Thursday, July 31, 2008

MacKenzie Speaks: Exercising Mom

Hi, folks! I know, you’re all wondering where I’ve been all this time, and I have to tell you, I am just about totally worn out. My mom has been really tense lately because there hasn’t been any bull riding on the television for weeks. She’s been moody and awful and she hasn’t let me drag the other dogs around by their heads hardly at all since the PBR in Dallas was on the tube. In fact, she’s sprayed me so much with that darned spray bottle that I actually am sort of getting used to it, but I still run away when she grabs it because if she figures out that I’m not afraid of it anymore, she’ll come up with something even worse. Like a fire hose, or maybe pepper spray.

Anyway, since I am the guardian of this family, old lady dogs and hostile cats included, I knew I’d have to take it upon myself to make sure my mom didn’t go completely bonkers. And the cure for being all pent up is exercise, right? So I decided that my mom really needed to get off her fanny and burn up some of that hostility, and I convinced her the only way I know how—I bounced around and ran over the other dogs and charged outside and barked at the garbage men and the Pooperman and the Chem Lawn guys. And it worked! In less than a week, she and I started walking every weekday morning.

One thing in my favor is that my mom is sort of like a plant—when the sun is up, she’s up, and since the sun comes up around 5 up here in the north country during the summer, and doesn’t set till almost 10 at night, that means that she’s awake most of the time. My dad has more sense than to wake up that early, so my mom doesn’t have anything to do for a more than an hour before he gets up. The other thing about my dad is, I’m the only one who’s allowed to talk to him when he first rolls out of bed. I hop up on the couch and wiggle my butt and lick his face, and he pets me, but then he shambles off to get the cup of coffee my mom is holding out to him and he doesn’t say another word till he’s eaten about half his breakfast. At first I thought my mom was just being pissy when she wouldn’t try to get him to talk, but finally I figured out that he’s not awake yet. I guess maybe she’s had more practice at this than I have. But it makes me feel so good, that he wants to talk to me first!

Anyway, I convinced my mom to get up and take me for a walk, and I must say, it’s working out splendidly. She puts my collar on me and hooks up my leash, and off we go into the early morning. It is usually just a little bit hazy up on the mountains, and we walk to the end of the block and I let her decide which way we will go. I figure that since I’m making her do this, she might as well think she’s in control, right?

We take a different route every morning—I can’t have her getting bored. But I like it best when we walk north, cross the big street, and then walk along a little park in a new subdivision that is mostly undeveloped. My mom says that the city fathers showed good sense when they required the developers to set aside a certain amount of land for parks in every subdivision. I have to agree, since if they hadn’t done that, our house would back right up to somebody else’s back yard and I wouldn’t get to bark at all the dogs who walk their owners down the little trail behind our house. You can see all kinds of crazy doggies out there, and all their crazy people too—little Yorkies walking with big brawny guys, and a bunch of hound dogs, and some spaniels, and mutts, of course, and even a couple of Aussies (none of them as handsome as me).

But my favorite has to be Eiger, a Bernese Mountain Dog who is a little younger than I am. He lives down on the corner and one Sunday, when his folks had taken him hiking and then come back to the house, they let him out of the car and he hot-footed it over to see us. I guess he’d been seeing my sisters and me playing out back and he wanted to play, too. If you don’t know what a Bernese Mountain Dog looks like, click on the link to see a picture.

As you can see, he’s even bigger than I am. I keep trying to convince my folks that when they get another puppy, they need to get one like Eiger, but they’re waffling about that. Sometimes they think they’d like to have a really big dog, like this Mastiff. Of course, Mastiffs aren’t Rhodes Scholars, but I heard my mom tell a friend the other day that intelligence in dogs is way over-rated. That hurt my feelings a little bit, because I thought she loved me for my brains, but I guess it must be for my looks and my sweet personality.

Then other times, they think they’ll just go with the flow and get a tiny little dog, a Yorkie or maybe a dachshund. I guess they might be influenced by the fact that when I went to puppy obedience classes, my best friend was a Yorkie named Henry, but you’d think all my shoving these old lady dogs around would have taught them something by now.

Anyway, when we walk north, we don’t get to go by Eiger’s house. My mom didn’t believe I knew where he lived until one day we were walking along and she said, “Eiger lives here, MacKenzie.” I jumped and started looking around for him, but she was just teasing me. His people let him sleep in. I’d like to, of course, but I’m sacrificing myself for the good of the order.

But walking north is really nice, because we get to walk along the park and I get to dodge the sprinklers, and there are lots of bushes and prairie dog holes to sniff. One problem is that my mom seems to think that once we get outside, we have to go, go, go, go, go! And she never wants to stop and smell the bushes, let alone pee on them. How can she tell who’s been by since we came that way last? And how will they know we’ve been here, if I don’t pee on them all just a little? She’s pretty good about letting me stop sometimes, but after about four or five halts, she gets impatient and yanks on my leash and I know I have to get moving.

Then we cross the street into an area where there aren’t too many houses yet, although Habitat for Humanity is building two duplexes side by side on one corner. We walk up the middle of the street, because there aren’t any sidewalks over there and the ground is pretty rough. We amble up to the corner and turn east and then we can really see the Bridger Mountains. At that time of day, the sun is up but it’s not quite above Bozeman Pass yet, so it isn’t shining in our faces. We turn back south and walk down a long stretch with nothing on either side, and usually my mom will cut across on one of the side streets, because she doesn’t like walking along a busy street too much. Of course the only people who are out are construction workers on their way to work, but they all drive big bad-ass trucks and they drive too fast and talk on their cell phones and make big wide turns, and a lot of noise. And boy, do they stink!

