The dusty trail from Chicago ..
.. brought us back one more time to the last night of the Horse Show in Fort Atkinson.
Flip flops and shorts were quickly exchanged for jeans and boots.
His old roping partner called him up about three weeks ago ..
He was going to be back in town and thought it would be fun to enter.
The Cowboy didn’t want to do it. Doesn’t like the thought of ‘doing something half-assed,’ he always tells me. Or putting money up to rope when he hasn’t been working at it.
The Cowboy hasn’t been doing much rodeoing for a couple years now.. since the divorce and especially this past year. Many weekends are spent on the road between South Dakota and Wisconsin. To which I am grateful for, but I know they have put a serious dent in what used to be his lifestyle.
He told me about the call.
“C’mon,” I said. “It’ll be fun .. plus, I’ve seen you teach others how to do it, I’d love to go watch you actually rope. And I’ll be at the ranch that weekend.”
Reluctantly, I believe, he agreed to go.
We all piled into one of the Cowboy’s best buddies trucks just before noon Sunday, me, the Cowboy, Scuba Steve and his pregnant wife, and Little Brother Trucker ( .. his partner. They’re going to kill me for the names.) yesterday, horses in tow and headed for the Foothills Rodeo.
“You’re on the hot and dusty now,” said the Cowboy. Laughing.
It wasn’t long .. stories started flying about their history together. Their travels. Their friendships. And all the things they would do to one another while on the road. The Cowboy says these are among the best friends he has in the whole world. He’s spent a lot of time with them over the years and he laughs as he tells me, you really get to know someone after spending 48 hours together in the same vehicle, sleeping in same bed, living in 5×5 quarters. You have to learn a lot of coping skills on how to get along.
For them, and I would assume many others in their shoes, it’s meant a lot of pranks and joking around.
And it literally didn’t take long for the sh*t to start flying yesterday. We no more than parked on rodeo grounds. They get the horses out and the Cowboy goes back into the horse part of the trailer to take .. um, use the facilities. Just number one for the record. (If the horses can do it, why can’t they? Had never thought of that.) The trucker locks him in. Apparently this is a regular thing they do, or did in the past .. to each other.
The Cowboy says, “Remember what I did to your brother the last time he did that to me?”
“N …” says the Trucker.
But before he could even finish that one small word, a wad of horse sh*t schmucked his shoulder and face. We all bust out laughing and immediately starting wondering, worrying a bit actually what the Trucker would do now, to get him back.
Thankfully he had brought another shirt.
The rodeo came and went. None of them did as well as they had hoped. But where they may have taken it hard in the past, life has them all in some very different places now. And it seemed …
.. they were just happy to be back together.
Win or lose.
Even locked in with the horses again.
You would have thought the bathroom at the restaurant where we stopped for dinner on the way home would have been as easy to use as the back of the trailer .. but Scuba Steve’s pregnant wife, who was about fed up with the teasing, decided it was too easy two of them were standing in there bonding with the horses, again. She locked em in. Said to the rest of us, get in the truck. And away we drove ….
Looking forward to the next rodeo.
Roping clinic of the season #2.
Often, when people with horses .. or cowboys travel to any sort of competition or rodeo .. they sleep in their horse trailer. Or a hotel nearby.
We awoke this morning at a B&B.
The Cowboy had no idea this is where we would be staying nor has he ever stayed at a B&B. He pulled into town yesterday and one of the other guys in town for the clinic, a good friend of his, had booked it for us.
Think though, that he enjoyed it, for what little time we spent there. Very nice couple. Beautiful home. Cozy accommodations. Great breakfast. Couple cats and a dog roaming the house. Makes us feel right at home. (Although their dog and cats appear much better behaved than mine, so not quite the same, but close.)
Anyway, we woke this morning, grabbed a cup of coffee and flipped on the Today Show for a few minutes before breakfast.
And on comes …
Sweet little, Cactus Jack.
(Following link isn’t the Today Show’s interview, but couldn’t find their official version online yet, so here’s just a link to the story.)
“I got caught up in a cactus when I was a kid,” says the Cowboy. “And no one ever felt bad for me and put me on tv.”
