The 4th of July weekend means different things to different people. Each of us may have a special memory of some 4th of July. Maybe it’s when you got married or had a baby or took that vacation to Yellowstone. To a lot of folks in the livestock business it means RODEO.
The Independence Day that stands out in my mind was years ago. The big rodeo at White Oaks, New Mexico. You probably won’t find White Oaks in your Rand McNally since it’s a ghost town but it’s down around Carrizozo and Capitan north of the Mescalero Indian reservation. It wasn’t exactly a card carryin’ PRCA show so it was right down my alley!
Two pardners and I arrived the mornin’ of the fourth in a fish drownin’ hat soakin’, slicker testin’ downpour! We entered up without looking at he stock. Just then the arena director on a four-wheel drive came up the draw drivin’ the bucking stock. There were mares and colts, range, ready and to say they were thin, would be kind. The bull ridin’ turned out to be cow ridin’ (they also doubled as doggin’ stock).
The facilities were not quite National Finals approved. The arena was two football fields long and fenced in by sheep wire and cedar posts. The chute gate was made out of airport landing and baling-wired to a railroad tie. Airport landing, for those of you who weren’t in the Seabees in the Pacific is a sheet of corrugated steel, six foot by eight foot and dotted with grapefruit sized holes. Each sheet weighed about three hundred pounds!
By the time the tape deck played “Barebackers get Ready,” the arena was a ‘five buckle deep’ quagmire!
This was to be Conrad’s first bareback ride. We got the riggin’ down on the fightin’ mare and I lent him my spurs. We kept whispering instructions and encouraging words. He reared back, pointed his toes and nodded his head.
The four men on the airport landing grunted it open about eighteen inches where it stuck! The mare bolted to the daylight. Con’s first voluntary leg movement ended by lodging his left spur in a hole in the corrugated steel sheet! He had one hand in the riggin’ and one foot stuck fast to the chute gate.
He bravely hung on until he was twenty feet long from hand to toe! Then he lost his grip and dangled, head down, from the gate, his hat cutting a furrow in the mud as he swung back and forth like a pendulum.
“All that cowboy gets is your applause!”
My turn came and they lowered me down on the mustang’s back. It was like straddling a two by eight. I called for the pony.
We escaped the chute but she never bucked! She broke in to a dead run and covered the two hundred yards like the starship Enterprise! It was beginnin’ to look like she might not slow down. I bailed out just before she cleared the arena fence and lit out for parts unknown.
By the end of the rodeo I looked like a dyin’ duck in a thunderstorm, Con’s ankle was the size of his head and the chute was in pieces. We were lucky, though. I heard later a feller broke his leg and one of the doggers was never found!
Baxter Black is a cowboy poet, former large animal veterinarian and entertainer of the agricultural masses. As he puts it, “he has a narrow following, but it’s deep!” He resides in Benson, Arizona. Additional information about him can be found at baxterblack.com.