Sometimes we see the lady who jogs in bicycle shorts, and the lady who walks all the way down to the corner and then turns around and comes back, and the guy who jogs past us as we are heading for home, and there’s even a lady who rollerblades early in the morning. We hardly see any other dogs, though, I guess because most dogs walk their people on the trail and we usually don’t walk there. That’s all the fault of the old ladies, by the way. One morning mom and I turned at the corner by Eiger’s house and walked up the trail, and all three of the old lady dogs ran outside and barked at us till long after we were out of sight. I guess my mom wasn’t too pleased, because we haven’t done that again.

By the time we get back home, the sun is up and my mom is nice and relaxed. Of course that only lasts till we get inside, because then I have to get the other dogs into their proper positions for breakfast and that’s a noisy process. It’s amazing my dad can sleep through it. Sometimes my mom gets so mad she goes for the spray bottle and then I have to run outside and sit on the deck till everybody calms down. I really don’t understand why she doesn’t care if they all just mill around like a bunch of lost sheep, but maybe it’s because she’s a person and I’m a sheep dog. She just doesn’t understand me sometimes.

But in general, I have to say that dragging her out for a walk in the morning is a big success. It takes her mind off the fact that she hasn’t seen any bulls hop in a while and it gets her out from in front of the computer, where I think she’d sit 24/7 when no bulls are bucking, if I weren’t here.

There’s only one problem—I’ve done such a good job of convincing my folks that I’m the one who needs exercise that on the weekends, my mom makes my dad take me out for a long, hard walk. Last Sunday, he drove me out to Hyalite Reservoir and we walked all the way up the hill to a waterfall. By the time we got up there, I was so hot and tired that I didn’t even care that the waterfall was a lot like a big spray bottle, I just walked right into it. When we got back to the house, all I could do was lie on the floor with my head on the air conditioning vent, and pant. I’ve got to figure out how to tell my dad that I really don’t need all this, it’s just to keep my mom sane. I mean, it’s my job and all and I take it seriously, but everybody should get the weekend off, right?

The Daily Shout-Out

This afternoon, I want to send a personal shout-out to my good friend Jenny, who has been looking in on us from the fair state of Vermont. Oddly enough, we've starting getting hits from several towns in Vermont, none of which are where Miss Jenny is presently residing. But I did some of that voodoo that I do so well, and I am pretty confident that she's coming to me via the lovely town of Waitsfield, population 1,422.


And an extra Sa--lute to Miss Jenny because she schooled me in how to create the link above, so now you folks don't have to put up with long-ass URLs that don't work. A two-fisted Sa--lute to you, Jenny! I hope your stay in Vermont is lovely.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Daily Shout-Out

Today, we welcome our visitor from Karlsruhe, Germany, population 285,812.

Glad to have you with us!


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Daily Shout-Out

The Stockyard Queen salutes our visitor from Katy, Texas, population 11,775.

Sal-ute! Drop us a note the next time you stop by!

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Daily Shout-Out

Good morning, friends and neighbors, it's Monday and it's beautiful here. Today we are introducing a new feature, the formatting of which may shift a bit as we perfect our layout. But we are starting to get quite a lot of hits from lots of places, and we want to acknowledge and thank each of you who checks in on us from time to time. So every day, we will give a shout to someone who has dropped by recently.

This morning, we salute our visitor from Pittson, Pennsylvania, population 7,753.


Friday, July 25, 2008

What's the Big Deal?

Over the past few weeks, a couple of friends who have been really good sports about being pelted with notices of new posts on this site nevertheless have made the egregious mistake of referring to my current obsession as “rodeo.” On those occasions, I have felt obliged to gently correct them by explaining that “THIS IS NOT A RODEO! THIS IS THE ONE AND ONLY PBR!”

Fortunately, they don’t take my blustering seriously, and in both cases I scrupulously pointed out that I was quoting the loud-mouthed announcement made before Built Ford Tough Series events, not just getting in a snit and blasting them out of their cubicles with capital letters for the hell of it. One of the folks in question, who has generously posted a link to this blog on her own, and has on a couple of occasions even linked to specific posts, good-naturedly suggested that I should write a post explaining why the distinction is such a big deal.

I guess on the face of it, nothing about bull riding is a big deal, since it is strictly entertainment and we all have much bigger gefiltes to fry, as my BFF Elisabeth is wont to say. There’s a whole lot going on in the country and in the world at large, and to most un-obsessed people, making a distinction between rodeo and bull riding looks like needless hair-splitting. Maybe it is. On the other hand, nobody who’s seen a rodeo would ever mistake a PBR event for the same thing. Distinctions do make a difference, and it’s important to call a spade a spade, and all that rot. Auto racing fans, for instance, willingly lose their minds if we ignoramuses mistake, say, formula one for Nascar or funny cars for drag racers, so I think I am justified in wanting to keep the record straight about which sport I follow. And that sport is the Professional Bull Riders (PBR).

So bear with me while I split some hairs here. First, let’s tackle the all-important question: “Why bull riding?” Rodeo is comprised of a bunch of events that tend to vary somewhat regionally, but generally include calf roping, steer wrestling, barrel racing and sometimes goat-tying for the ladies (about which, more later), and the three “rough-stock” competitions—bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, and bull riding—which typically take place at the end of the evening. Ty Murray, one of the founding fathers and current president of the Professional Bull Riders, is a seven-time world champion all-around cowboy, which means that he dominated all three rough-stock events seven times, and he has the buckles, and the injuries, to prove it. Murray won all of his titles in Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) competitions. In 1992, he was one of 21 cowboys who ponyed up $1,000 each to start the Professional Bull Riders, and after he won his seventh all-around title in 1998, he shifted his attention to the PBR, winning the 1999 Finals and becoming reserve PBR Bud Light Cup World Champion each of the next three years. In 2002, he retired at the age of 32, while he could still walk. In his fourteen-year-career, he sustained horrific injuries and endured many surgeries, including having both knees and both shoulders rebuilt, but from the beginning of his career he understood that he wouldn’t compete forever, and thus he was prudent with his money. That’s something that can’t be said of a lot of other rodeo riders. I have a notion that for a bunch of the founders of the PBR, coming up with that $1,000 was difficult and represented a huge leap of faith.

