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Posted 12/12/12 (Wed)

The last few nights have been spent watching the National Finals Rodeo on TV. It’s good on TV, but if you have good tickets at Vegas, it’s a magical rodeo. I haven’t been there for a few years. Shirley doesn’t think I should go. Something about riding the bucking machine and shooting pool in the Jack Daniels tent the last time we were there. I think she made it up because I don’t remember that. But maybe it is like the 60s, if you remember it, you weren’t there.
I got to thinking about rodeo and why I like it as I watched that last go. It has to be the highs and lows. The not knowing what to expect. Or who is going to do it.
I’ve written about a lot of rodeo stuff over the years. From bucking horses and bar room brawls. From  kids crying at rodeos to high school kids sharing memories and horses. And I thought maybe I should just hit a few of the highs and lows I’ve seen over the past few decades. And you always wonder, do the highs outweigh the lows.
It seems like everyone I know has given me highlights, and low spots, as I watched their careers. Carm, tipping the last barrel at the High School Nationals to win the world her sophomore year. I cried. So did she and her mother. But her senior year, she won it and I guess it made it that much sweeter.
Will, winning the state high school steer wrestling title, and then drawing a running steer in the short round at Pueblo. Tom Murphy, winning the Dodge Finals at Pocatello, but breaking out to win Houston. Boy, was he dumb. Birch breaking out to win the average at the NFR, but making it to the finals half a dozen times.
“Tom Collins,” winning the saddle bronc of the year title in North Dakota, and the next year stepping on her bronc rein and breaking her neck. Larry Sandvik, making a run for the world title, a couple of times. And then when he had his best shot, the tail of the flank strap wraps around his neck and jerks him down. Tough luck? Fate? I don’t know. I just watch.
Linseth’s great horse, “Centennial,” coming into the corral one day with an eye knocked out. And a few years later, being one of the top bareback horses at the National Finals.
“Cyclone,” a great bull we had, breaking a leg, after going for years unridden. He spun so hard, that after we butchered him, if you didn’t cook your hamburgers well done, you couldn’t keep them on your plate.
The year we had a triple crown in the NDRA. Saddle Bronc of the Year, “Tom Collins.” Bareback of the Year, “Bobby Sox.” Bull of the Year, “White Lightning.”
And I guess the best thing is watching cowboys and cowgirls grow up in this sport and learn to share and compete. Watching Rod Lyman haze for Frank Thompson in the steer wrestling, knowing it would probably cost him the title. Hearing Billy Etbauer apologize for winning the world, cause he was cheering for Scott Johnston, who was bucked off. Seeing Roy Cooper go over the two million dollar mark. Over four decades. And thinking that a baseball player, who wins half his games, gets four times that much a year. And probably isn’t happy.
Ah, heck, it’s a lot of fun. Buy your kids a horse and build a pen. It teaches more about life than they can learn in a book. Just don’t expect  them to get rich!