We both bust out laughing.
“Are you serious?” I asked him.
“I am. Instead of Cactus Jack, I could have been known as Cactus (his name),” he says chuckling.
“How the heck did that happen,” I pried for details. “And, where is my computer? This, I need to write about.”
Apparently he was rolling down a hillside at his grandfather’s ranch in western South Dakota, in the Black Hills. Something he and his brothers had done on occasion. And this particular day, he happened unfortunately .. upon a patch of cactus.
“No one was there to help pick them out of my face,” he said. Kind of pouty.
We are both now laughing somewhat hysterically. Trying to keep some level of quiet given we are at the B&B which doesn’t seem to be all that soundproof and it’s early. “I had to pick them out one by one all by myself.”
While a painful memory, time has healed all cactus wounds. And this morning’s story on so many levels, while very sweet, (you really should go watch it) gave us a good laugh.
Off to the clinic.
There is inherent risk in almost any sport.
Concussions playing football or soccer. Groin/hamstring pulls/shin splints or tendonitis for runners. Falling on the ice curling and cracking your head. Tennis elbow. Rotator cuff. Catching the ball with your body not your glove. Sprains, strains .. stray balls hit your way playing golf. Or my girlfriends and I drinking too much over the course of 18 holes. It can all hurt. You get the drift …
I mentioned yesterday I wanted to spare my thumbs until I had practiced roping enough to feel confident I could keep them?
I’m not sure how long we had been dating that I noticed the HUGE scar around the Cowboy’s thumb.
“What happened,” I gasped.
“Oh,” he says nonchalantly. “There are a lot of team ropers minus a thumb.”
And he laughs.
The cowboy nearly lost his thumb, oh .. ‘probably 10 years ago’ he tells me, in Sydney, Iowa at a big team roping competition.
Why is this a common injury among team ropers?
Those who have done it, know. Those who haven’t ever roped but want to try, should know. And the rest of us, well it’s just useless trivia perhaps. But I think it’s interesting enough to warrant its own post as we head into another weekend of clinics.
Ropers do something they call, dally. Which is when they take the rope and wrap it around the saddle horn after they have either headed or heeled the steer. I think I’m describing that right, anyway..
There is a piece of rubber around the horn (usually a piece of inner tube that’s been cut to size) and that is what makes the rope stick.
You dally because you either have a four or five hundred pound steer you are trying to turn for your partner to grab its hind legs, or because you’ve got the hind legs and you’re wrapping up your run and that dally and pull is what stops the clock.
The goal is, to not get any fingers caught up in the mix.
But the Cowboy tells me, “When you pull your slack and you take a wrap you have coils in that hand. If you let go of that ..” OR, “Sometimes you get your thumb caught in when you’re cinching the rope down tight around the saddle horn..” OR, “You put a little twist in the rope and it gets caught going about 30 mph..”
POP goes the thumb.
Like this guys (Story from KBOI2.com): Idaho team roper competing despite loss of thumb http://tinyurl.com/c28p2ct
The Cowboy says, “When you’re in a storm .. When things aren’t going right and you know you’re in trouble, you’re taught to let go. But when you’re roping for a big prize and things are moving fast, you don’t always have time to think.”
The Cowboy (knock on wood) still has both thumbs. But, he says, he’s probably got 5 or 6 friends that are missing theirs.
Like most other athletes though, with any given sports injury .. this particular cowboy along with every other thumbless friend, has gotten right back on that horse.
Is back in the box.
And is giving .. another nod.
I love learning something new each day. I love getting my hands dirty, getting involved, putting myself in situations that challenge me and make me think about who I really am and what I am capable of or able to do.
But there are also many times where I thoroughly appreciate learning something through the eyes of others and sharing their stories.
The owner of the ranch hosting the Cowboy’s roping clinic had this past Sunday asked if I wanted to ride as they were all roping in the arena, and said it’d be a favor to him if I’d run one of his.
So I did. A little bit.
And it didn’t take long for the Cowboy to ask a question I knew would be coming.
“Want to chase a steer?” he says to me.