I find it very interesting that despite his domination of all three categories of rough-stock competition, Murray chose to help start the PBR. I don’t know that Murray has ever expressed a preference for any of the three events, but I’m betting on practically no evidence that bull riding was the event that had won his heart. He might well have been one of those guys who, prior to the establishment of the PBR, hung around the bucking chutes waiting for the goat tying and the steer wrestling to be over, so the bull riding could commence. Certainly that was my dad’s attitude when he introduced me to bull riding. He used to buy box seats at the local rodeo each summer, and we always had to stay till the bitter end, because he loved to watch the clowns (now “bullfighters”) work the bulls at the end of the evening.

Now, it might be hard to call bull riding the glamour sport of rodeo, what with all the snot and dirt and shit that gets slung when the cowboy calls for the gate, and the outfits the guys wear can’t compete with the skin-tight spandex pants and spangled shirts that bedeck the barrel racers, but still, it’s definitely Elvis, and all the rest are just opening acts. In any rodeo event, the man- (or woman-) versus-beast element is at play, but it’s most obvious and most arresting in bull riding.

And bull riding is the event that plainly has no connection with what working cowboys do. In my book, steer wrestling, barrel racing, and goat tying are just plain made-up competitions that barely rate acknowledgment. I don’t know why any self-respecting cowboy or cowgirl would dirty his/her hands in them. I’d throw wild cow milking and wild horse races into that heap as well, but Barn Cat differs with me about those. I’d gladly reconsider if somebody can name one ranch where those things happen in the course of running the place. Calf roping, bareback bronc riding, and saddle bronc riding, on the other hand, certainly take place on ranches and farms to this day. But bull riding is clearly the brainchild of some demented (and quite possibly drunken) fool who suddenly took it into his head to try to ride one of those mean sons of bitches.

Furthermore, the sport is beautiful. The animals, like the cowboys, range from drop-dead gorgeous to butt-crack ugly, but when bull and rider combine for an exceptional ride, no other sport can equal it. The way those animals can jump, the heights they can achieve, the fact that they can throw their heels six and seven feet above their heads and sling their butts in one direction and their heads and forequarters in another, makes it absolutely astonishing to witness. If a rider can stick with that kind of action, it brings to mind Vaslav Fomich Nijinsky and his impossible leaps, or Niccolò Paganini or Robert Johnson, both of whom, it is said, sold their souls to the devil in exchange for musical talent. It’s that amazing, and that death-defying.

Which brings us to the real allure of the sport: It’s dangerous. As in potentially deadly. People have died, trying to ride bulls. It’s not for nothing that the cowboys say, “In bull riding, it’s not if you’re going to get hurt. It’s when, and how bad.” You have all the elements for disaster, right there in the chute—an animal weighing from 1,200 to 2,000 pounds, tall or short or rangy or compact, penned up in a tight spot, harboring a bad attitude and a determination to put you on the ground, and quite possibly to whack you in the head or to stomp the daylights out of you for good measure. The sport has all the appeal of a slow-moving train wreck, and it’s nearly impossible to look away, no matter how awful it gets.

So my answer to “Why bull riding?” is “Given the choice, why on earth would you sit through all the rest of those rodeo events?” Truly. I’ve been to a lot of rodeos and I can honestly say I can’t remember a single one of those steer wrestlers or calf ropers or barrel racers, nor can I even recall a bronc ride of either variety that really stuck with me. I am not disputing for one second the athletic ability of the competitors or their toughness or their “try,” but I feel the same way about watching, say, lacrosse or curling. I’m just not interested.

Furthermore, I can’t watch women competing in goat tying or barrel racing without getting mad. Those are ridiculous and demeaning competitions dreamed up only so the ladies would have something to do besides race horseback around the arena with the American flag during the opening ceremonies—in other words, be eye candy—or hang around the chutes and hand out beers and encouragement to the boys. I will grant you that those (for the most part) tiny little barrel racers on horses that they just barely seem able to control do suggest Evel Knievel gamely clinging to his Skycycle as he launched out over the Snake River, evoking yet again the train-wreck factor, but my indignation always wins out over my lurid fascination with impending doom. It wasn’t that long ago, gentlemen, that women in fringed buckskin split-skirts competed in rodeos, often against men—yes, even at events as prestigious as the Pendleton Roundup. If you doubt me, take a look at these links: and

I’m sure some of you guys are laughing your asses off right this second at the idea of women riding bulls. I have looked at the information on the PBR website about membership and I see nothing that specifically forbids women applying, though I do see a sexist allusion to riders having the opportunity “to win money riding against the toughest contenders—both man and beast—in the world.” My advice, boys, is, don’t look back. They might be gaining on you.

So, why the PBR? There are a few other options for followers of the sport, such as X-Treme Bulls, but I pay not the slightest attention to them anymore. A friend of mine couldn't even convince me to go down to Cody over the 4th of July to see one such competition. Out of desperation, I gave X-Treme Bulls and even some PRCA rodeos a shot during this long dry spell between televised PBR Events and as far as I’m concerned, that’s just cheating on my man. I’m reformed, folks. I will not stray from the straight and narrow again.

Yes, I’ve tried them all and I’m convinced the best bull riding takes place at PBR events. What those boys did with their $1,000 each, to their everlasting credit, was to create a competition that is ONLY bull riding, and lots of it, with the best bulls they could wrangle. At your average rodeo, you might see 15 attempted bull rides at the end of the evening, and the high scoring rider would win the pot. There are some variations in PBR BFTS events, depending on whether the competition runs more than one night, but there is always at least one long round, when up to 45 riders compete, and one short round, when the 10 to 15 cowboys with the best scores ride again. The bulls in the first round typically are good bulls, though they may not be great. But when the gate swings open for the short-go, the rank pen is in the house, and it’s Katy, bar the door. For both quantity and quality, no competition, none, has bulls that equal the ones that buck at the PBR. They are, hands down, the best in the sport.

