Thursday, June 19, 2008

Coming Around Again

Okay, boys, bring it on! DING DING DING DING DING Here comes The Stockyard Queen’s Hoof in Mouth Award, being presented for the third time in just over a month! This time, the lucky winner is 19-year-old Reese Cates, for his stellar blog post on the PBR website. It started out innocently enough when Cates remarked that “Personally speaking, I think getting in the truck and driving from one event to another is what riding bulls is all about. . . . Flying from one place to the next and staying in one city all weekend is not rodeoing. It’s definitely easy that way—maybe more convenient—but, to me, that’s not what makes you a bull rider.”

So far, so good, though I thought what made you a bull rider was getting on bulls, not driving and sleeping for 24 hours straight. But then he had to go and say this: “And there was something that I was thinking about this weekend and it’s going to make a lot of people unhappy, but I will go out on a limb and say: Guilherme and Valdiron are great bull riders—two of the best ever—but I don’t think those Brazilians could handle being gone like that—the mentality it takes. I don’t think they could take it. It would start to bother them about being away from home. It would bother them about not being able to work out everyday. I don’t know if those guys could handle getting on that many bulls. I’ve never seen them at very many Challenger events so I don’t know if they could take it or not. You could take the top Brazilians in the world and match them up against the top Americans and let them haul all summer long and I just think the Americans would win. It’s the cowboy mentality and that’s what it takes to do it.”

Of course, my first inclination was to jump on the comments board and rip poor Reese’s head clear off, but fortunately I managed to restrain myself, and other people with better impulse control and greater reserves of kindness did point out to him two of the errors of his ways. First off, the Brazilians are already away from home, every damned day they are in this country, in a place where their native tongue isn’t spoken and the customs are totally different. Second, every one of those guys had to pay his dues to get to the Built Ford Tough Series, just like Reese is paying his, right now. Nobody pointed out something equally obvious, which is that Brazil and a stack of other Central and South American countries have cowboy traditions that go back as far or further than does ours. I’d be willing to bet good money that some of those Argentine gauchos could outride, rope, throw, and brand your average Texas cowpoke.

But I actually am willing to cut Reese a little slack because he is young. Very young. I don’t think I was that young when I was 10, to be frank. He and I also have something else in common, which I won’t elaborate on here, that makes me want to give him the benefit of the doubt. It remains to be seen whether I have to shove him out of the “young” category and over into the “young and incurably stupid” pile, and only time will tell that.

But his ignorant remarks led me to think about something my first boss said that probably helped me be a better employee than anything anyone has ever pointed out to me. She remarked that we all want to believe that our strong suit is the most important contributing factor to getting the job done successfully, and generally, it’s not. For instance—if I happen to be a morning person and I get in to work an hour early every day, then of course I think everybody ought to believe getting in early is really valuable. Which it might be sometimes, but mostly, it’s not. And by the same token, I’d want everybody to think the fact that I was so tired by the end of the day I couldn’t see straight was okay, when of course, it isn’t.

I surmise from his remarks that young Reese Cates thinks that since he’s so good at drivin’ and sleepin’, those abilities are most important to being a bull rider. Here’s a reality check: Drivin’ and sleepin’ don’t make you a cowboy or a bull rider. Being willing to drive and sleep from one event to the next doesn’t make you a damned thing, except almost certainly worn out, which I doubt will help your game much when you finally climb out of the extended cab and onto the back of a bull. And for sure you’re going to have to win a pile of money to not be broke, what with $5 gasoline on the horizon. I’m pretty damned sure those boys aren’t driving Priuses, assuming they are willing to drive something not made in ’Merica, or even Ford Escape Hybrids, for that matter.

One final observation: It might interest you, Mr. Cates, to know that when you were about seven, I went to work for a real cowboy, one who was making cowboy movies before my parents were born. I suppose some folks would argue that because he didn't cowboy much before he came to Hollywood, he wasn't a real cowboy, but nobody would dare to state he didn't become a fine horseman before he hung up his spurs. And the man had a closet full of cowboy clothes to die for. I'm talking a real clothes horse, right down to the custom, handmade Lucchese boots.

I never got to spend much time with him, though I’d see him around the place once in a while and speak to him, casually, the way you might speak to the CEO of your company if you were the low man on the security force, say. Way back in the day, he made a movie, Rancho Grande, with a little gal named Mary Lee, in which they sang a duet, “Old Cowhand from the Rio Grande.” As it happens, he wasn’t the first to sing that song in a movie—that distinction belongs to Bing Crosby, who crooned it in Rhythm on the Range. The lyrics were written by the immortal Johnny Mercer, and the second verse goes like this:

I’m an old cowhand from the Rio Grande,
And I learned to ride ’fore I learned to stand.
I’m a ridin’ fool who is up-to-date
I know ev’ry trail in the
Lone Star State
Cause I ride the range in a Ford V-Eight.

Now, when that song was written in 1936, every real cowboy would have laughed his ass off at the suggestion that you could drive a Ford rather than ride a horse, and still claim to be a cowboy. So much for the drivin’ and sleepin’ theory of cowboyhood.

