August 19, 2009



Boy, I tell you what, the weather is hard to track. Three days ago, it was in the high nineties, and I will tell you, fat guys suffer in that deal. Then this morning, it is really fall. In the forties, spitting a little rain, the wind a-whipping across the plains. Green beans from the garden, corn on the cob wanting a little more sun, fresh cucumbers, and new potatoes. It is a wonderful life!
And with fall comes the wrap up of rodeos in the North Country. The finals will be coming up  in Watford in a couple of weeks. They have been held there for the past several years. Been so long, you don’t have to worry about who is going to open gates, or who runs the unsaddling chute. You just know Mark will work the arena. Kelly will be arena director. Connelly will be on the out gate. You know the hamburgers will be perfect and the crowds will be big. It goes off pretty darn smooth, thanks to a lot of volunteers who like a fast rodeo so they can get to the beer garden.
But one thing you never know about is the Wild Ride. Now the wild ride is a no-holds-barred bronc riding. You don’t have to mark your horse out, spur, use one hand, and wear a hat, or anything like that. You just have to get on and make the wildest ride you can. Usually on the wildest horses that can be found in the wildest country in the state.
A couple of years ago, we were a little short of riders for the wild ride. Only two courageous young men came forward. The champion from last year made a heck of a ride on a horse that did everything but pull a knife. Solly won the bronc riding again.
But the second night, thanks to three hundred dollars and maybe a little beer, we were able to entice four young men into getting on the backs of these broncs.
Now one of them came from a bronc riding family. And he came prepared to win the wild ride! He wore a prom dress. I don’t think that this was his normal attire, not that there is anything wrong with that. He wore a prom dress, wig, and was carrying a sack of baby powder to swing at the horse.
One was a local cowboy that hadn’t ridden a bronc before, but was a pretty good hand and thought he should be able to do it.
The third one was a champion to be. In a few years. I suppose he was fourteen or fifteen years old. A heart and a grin as big as the western plains he ranched on. He had a family of brothers that you could go to the river with. Just giving advice and encouragement with smiles that matched their brothers.
The fourth guy had a little problem. He was recruited from the beer garden. He had never ridden a horse before. He had a pretty good beer belly so you couldn’t fasten the safety vest they were required to wear. So they borrowed some tape from the ambulance crew and wrapped tape around and around his body to hold the vest somewhat shut. He had red curly hair and no hat. With his red, curly hair and his fairly ample middle, he reminded me of Joel Heitkamp!
The crowd was on the edge of their seats as the local cowboy came out first. He made it about three seconds. Before bucking off over the horse’s head and landing pretty darn hard. The crowd let out a sigh of relief as he recovered his wind and got to his feet.
The cowboy in the prom dress was next, not that there is anything wrong with that. He made a pretty darn good ride. I think. It was a little hard to see through the cloud of powder that was flying through the air. I thought it was a pretty good ride and the judges seemed to think he was pretty attractive in his blue dress with the V front. Cause they gave him the high marked ride.
The cowboy with the taped on vest went third. His helpers had to show him which hand to hold the rein in. They had to put his feet in the stirrups. We tried to get him to hold on with two hands, but he was out of it. His senses had left him for a safer location to watch the event from. That big old paint bronc bailed out of there like he thought Ty Murray was on his back. He kicked over the back of the chutes, bogged his head, and jumped ten feet in the air. Our cowboy was jerked forward, stood up in his stirrups, and catapulted high into the air.
What goes up must come down. Unless you are gas prices. And that cowboy hit the ground like a ripe melon. It popped that vest open farther. I feared for his life. But you know that old saying. God looks after drunks and fools. The cowboy got right to his feet and the crowd roared its approval.
The last rider was young Eric. He might not have ridden the farthest. But write this down in your little black book. You saw a champion get on his first bronc that night at Watford. This guy will make it happen in a few years. Or else his brothers are going to kill him trying!
We’ll see you at Watford next month. It’s worth the drive!