One problem with having a very young, extremely beautiful and very appealing business partner, is that people are often distracted from taking care of business. This is true in every issue from building up a Guest Ranch from nothing, all through to the hands we work with on a daily basis. On one such occasion when this was apparently an issue, my partner and I had gone out to hear a different style of band, and joining us on this particular occasion, was an exceedingly rich and annoying “hand” … who had been hired as a personal favor to a friend of the owner and who would have been much more well-suited to the world of Rodeo Cowboys. His intentions were anything but honorable, though even then, it would make for a most interesting experience. Such is the world of the cowboy I suppose.
Now let me make this perfectly clear here; I have the greatest respect for Rodeo Cowboys, their skills, their endurance and their ability to put on an amazing show should never be underestimated or under-appreciated. However, these people … as a rule anyhow, and based on my personal experience, do not generally work out very well on Guest Ranches or Dude Ranches, having more of a manner suited towards very powerful animals and a much more dramatic and tense approach than any “dude” is ready to handle. The average Rodeo Cowboy and I would likely have the same opinion about “breaking” horses and turning them into dude horses with scarcely the ability to play follow the leader, and very little left in the way of spirit. In my mind, such actions are not only abhorrent, but inexcusable. And while I have indeed helped to train many a colt, I have never had it in my heart to completely break a horse and turn it in to a dude horse. While I have worked for a great many people who do this as a matter of routine, the brands I stayed on with all respected my beliefs enough to allow me to refrain from any such work … else I would not have been riding that brand very long at all. Anyhow, thus it was that I had come to work with this one particularly obnoxious “hand” who had more than just eyes for my partner.
When we went out, we drank what I must admit were very nice martinis, made with the finest Russian vodka … and if you know the right people in places like Jackson Hole, you really can find just about any of the best of anything from around the world. While my partner had always been a more conservative socializer, and scarcely ever a real drinker in the manner I had come to know, it was not long before she was taking every possible opportunity to pass me her drinks, be it pouring them in my glass or simply trading glasses with me as the opportunity to do so without attracting the attention of our “friend”. Had I personally seen what was occurring, a most unpleasant fight would have ensued right there in public, even among the more distinguished visitors that such establishments tend to attract. My partner would later tell me that she thought that certainly I must have seen what had transpired, but unbeknownst to me, this new “friend” had been lacing her drinks with some kind of painkiller or muscle relaxer … that I had been dutifully and copiously ingesting. I had noticed I was getting quite inebriated, but being in my twenties, it seemed that the most reasonable solution for this was to order more food, and since our new “friend” was happy to pay in order to impress my partner with his wealth, I consumed excessive quantities of fine beef, french fried taters and a host of other appetizers and finger foods that I have no idea what they were … but sure did help the beer to go down easier.
Thus, when the talk turned to a discussion about Rodeo Cowboys and the local amateur rodeo, I happily engaged and made known my respect for the Rodeo Cowboy, but also noted that I would never be one to search out the spotlight or otherwise seek glory in what to me, was a most beautiful profession precisely because I was so far removed from public awareness. I further noted that while I was indeed adept at training horses, the idea of steer ropes on horses or cattle perturbed me, and I saw no reason to further enrage a critter who was so substantially larger, tougher, leaner, meaner and better than me physically. I made it perfectly clear that I would never participate in a rodeo in any fashion other than that of a casual observer. However, one thing led to another and we ended up at the local rodeo grounds during amateur night. Drunk as I was, the entertainment was grand, and I merely laughed when he said that he had entered me into the bull riding competition. I laughed even more when he continued on that I had drawn for my ride, a formerly unbeaten Pro Rodeo Brahma Bull … though he did note with not the least bit of sarcasm that I should not have to worry too much, as its horns had been cut off completely and it would not be able to gore me. I continued laughing too … until some guys came around to get me to sign all the paperwork.
By this time, both of them were goading me on and ragging me about not being able to ride that bull and how well I would do. I happened to know better, even in my more-than-just-drunken state … but as they pushed me further into the corner, I saw less and less recourse other than merely riding that old bull right outside the gate just to get them to shut up and let me get back to my beer. Thus it was that I found myself now, seated about an amazingly massive and muscular bull, inside a corral … and this “friend” trying to tie what we call a “Suicide Knot” around my right hand1 … though I think I actually did hit him for that one, though something of a glancing blow given the precarious nature of my position at the time. The steer rope securely in place, me sitting there wondering what the heck I was doing to begin with, and a whole host of people standing around betting and taking wagers, patting me on the back … and far too many “oohing and aahing” over what a fierce bull I had drawn and how no man had ever beaten him, even in the PRA … the Professional Rodeo Association.
I have never been under the illusion that eight seconds is an overly long time. However, I would challenge anyone to hold their hand in the blue portion of a candle flame for a full eight seconds … but if you are stupid enough to do it, you are on your own and I refuse to be held accountable, legally or otherwise. The point is not to get you to try something that stupid, but merely to show that under certain circumstances, eight seconds can fill a lifetime. I remember virtually every turn and twist and jump and dip that bull gave me during that oh so short span of time … and I knew when it cut back that last time that we had indeed parted ways for the last time … almost a full second shy of my eight second mark. Having failed to reach my objective, I failed to fully comprehend all the kudos and kind remarks, and passed it off merely as an act of brotherhood among the real Rodeo Cowboys in the mix that night.
I woke up early the next morning, surprisingly devoid of any hangover … which was explained to me later was because of the quality of the vodka we had been focusing on earlier in the evening, and the fact that I had eaten so much and not shared in very many beers … but yeah, the vodka really had been that good for the most part. After overcoming my surprise at not even having the slightest remnant of a headache, despite a very sore and stiff body from the ride the night before, I was most shocked when I came out of the door of my camper, prepared for nothing more than stringing a bunch more dudes, and maybe running Storm some in hopes of getting my spinal column back into its previously warped position … or getting it as close as I could to normal after the hell it had been through the previous night. What was so shocking? As I came out, not only had someone left a copy of the local paper on my camper step, but posted all around the camp were pictures, cut out from other copies of the local paper. There I was, in all my drunken glory, toe to … well … with both me and a great big Brahma bull at a full vertical. The front hooves of the bull were maybe ten or twelve inches above the ground and mine were probably four feet up in the air. We were both straight as can be, straighter than most any fencepost, me with my left hand straight up in the air, but overshadowed still by the back legs of the bull as they shot straight out into the sky above me. I was maybe eight or ten inches away from the bull … but I must say it did make for an incredible picture. Later on, after a whole lot of ribbing, I took the time to read the article and found that I had actually been one of the best performers on that bull, and had I been able to stay on almost a full second longer, I would surely have taken best in show. I even got quite a few offers to participate in more rodeos, and had they asked at a later date after I quit hurting, I may have even taken them up on it. However, as it was, I was never in my life so happy to be back in the saddle of my own plug as I was that day.
1The “Suicide Knot” is merely a half hitch, virtually the same as the knot that is used to tie any horse when it is hitched to a post. A simple and short pull on the end of the rope will allow for the knot to become completely free in a hurried, quick, singular motion. However, it is also called a suicide knot for what should be obvious reasons. When the bull and the rider part ways, as they tend to do, if that rope end is not quickly pulled, the rider gets dragged along, generally stuck under well over a thousand pounds of enraged bull with a “Steer rope” tied around its genitalia … not a pleasant situation under any circumstances and certainly not one I was willing to risk in my altered state of mind … though had I been sober, I likely never would have been on the bull to begin with.