Finally, I think, one piece of the puzzle rarely commented on is the element of coercion. While it’s undoubtedly true that the bulls were bred, and born, to buck, nobody asked them if they wanted to become bucking bulls. I suppose you can argue that bucking is better than being trucked to McDonalds, but still, it’s impossible to escape the fact that animals are being compelled to perform for our entertainment. Thus it’s really heartening that in the average competition, 60 percent or better of the bulls win the fight. It’s their chance to get even, to put the cowboys in the dirt, and most of them seem to relish the opportunity. Given the fact that the cowboys do choose to climb on top of the bulls, I can respect their bravery, but up to some level short of outright mayhem, I think they pretty much deserve whatever happens to them. In theory, they’re the ones who can reason, right?

So, Mr. Reindeer Dippin’, when you come whirling out of that chute, look to the stands and you’ll see me there. I’m your biggest fan.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The PBR Comes to Bozeman

This is how you know you’re at a PBR event in Montana: You’re wandering around beneath the bleachers, looking for the beer booth, which turns out to be a folding table and a bunch of coolers, manned by some young strapping sorts who look like they might have wrestled some steers, or maybe bears, recently. Montana Barn Cat steps up and orders two Budweisers, proving yet again his farsightedness and ability to plan, since you well know that once you’re crammed onto the stadium seats with all the other attendees, it will require a block and tackle and an act of God to get you out again.

The young man hands Barn Cat his beers and looks at you for your order, but your eye has settled on a sign that says “mixed drinks.” “Do you really have mixed drinks?” you inquire. The young man gestures toward another table to the left and says, “Chad over there has everything, he can take care of you, ma’am.”

So you waltz over with Montana Barn Cat in tow, because even though you’re a confirmed feminist fully capable of making your own way in the world, you’re determined that he is going to buy you the first drink of the evening. This might have something to do with the fact that you have spent the past two hours ducking out of the rain and into the livestock barns, admiring chickens and lambs and horses, or maybe it’s because you have busted your tail all week with precious little to show for it, and you’re ready to have a good time. At the mixed drink table, Chad snaps to attention and inquires what you’d like. “I’ll have a Jack on the rocks,” you tell him. Barn Cat produces a $10 for the $4 drink and hands it over. Chad looks at you and says, “You want a double, then?”

Well, now that you’d mentioned it, Chad, yes, I did. It had been raining on and off for several hours, just a nice, cold, steady patter, and I knew I wasn’t likely to pry myself off the bleachers to get another drink, so set it up, Chad. It wasn’t till we were walking away that I wondered what he’d have offered me if Barn Cat had given him a $20. Five shots, maybe?

It had started to rain while I was getting dressed. Barn Cat hadn’t gotten home from work yet, so I turned on the television to get some expert advice. Chrome Dome informed me that we would have intermittent showers, a few lightning strikes, and a little wind over the next few hours, but that it wouldn’t be torrential. The radar picture seemed to confirm this, but since the radar unit is behind some hill over by Great Falls and is notoriously inept at picking up storms over Bozeman, that wasn’t necessarily comforting. I debated my planned costume for a few minutes and then gave the full-on cowgirl outfit the deep six, since I figured the parking lot would be ankle-deep in mud that would be, as a friend once described it, “slicker than cat shit.” Barn Cat came in as I was putting on my makeup. He was in a fever to get over to the fairgrounds, because of course, those chickens had been waiting all day to see him and they were getting pretty impatient. At the last second, I threw one of his denim shirts on over my tee-shirt and we were off.

As it worked out, I might as well have gone in overalls, hip boots, and a Hefty Bag poncho, because we got good and wet just walking in from the parking lot. If I had been demented enough to wear my cowboy boots, I’d probably still be out there, or else I’d be in the hospital in traction. Why I bothered to wash my hair, or put on makeup, I’ll never know. Both were pretty much trashed before we reached the ticket booth, except for the waterproof mascara that you can’t take off with a hydrogen bomb. We’d bought our tickets in advance, so we hustled right into the first building, where there were informational booths about the sheriff’s department and John Deere tractors and such, and a huge line of people trying to buy burgers and dogs. We hot-footed it out of there and across a long, wet stretch that borders the carnival, on our way to the Miller Pork booth, where we snagged plates of grilled tenderloin, and then headed to the Haynes Pavillion to find a seat.

Barn Cat finished eating first (he always does), so he went off to inspect the alpacas with the funny haircuts. He was heading to the petting zoo when I tracked him down and dismayed him by announcing that I wanted more food. I was mostly motivated by a note I’d gotten from a friend earlier that day, urging me to have a corndog, because she’d been to the Sheridan rodeo the weekend before and hadn’t had one. So off we went in search of something fried. As we sauntered away from the food trailer, a woman behind me commented, “See, that lady has everything she’s ever wanted, right there on a stick.” Maybe I shouldn’t have ordered the foot-long.

To make matters more interesting, neither of us had a timepiece. Considering that between us we have four watches and two cell phones, that was a miracle on the order of the loaves and fishes. So we got to the stadium a little earlier than we did last year, but since it was raining, everybody else had had the same idea—get there first and get a seat under the roof. Actually, that’s the usual plan regardless of the weather, because if you can sit under the roof, you don’t have the sun in your face till very late in the evening. Of course, there were no seats left under the roof by the time we got there, so Barn Cat took charge and found us space at the very end of the bleachers, where the steel was nice and wet and the standing water immediately soaked into our jeans when we finally sat down.