In the meantime, guys, would you just think about what you’re saying for maybe five seconds before you go shooting your mouths off, please? You’re wearing the finish off this damned trophy! At this rate, I’ll have to put these boys on the payroll to keep dragging it around for me, unless I can make the points fairy an offer he can’t refuse.


Ronelle said...

[i]Here’s a reality check: Drivin’ and sleepin’ don’t make you a cowboy or a bull rider. Just because you’re willing to drive and sleep from one event to the next doesn’t make you a damned thing, except almost certainly worn out[/i]
No kidding! Not to mention cranky. Driving/sleeping three states in three days isn't really something to be worn like a badge of honor. All it means is that someone likes to do things the hard way. Doing things the hard way doesn't necessarily build character-it just makes the rest of us wonder about the doer's sanity. Especially if there's a viable (and easier) alternative.

Stockyard Queen said...

There's a reason why one of the first things people quit doing as soon as they can afford to is driving straight through to anywhere that takes more than, say, six hours. Because it's no damned fun, that's why. It ranks right up there with moving yourself, in my book. If I ever move again, I swear somebody is going to have to PACK and MOVE me. I'm not packing a thing besides the dogs' dishes and one overnight bag.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read Reese's blog yet, but I do believe most of the Brazilians have wives and children to attend to during the week. And, Guilherme's wife is about to give birth, so why would he want to drive around from event to event and sleep in his truck when his son could be born any minute? Also, some of them own ranches, so they need to go home to be a real cowboy and do real cowboy work on their ranch!

You're right about cowboys. From Wikipedia: The word "cowboy" appeared in the English language by 1725. It appears to be a direct English translation of vaquero, a Spanish word for an individual who managed cattle while mounted on horseback. It was derived from vaca, meaning "cow." This Spanish word has a long history, developed from the Latin word vacca. Another English word for a cowboy, buckaroo, is an Anglicization of vaquero. At least one linguist has speculated that the word "buckaroo" derives from the Arabic word bakara or bakhara, also meaning "heifer" or "young cow", and may have entered Spanish during the centuries of Islamic rule.

Reese is young and naive. Guess we’ll watch him grow up before our eyes…

Stockyard Queen said...

One of the advantages of being married to a historian of the American West is that I have my own walking Wikipedia right at my fingertips! And of course the Spanish were in Central and South America, and in California and other parts of the American Southwest, from way back, long before the English and French and Dutch hit the beaches on the East Coast. Didn't El Paso celebrate 500 years of continuous habitation back in about 1998?

Anonymous said...

What a great post! Lot to think about, in it. Meanwhile, please consider that world-class athletes from EVERY sport are NOT, necessarily, skilled in other areas like talking, writing, answering questions, paying attention to the www, or even knowing which side of the bed they should rise from, etc. God bless 'em.

- J.

Stockyard Queen said...

You're absolutely right about that, Jay, and I've commented on it before, but still--Reese's blog is on the PBR website! It's sanctioned by the organization itself! I guess we should be grateful that apparently they aren't censoring anybody, but it does seem to me that if you're going to let somebody represent you, you should expect him to think about how what he's saying might be interpreted. "I write like I talk" is not an okay excuse. When my writing students would tell me that, I always said, "Don't."

shannon said...

What I did like about Reese's post is that, up to a certain point, it was very thoughtful and very obvious that he loved his life right now. He knows what he wants to do and has fun doing it. Whether I agree with his opinions or not, I'll give him credit for that much. I still wasn't sure what I wanted to do at 19.

I'm putting him in the young and naive category, too. I wouldn't be surprised if his attitude changed in a few years. I doubt Chris Shivers, Justin, Mike Lee et al are doing that much driving these days.

There's not much more I can add about the Brazilians. You all and others on the blog have said everything. I think Reese just didn't consider that they were very young and new once, too, and had to pay their dues just like he is doing now.

I don't know much about the American West or any cowboys in general. I find it odd that I enjoy bull riding as much as I do because, other than the horses, I never much cared for what I knew of the lifestyle. I didn't even care for Westerns in movies and on tv. But, I'm sure you are right that they were made of even sturdier stock than what Reese thinks he and the others are made of.

If he sticks around, I'll be interested to see if and how he changes over the years.

Stockyard Queen said...

I recall from Fried Twinkies that as recently as the 2004 season, Ross Coleman was one of the biggest hell-raisers on the tour, and now here he is, married, a dad, settling down nicely. Those few years between about 18 and 25 are the ones when most of us do most of our growing up, I think, if we're ever going to do it. I just hope Reese and all the other young guns manage to stick it out on the tour till they get a little more judgment.

shannon said...

Good point, Jay. I understand what you are saying. I guess like SQ, I don't think I was that young at 10. Yes, I've said and done some things I regret, but for the most part, I try to be careful. Even when I post comments in blogs like these, I watch how I phrase things and go over it a few times making changes if necessary.


but still--Reese's blog is on the PBR website! It's sanctioned by the organization itself! I guess we should be grateful that apparently they aren't censoring anybody, but it does seem to me that if you're going to let somebody represent you, you should expect him to think about how what he's saying might be interpreted.

Is something I think about a lot. It could take me into a long tangent, but I'll just simply say that I agree.

Anonymous said...

yall r gay, none of yall even no reese as a person, so y dont yall put yalls foot in yalls mouth