While all my sore spots (and there were plenty of them) were mending, a lot of buddies were asking me when I’d be ready to ride again. Initially, I just figured on waiting until I felt like I was in decent shape to, and starting to train again. But various doctors kept making idle remarks like, “your spine can’t take another beating” and “you have no right to still be alive”. One Navy flight surgeon was more blunt. “You’re a stupid sonofabitch!”
Without a spleen, with a pretty good tear in one lung, where a rib had ripped through it, and two vertebrae held together with stainless steel and superglue, these comments didn’t fall on deaf ears. I knew that even a minor mishap that can happen any day at the rodeo, could put me in a grave. So that consideration (combined with a few bad dreams, where Preacher got larger, each time he spun around and rammed his horns into my face) brought me to the conclusion that I should no longer write checks that my body couldn’t cash. Besides, my commanding officer had all but promised me a visit to the firing squad, if I repeated my last shenanigan. I sold my bull gear to some kid that was as stupid as I had been, and “retired” to the production side of rodeos. From then on, my involvement in rough stock was limited to overseeing the draws, negotiating deals with stock contractors and leading the Grand Entry.
The old RCA long since became the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association). In those days, we didn’t have to wear protective vests, helmets and facemasks. Boots, longsleeve shirts, and a hat were required. A bull rider used a glove, simply because it held resin to help with the grip. Pretty soon, I suppose they’ll add a seatbelt and airbags.
I missed it every now and then. Hell, I still miss it, but I’M a grandpa now, and even if all my parts worked like they’re supposed to, I wouldn’t be able to ride the circuit anymore. Hell, the partyin’ alone would probably finish me off.
I can think of worse ways to go, though!
I ran into Larry Mahan a few years ago, down in San Diego. He didn’t remember me, of course. Which kinda hurt, after I made him look so good that time. For that matter, if we’d ridden the same circuit, I could have made him look good ALL the time!
Still a mighty decent fella though, for all his fame and fortune. Funny thing about that… a lot of folks that make it big in show business, politics, or even business, forget what it’s like to be at the bottom of the pile. You don’t see as much of that with country folk. They’re the ones most likely stay down to earth, even after their net worth is measured in tens of millions. I don’t know how wealthy Mahan ever got. But I’d be willing to bet that at his peak, he was always just as nice a guy as when he forked his first bull. Good luck finding that kind of character in most Hollywood stars, or any Washington politician.
So, have you ever taken your kids to a rodeo? Trust me, they’ll love it!
Just remember the song…”Mama…Don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys…”
Unrelated, but at least in my case, just as true…