Now, I know what you’re thinking—that despite our provisions, we were wet and miserable and cold, and the event started late and ran later and it was a school night, and we were jostled by drunken fans and forced to endure them singing along with Flint’s dreadful soundtrack, and all in all we had a wretched time. All of that could be true, but it isn’t. We had a great time.

Even though it was raining when we sat down, and the lady next to me insisted on shaking the water off her umbrella and into my hair, it’s hard to imagine a prettier sight than the Bridger Mountains to the north of the stadium, unless it would be the rainbow that appeared to the east as the rain eventually let up. The guys in the booth finally worked out their problems with the sound system (wet wires, most likely) and the music started and the big screen at our left lit up with footage of the riders out on our local motocross course. There were some shots that my female readers would certainly have appreciated, of the boys getting into their motorcycle riding gear in a trailer, and then the scene cut to Cord McCoy advising us that he was about to attempt a 100-foot jump. He strapped on his helmet and fired up his hosses and off he went, racing down the little hills and jumping over the ditches, till finally he gunned his engine and went sailing off the top of one big pile of dirt, over the huge dip in front of him, landing as lightly as a butterfly on the hill before him. I’d say, 100 feet and then some. Watching him, I wondered if perhaps Cord missed his calling with this bull-riding business. He could have been a serious contender in motocross, I think.

The video then cuts back to Cord, sipping on a Red Bull and expounding on how great it is to ride a bull well and get a nice round from the audience. He roared off for another circuit of the course and my good buddy Reese Cates remarked, “I’ve never seen anything like Cord McCoy on a motorcycle.” Me neither.

Then suddenly we see Cord fly-fishing from a bridge. His cell phone rings and when he answers, a rider informs him that the bucking is about to commence in town. Cord hangs up and calls the limousine company for a ride. The driver asks where he is and Cord says they’re out on the river fishing. The driver says, “I’ll be there in two minutes,” and hangs up. (For the record, that’s about 30 miles outside of town, on a notoriously dangerous stretch of highway between Four Corners and Big Sky.) Cord hollers at his colleagues and they all tear up the hillside to the road, where the limo has miraculously arrived. Maybe it really is a rocket car. If they got one before I did, I’m going to be really pissed. The cowboys park their fishing rods on a holder mounted to the hood and hustle into the back seat.

The next thing we know, the screen goes blank and the music starts up, and Brandon Bates introduces the bull fighters. The gate opens and the cowboys pour out onto the arena floor and line up in an inverted V, and then the stock gate on the west side of the arena flies open and in rolls the limo. The driver and his front-seat accomplice push up their vertical-lift doors, winning ooohs and ahs from the crowd. They stroll back and open the back doors, and riders, resplendent in their chaps, start to pop out: Brian Herman, Cord McCoy, Brian Canter, and J.B. Mauney.

We stand, and pray, and endure an off-key rendition of the national anthem which has me staring fixed at my feet, because I know if I look at Barn Cat I’ll start giggling and I really do want to be respectful. Truly, I do. (Barn Cat’s comment later was, “This is Bozeman. What do you want, Beverly Sills?”) Then the guys all head back through the gates to the chutes, and the limo rolls silently out of the arena, and Brandon Bates asks, “What’s missing?” The crowd roars, “Flint!” Well, he’s Montana’s own, straight from Chouteau, and even if he irritates us sometimes, we’d raise all kinds of hell if he weren’t here.

The next thing we know, a helicopter is approaching from the northwest. It’s a two-seater job with no doors, and it hovers above us long enough that there’s no mistaking that it’s Flint there, in the passenger seat. The pilot eases the chopper down onto the dirt and Flint lurches out. He points out to us that there was no door on the helicopter. “I peed in my pants a little,” he confesses, and goes into his prancin’ and dancin’ routine. I have now seen him live six times, and sometimes I think I know what he’s going to do before he does. As the evening passes, it turns out I’m wrong about that.

The Bozeman Classic is an Enterprise Rent-a-Car competition, which is the second rung on the four-rung ladder topped off by the Built Ford Tough Series, and this is the third year it’s taken place here. Here are two amazing things about the event: a stack of ranked riders were here for it, and the bulls were as good as any I’ve seen on any broadcast this season. It was positively astonishing how rank they were. A bunch of them were Chad Berger bulls, trucked in from North Dakota, so they didn’t have far to travel, but I was still blown away by how hard most of them bucked.

At this event, only 10 cowboys would ride in the short-go, so they were all primed to ride as well as they could in the long round. Here’s how it went: Shane Proctor, whom I was glad to see back after his World’s Toughest Cowboy win back in March (not a PBR event, but too bad), bucked off Gold Bell Wine. Vince Northrup rode Dogtown, one of the few “pussy bulls” in the pen, for 78 points. Curry Fielder, from Cody, Wyoming, couldn’t stick on Husker’s Terror. Gerardo Venegas, all the way from Juarez, Mexico, rode Rockon for 85.5 points and then got slammed twice on the dismount. Johnny Craig from Armach, Northern Ireland (yeah, that is correct) bucked off Hustler. You’d think they could have given him a little easier bull, considering how far he’d come to try it. Hustler is one rank son of a bitch. Ross Lewis was riding well on White Trash but then he jumped off before the buzzer, which suggested to me at the time the cowboys couldn’t hear it. Hell, we could hardly hear it. White Trash then changed things up by charging out into the arena and chasing Flint up the fence. Cole Taylor rode Gray Ghost for 82.5, and then Rob Bell bucked off Out of the Box.

