26 Jan

When the ambulance finally pulled out, and the arena director signaled his crew to turn out the next bull, the tension turned back on, behind the chutes. Pussycat was the second one up, so I climbed on, while the hands fished my rope under him, and my buddy, L.J., pulled it tight enough to cut off all feeling in my right hand. I screwed my hat on tight, spit out my chew, and gave the chute hand a nod. “Outside!”, I growled, and the gate swung away, leaving ole Pussycat a whole new direction to explode in.

The seconds go by awfully slow, but eventually, the buzzer sounded. By that time, I was already getting back up out of the dirt, and looking around for my hat. One of the clowns handed it to me, and gave me a pat on the back as I headed for the fence. I was thinking that was the quickest $55 I’d ever spent. Near as I could figure, I’d only covered him about three seconds, or ’til his first crow-hop brought my teeth together like a blacksmith’s hammer on an anvil… and with pretty much the same sound.

L.J. was waiting for me with a shit-eatin’ grin, and commented that it was a shame to have wasted a good chew for no more that that. Pussycat had already disappeared, out the other end of the arena. Having put me in my place, I guess he figured on goin’ back to the pens, and telling the young bucks, “That’s how ya do it, boys!”

My gal was in the stands, and got a few pictures. One of me about the time I said, “Outside!”, another of the gate just about half-way open, the next one of me about four feet off the ground (still closer to the ground than the bull at that moment), and then the last of me walking toward the fence with my hat in my hand. It wasn’t the only time a bull sent me packin’ with hat in hand, but it was sure as hell the quickest!

After that, L.J. and I started working out seriously. $5 would buy you a total of 10 one-minute gigs on the mechanical bull out in Lakeside, and we were each dropping around $50 a weekend there, plus three or four practice bulls. We did that like clockwork, for around three months, until the Santee rodeo came up, and we both signed up. What was really funny about that one was that L.J. drew Pussycat! L.J. said he was glad, because I could tell him what to expect. Then he added that he’d just have to wing it for the other seven seconds!

I felt a lot better when L.J. bit the dust before the buzzer. I don’t remember what bull I drew, but I covered him, and I landed on my feet, with my hat still on my head. That one cost me $65, but it was well worth it! Unfortunately, my score was about a 1/2 a point below Terrible, so the money went to someone more deserving. Aw, what the hell… I never figured on gettin’ rich, playin’ cowboy!

A couple of years went by, and the club finally managed to get sponsorship for their 1st Annual 4th of July Rodeo. We got lucky and managed to get it blessed by the IRA (now IPRA – International Professional Rodeo Association). I was able to convince the city to allow us to use a big piece of land they had earmarked for a future park, in exchange for a small percentage of the gate being donated to the library. I borrowed a 500 gallon “buffalo” from the Naval Amphibious Base so we could haul water for the stock (that buffalo was being run back and forth constantly, for the best part of a week… livestock go through a LOT of water!) I was the arena director for that first rodeo, and L.J. ran the grounds. The stock contractor someone brought in was a fellow by the name of Cotton Rosser. When we met to discuss dates, terms and cuts, we quickly came to an agreement, and I asked him if he had a standard contract he liked to use. He looked at me with half a smile, and asked, “Why? Will I need one?”

We did that first show without a contract, and he delivered all he promised, and then some. I got to work several shows with Cotton over the years, and competed in more than a few of them. Every time I got around him, I learned something new – sometimes about stock, sometimes about rodeo, often about people. I don’t recall ever having done business with a man that was more honest and straightforward than him. I hope he’s still kickin’ somewhere. If he isn’t, I’ll bet Heaven’s enjoyin’ some mighty fine rodeos!


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