the pen, through the fence of course, just in case. He was fine and docile again, and I thanked him for not killing me, and apologized to him for whacking him with a board. I think that he understood. I never had occasion to ride him again and I hope that he got to retire and breed some more little Purple People Eaters for future generations to experience. He was a great one! 

No comments:

Post a Comment