Clayton Williams bucked off Lacey Bulls, but he got a reride because the bull had fouled coming out of the chute. They ran Lacey Bulls back in for the reride, and the bull unloaded Clayton almost as quickly the second time around. Brad Edward from Billings, Montana, got dumped by Lil Coyote. I’m not sure of the bull’s pedigree, but he does resemble Coyote in color at least, so I’ll have to look into that further. Johnny Ringo tossed Ben Jones, an Aussie rider, off into the dirt. Rocky McDonald, who is one of the few riders I generally root for, rode Triple Nickles for 85.5 points, but the bull barely bucked and certainly didn’t kick much. Zack Brown, he of the famous comeback in Billings, didn’t look like the same rider—he flew off Guitar Town almost as soon as the gate opened. Kane Crook couldn’t stick with Little Wicked, and J.B. Mauney, who won this event three years ago when he was only 19, got tossed off Katie Done It. Wiley Petersen got a big cheer, being as he is from Fort Hall, Idaho, but it didn’t help—Spiderman got rid of him right smart. Billy Robinson got a score of 73 on Bond James Bond but opted for a reride on White Shadow. He rode a second time, getting 85 points. Josh Koschel drew Cooter, who didn’t like him one bit and promptly tossed him off. Austin Meier met the same fate, flying off Palace Station Deuces Wild in short order.

Ryan McConnell then rode Montego Bay for 88.5 points. Pistol Robinson topped that with an 89.5 ride on Live Wire. Harve Stewart slid off the side of Texas Jack, got hung up, and finally managed to get loose, though it took him a few minutes to gather his wits and walk out of the arena. He was a very lucky man. Pete Farley stuck on Midnight Special for 85 points. Blaine Lewis had a really bad wreck off Cool Cat. Evan Rasch tried to ride Black Sports Coat, who was having none of it. That bull is, I think, a Little Yellow Jacket son. He looked really good. Aaron Roy rode a bull named Denny Craine for 87.5 points. Justin Howlett went sailing off Chug A Lug, who bucked wonderfully. I predict a big future for that bull. Colby Yates couldn’t stay with Wild Thang.

Cord McCoy, who looks so purty on a motorcycle, didn’t look nearly so nice on Kamo Kat, who unloaded him without ceremony. Ross Burney landed on his head when Bo Alemeda got the better of him. It sent shivers down my spine—it looked just like Paulo Crimber’s wreck that has taken him out for the season and possibly out of the sport. Justin Gentry got bucked off War Wagon. Chase Edward, another Billings, Montana cowboy, rode Rip & Dip to a standstill for 91.5 points. Cory Rasch followed that up with an 87.5 ride on Liquid Kitty.

Then Ned Cross mounted up on a Chad Berger/Roger Ward bull named Why Not Minot, who pitched him off and hooked a bull fighter in the fanny for good measure. He pranced out into the arena while Flint and Bates were commenting on the replay, and the roper, who had been conspicuously bad at his job all evening, started trying to herd him out. “Why not Minot?” Flint asked. “They have a big packing plant over there. Send this guy right over.” The bull kept running around the arena, dodging the roper, and then he spotted Flint. Clearly, the bull was not impressed with Mr. Flint’s crack about his namesake city. And he was mad. He stopped, pawed the dirt up, snorted, put his head down, and charged. Barn Cat yelled, “I’ve never seen anything like that at the PBR!”

Flint flew up the fence and the bull made the circuit, scattering announcers, bull fighters, and gate men, and leading the roper on a merry chase for a couple more rounds. Then they opened the gates and sent two more bulls into the arena, hoping, no doubt, that they would herd up and then the roper could maneuver them all out. The two newcomers trotted up to Why Not Minot, put their heads together, and then all three of them charged Flint. Said Bates to Flint, “Do you speak bovine?” Huffing and puffing, Flint replied, “I’ve talked to some heifers in my time.”

Why Not Minot, by the way, is a big, black bull with a substantial hump, a deep chest, and a long torso that narrows to an improbably slim waist. He is sleek and beautiful and mean as a junk-yard dog, and were I in the bull breeding business, I’d be looking to get a piece of him. Why not the packing plant? Not on your life, Flint. This bull could be a superstar before you cash your next check.

When the roper finally managed to get all three bulls out of the arena, it was clear the delay hadn’t helped the cowboys much. Jared Farley got thrown off Live Wire. Clayton Foltyn rode Ring of Fire for 88.5 points, and then Reese Cates climbed aboard Three Spot and scored 85.5. I’ll bet it was a long stretch of drivin’ and sleepin’ for ol’ Reese to get up here to the north country for this. Then Brian Canter, Nile LeBaron, Jay Foscalina, and Bryan Richardson all bucked off, back to back. Just to keep it lively, Richardson’s bull, Johnny Bravo, took a turn through the arena and a swipe at Flint. “Were you with a heifer before you came in here?” Bates asked. Maybe it was the ’80s music, Bates. I swear it was the exact same stuff we’ve heard here for the past three years and I, for one, am tired of it. If I knew for sure I’d never see Flint dancing to “Summer of ’69 Again,” I’d be the one hitting my knees and thanking my Creator.

Beau Hill finally managed to end the drought with a 76 point ride on Sundance Saloon, but he took a reride on Big Mack that just didn’t work out too good, although I think the bull liked it. Luke Snyder managed to ride Sloppy for 88 points, and then Jay Dunford scored 73 on Rodeo Suntan. Since obviously that’s the kind of score you’d expect win with at a PRCA event, he took a reride on Crown of Thorns, who promptly got rid of him. Justin Graley bucked off Double Shot, and then the old man, Brian Herman, stuck it to White Diamond for 89.5 to end the long round.

So let’s just look at the stats here, for a second. That’s a total of 50 attempts, counting the rerides, and only 16 qualified rides. Of that 16, four were below 80 points. Three of those four cowboys got rerides, of which only one managed to stay aboard and get a score. The raw numbers tell me that the bulls are still winning two thirds of the time, which is the minimum acceptable number of cowboys eating dirt, in my book. I admire (some of) you guys, but my heart belongs to the bulls.

