I bared it all trying to prove myself
November 5, 2009
Like most other country kids I grew up with rodeo — both watching and participating.
In the old days, bull riding was the last event of the day because the audience would be sure and stay for the chance to see a wreck or two.
About the time I became a teenager the Girls Rodeo Association was becoming a force. Mostly, the girls were ropers, bronc riders and barrel racers, but some rode bulls.
Remember when you were a teenager? You were immortal and invincible. You could do absolutely anything, and nothing could hurt you. I bought into that attitude, so I decided I could probably ride anything that bucked. I just needed a little practice.
One fall a bunch of us got together and decided to have a junior rodeo, and we advertised that girls could enter anything they wanted. We sent out invitations with entry fees and payouts listed. It was a jackpot with half the pot going to the winner, 30 percent to second place and 20 percent to third place.
We could round up a bunch of steers, so we advertised steer riding. After the copies were already made we realized we didn’t have much equipment, so we wrote on each one, “Bring your own loose rope,” which barrel racers and calf ropers thought was hilarious, but we didn’t care.
My dad, in his younger days, was a really good bronc rider, so I asked him if he’d help me figure out how to ride a steer.
This was early September and the milk pen calves, who never had a hungry day in their lives, were big by then — about 650 pounds.
Dad and my brother caught one of the calves in the woven wire-fenced milking pen. My brother mugged him while Dad put the loose rope around the steer’s middle. I climbed on and got hold of the rope.
Dad said, “Scoot way forward. Try to sit on your hand. And don’t watch his head because that’s not an indication of which way he’s gonna go. Just look out across the country.”
I nodded. This, suddenly, was not as easy as I’d thought. “Grab hold of him with your spurs,” Dad said, “but just use them for anchors. Don’t get fancy.”
Then he asked, “Are you ready?” I wasn’t, but it was too late to chicken out, so I nodded. That milk pen calf bucked good — really good. I think maybe I stayed on him four jumps before he flung me into the fence.
My brother, Mr. Compassion, watched me pick myself up and then laughed — loud and long — pointing at my back. Dad, after checking to make sure I wasn’t too wounded, grinned. I finally got my eyes focused and saw the back of my shirt — hanging from the fence. No wonder my back hurt.
My body wasn’t badly injured. My pride, however, was another story.
When we turned in our entries for that rodeo I sorta forgot to enter the steer riding.