He’s been after me to give roping a try .. which I’d love to. And I’ve tried my hand at it, very meagerly, on the ground, a few times.
But I’m thinking I need like a year or two, where I can take off of work entirely and do nothing more than rope, to have all that much fun with it. And more importantly, not injure anyone including myself.
It’s an incredibly acquired skill. And while I consider myself blessed to be able to pick up most things quite easily…
This is one sport where I’m concerned I might lose a thumb. (Which isn’t all that uncommon, apparently.) Get completely tossed and break a limb. Maim or plow over the steer because I didn’t better ‘steer’ my horse. Or quite possibly, severely injure the person I would otherwise be roping with. Like throw the rope around them .. and pull.
That .. would .. be .. bad.
“No thanks,” I replied to the Cowboy kind of chuckling under my breath.
The horse I was on would have loved nothing more than to rope that day, too and he was trying to let me know in no uncertain terms he was ancy to get to work doing what all his buddies were. All he wanted to do is run. Fast. And chase more than the air I was giving him up and down the other side of the arena in-between the guys running the steers.
(All my own horse ever wants to do is walk, maybe trot. She fights me to get her to lope. But we’re working on that. It would help if I would get out to ride her more often. That’s a whole other story.)
“C’mon,” said the Cowboy. “Just chase one out, see what it feels like, you don’t have to even have a rope” he added, as he walked me over and into the ‘box’. I tried backing Roper in, kind of. Didn’t feel good about it. And walked him out.
“Not ready for that,” I nervously smiled and said to the Cowboy. He laughed.
‘What is it, about roping that has so many people seemingly addicted to it,’ I asked the Cowboy Sunday night after we had both returned home, my daughter was asleep in bed and I had originally sat down to write this.
“It’s competitive,” he replied. “And it’s kind of addicting. Rodeo is addicting. The people, the competition. The gambling. It’s like gambling, only you have some control over it.”
“Well, in theory you do. Have control over it. You put the money up and you win if you do well. But you have two horses, two cowboys and one steer. A lot can go wrong with that. But if it goes right, it’s great.”
The Cowboy used to practice two to three hours a day .. and have a ranking most others strive for, I believe.
While he’s removed himself the past couple years through life changes from the rodeo circuit for the most part .. and says he doesn’t miss the 10 hour drive to get somewhere, the money it takes on gas and to enter, having to win and knowing if he didn’t the truck payment wouldn’t get made that month ..
He still loves the sport.
And says one of his favorite things now, is helping others learn.
Learn how to get along better with their horse .. how to use their rope better .. how to win more when they do enter.
This past weekend must have been a win for everyone .. because there’s already an invite for next year’s clinic. Same time .. same place ..
Next clinic: next weekend in Wisconsin.
(And I’m thinking I might put down the camera long enough to try a little ground work with the rope, get going on that yearlong or lifelong project to learn this sport, myself.)
We’ve both been on the road and thawing out from too much time in the cold and the rain .. so I haven’t had a chance to really type much. Or very well, anyway. And I’m about to start working to get the kiddos fed while the guys get out the door so – just a few quick observations from the past 24 hours.
I’m not sure how long he’s been holding clinics..
But for quite a few years now, ‘twelve years maybe’ he says as I ask him this morning, the Cowboy travels to wherever he’s asked or hired to go, and he hosts roping clinics.
We are in Minnesota this weekend for his first clinic of 2012 .. and while all it’s done is rain since we arrived, the guys are making the most of it.
Since it’s at a dear friend of the Cowboys .. in fact, the first weekend we ever met in person, he was staying here to hang out and rope .. we’re all in tow. His kids. My daughter.
While the kids love to ride and try their own hand at roping when they go with their dad .. yesterday, we spent a lot of time on ground, running around. Driving around in the Gator. Chasing the dogs.
And at the mall. While usually the two of them are happy to stay and throw their own rope, they preferred going to the mall where it was warm and dry .. and there are lots of fun rides.
The guys stayed and played in the rain …
We’re all hoping for better weather today .. but everyone is getting ready to roll rain or shine.