So finally it was intermission, and we could all stand up and stretch and realize just how wet our butts were. The folks in the VIP section probably were miserable—they were closer to the bucking chutes but had no roof at all, and thus were entirely exposed to the weather. On the other hand, they did have their own private toilets, in a little trailer tastefully sided with what looked like brown asphalt roofing tiles, adjacent to their bleachers. There were even little wreaths of dried flowers on the doors. The lines were long, though, and the mud between the stands and the, er, other seats was deep and sticky, and I actually saw several people wading through it in shorts and flipflops. Now, that’s class for you.

Thus we segued into a truly Western custom, mutton busting, which, for those of you who have been spared this spectacle, is an event for kids under about eight. A John Deere tractor totes in a stack of modular fencing, and a little bucking chute is assembled in front of the regular chutes. Then parents dragoon their kids into climbing down into the chute on top of big wooly (and greasy and dirty) sheep. If the kid’s experienced, s/he stretches out on the sheep and grabs hold of its fleece up by the shoulders, and then the gates open and the sheep takes off. Of the 10 participants, only about three got more than six feet out of the gate before losing hold, and a couple never got that far. One of the latter was a little blonde girl who said her hobby was “shooting gophers.” The kid who rides the longest wins, and in this case, received a brand-new, kid’s-sized John Deere ATV so s/he has yet another way to get seriously hurt. One kid hit the ground hard and lay there for quite some time before his daddy could persuade him to get up. I would never encourage a child of mine to do anything like that. Seeing him lying there just about curdled my blood.

But the little boy who won was adorable. He is six and I gather his dad is some kind of local rodeo hero, because Bates and Flint both knew him. Sweetie, I know there’s almost no chance you or your folks will ever see this, but still, I apologize for not catching your name, because it should be up in lights somewhere.

That kid grabbed hold of his sheep and they tore out of the chute, charging a good 50 feet. He might have stayed on longer, except that the sheep ran right over the photographer and all parties went sprawling tail over teacup. Bates is a professional, though—he managed to quit laughing pretty quickly and he hustled over to interview the kid, who got up a lot faster than the photographer did.

“I want to talk to you,” Bates said. “How old are you?”

“Six,” said the little boy.

“How did you learn to ride sheep so good?”

“By riding miniature bulls.”

That caused a ripple in the stands.

“How long have you been doing that?” Bates asked.

“All winter,” replied the winner, sounding like he was plumb worn out. He’d scored 95, beating his closest competitor by 10 points. The interview over, his daddy snatched him, lifted him up to our wild applause, and then settled him in his new ATV, which he wasted no time in driving off. He probably drives better this minute than most of the licensed drivers in the state of Montana.

By now, it was well after 10 o’clock and some folks had given up the good fight. I had, of course, long since swallowed down my Jack rocks, and would have welcomed another, but I suspected that even if I could have fought my way out of the bleachers in less than a century, I’d find that Chad and his buddy had packed up and taken off at the stroke of 10. So I just waited, watching the guys at the end of the row who had had the foresight to buy a CASE of Bud from the beer boys and tote it up into the stands. They were democratically handing cans out to their comrades, but I doubted their largesse would extend to me.

Fortunately, though, the PBR folks had not been sitting idly by while kids got tossed to and fro off live legs ’o’ mutton, so almost as soon as the (regulation-sized) John Deere backed out of the arena with the collapsible gates, the short-go was on. The bulls in the long round had exceeded my expectations, but I was even more impressed by the short-go bulls. My man Reese Cates drew Fully Loaded, who was, because he wasted no time in putting Reese in the mud. Rocky McDonald rode Bad Medicine, and rode him well, for 89.5, which put him at 175 overall. Aaron Roy didn’t last very long on Bad Blood. Cory Rasch had Soulja Boy, the bull that made Zack Brown famous in Billings. That little bull is quick and athletic and he gave Cory a run for his money, but in the end, the cowboy prevailed. He scored 92.5 for a 180 total. Helluva ride!

From there to the end of the round, it was nothing but buck-offs: first up, Luke Snyder off Mean Machine. Please, folks, could we quit talking about the great rookie season Snyder had back in 2001? If I’m tired of hearing about it, I can’t imagine how it makes him feel. Enough is enough. Then it was Clayton Foltyn off Blue Boy, Ryan McConnell off Cooper, Pistol Robinson off Lights Out, and Brian Herman off Scardey Cat, who is getting long in the tooth but hasn’t lost a step. Chase Edward rounded it off by bucking off Bad Action. In the end, only two riders covered two bulls. Cory Rasch won the event and the custom-made-in-Bozeman Gibson guitar that goes along with the check. His brother Evan had co-won the event here last year and I guess he managed to beat his co-winner out of the guitar, because Cory said that he and his brother were thinking about starting a band. I haven’t heard him, but I have to wonder why all these guys think they can sing. I hope to hell they do better than Justin McBride, with whose alleged music I am not at all impressed. Best stick to the bulls, Justin. And best hope you don’t draw Why Not Minot at the finals. He’s a bull with your name on him.

By the time Cory picked up his oversized trophy check, it was 11:30 and the crowd was already headed for the exits. Everyone was pleased with their evening of PBR action and most folks thanked and wished a good night to the security officers who manned the exit gates. We elected to forgo the infamous after-party at Mixers (Bozeman’s nearest imitation of a night-club) despite our desire to observe our heroes in an environment rich in manly camaraderie and buckle-bunnies. It was late, and we’re old, and we had to work in the morning.

Overall, the PBR folks really went out of their way to make the event special for us folks out here in the sticks. We strongly recommend that you take in one of these smaller PBR events when one comes to an arena near your town. We all enjoyed our lovely evening of bovine-backed excitement!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Stay Tuned

Being ever resourceful, we have an update on the big PBR Tulsa Open at the Deer Lodge in Ojai on August 2, when our friend Jay will lose, er, at least his innocence, and may follow that up by never speaking to us again. Still, that wiley individual (who probably is way more resourceful than we) has succeeded in persuading a photographer friend to attend with him, and I am wheedling and pleading and whining and generally being obnoxious in the hope that he'll let me post a picture or two here, to prove that we aren't just blowing smoke. Not this time, at least.

Also we will be attending the PBR event at the county fair tonight, which is an Enterprise Tour competition. So we were agreeably surprised this morning to read in the Bozeman Chronicle that several top riders will be here for our edification. Here is the link to the cover story, but I have to warn you that the folks at the Chronicle generally take their content down within a day or two of publishing it. So get it while you can:

We will, of course, write a stirring post about our escapades at the fair by the end of the week, so y'all come back now, hear? We'll leave the welcome mat out.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The PBR at The Deer Lodge

Since we are nothing if not meddlesome, Montana Barn Cat and I have been pondering how to help the divine SoCal Jay experience his first-ever PBR event. Because he and Pamela have too much sense to spend a bazillion dollars on premium cable service every month, they don’t get the Versus channel, which is probably the only one that I’d miss (and that for only about four hours a week) if we came to our senses and deep-sixed the big cable bill. I don’t to this day understand how we ended up with all the crap we get on the tube, except to say that Barn Cat was here the day the cable dudes appeared with their magic box and he said yes to everything—HBO, Starz, HD, local stations, and the other assorted nine million channels we can haul in. Those guys are nearly as good at up-selling as the ones at Jiffy Lube.

And of course, even with all those options, most of the time it seems like there’s nothing on. Just last night, in a fit of PBR-deprived desperation, we watched, yet again, the first part of Independence Day, which has rapidly become one of those movies you can always find on, at any hour of the day or night, and sometimes on a couple or three channels at the same time. A few years ago it was the same with Demolition Man, which, for all its right-wing, tough love, gun-totin’ posturing, is still one of my favorite movies. It’s worth the price of admission to hear Sandra Bullock tell Sly Stallone that the crook Sly had just cold-cocked “finally matched his meat. You really licked his ass.”

But fortunately for Jay, Barn Cat grew up in the same town and he probably knows the local bar scene there better right now than a bunch of folks who still live there do. Late one evening last week, he called one such fine establishment, The Deer Lodge in Ojai, California. I’m not sure to whom he pled his case, but suffice it to say he told the lady on the other end of the line that he was calling from Montana because his good friend would probably just die if he didn’t get to see the PBR on Versus, and soon. He asked her if Jay could come over there on August 2 to watch the Tulsa Open on one of their tvs. I sort of suspect at this point there was at least a brief pause in the conversation before she said, and I quote, “That is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard.” She then assured Barn Cat that Mr. Jay could come watch the PBR and welcome, since they have three tvs and they would happily set one aside for him.

So the preening Barn Cat, being very pleased with himself, left word for Jay that the arrangement had been made and our good friend would cheat death for a bit longer, though whether the riders will be as lucky is one of the main reasons we are so hooked on this sport. Jay almost instantly replied:

What a beautiful thing! I don't know what's more impressive: Your vision of this bold idea, or your execution of it. In either case, I hope you can hear my applause, and my fervent shouts of "Bravo!" right now, way over there in Montana.

I'll be there with my spurs a jingle-jangle-jinglin'. (And of course, as you know, there should be something in the neighborhood of 30 Harleys parked, by 4, in front of The Deer Lodge. My guess is that those boys are gonna dig the broadcast, too. If not, I guess I'll just have to open up a can of cowboy "Whoop Ass.")

Loveys, Jay

So to all you who may also be suffering from a lack of access to the PBR broadcasts, or if you just want to go hang with Jay and the bikers on Saturday, August 2 for Jay’s First PBR, I’m sure the folks at The Deer Lodge would be happy to accommodate you as well. Here’s a link to their website:

It makes me positively pine for the chance to lift a few and holler at the screen with Jay and the boys. Y’all come!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

On the PBR Team Shootout

On June 28, the PBR announced a new competition, the PBR Team Shootout, a series of five events pitting twenty two-man teams against one another. The top 20 PBR riders would choose partners from the remaining pool of all eligible PBR riders. On July 1, on Wild Bill’s weekly online radio show PBR Prime Time, PBR Chief Executive Officer Randy Bernard, Dennis Gach, Senior Vice President of Operations, and Jay Daugherty, Vice President of Event Tours, started with the top- ranked rider, Guilherme Marchi, and worked their way down the list, drawing numbered poker chips out of a cowboy hat to determine the order in which the riders would pick their partners.

The teams were announced on July 8. In the order determined, they are: Sean Willingham and Justin McBride; Mike Lee and Wiley Petersen; Brian Canter and Bryan Richardson; Travis Briscoe and Cole Taylor; J.B. Mauney and Bart Miller; Brendon Clark and Jared Farley; Renato Nunes and Sinovaldo Correia; Valdiron de Oliveira and Pim Rosa; Luke Snyder and Cory Rasch; Ross Coleman and Matt Bohon; Mike White and Colby Yates; Zack Brown and Mark Lopes; L.J. Jenkins and Austin Meier; Chris Shivers and Nick Landreneau; Guilherme Marchi and Juliano Marchi; Adriano Moraes and Allan Moraes; Kody Lostroh and Matt Austin; Ednei Caminhas and Chad Denton; Robson Palermo and Robson Arageo; and Dustin Elliott and Wesley Silcox.

The Shootout will take place between August 10 and September 14, and the first four events will be televised on ESPN2. The Team Shootout final, at Pueblo, Colorado on September 14, will be televised on ESPN. Ten teams will compete at two of the four events, attempting to ride a total of four bulls. The team scoring the highest will take the entire purse at the event, and all teams will be in contention to qualify for the Team Shootout event in Pueblo.

Now, this development is interesting for several reasons, not the least because it is being done in partnership with ESPN, the premier cable sports network. On PBR Prime Time, Bernard emphasized that the PBR values its longtime relationship with Versus, but it’s obvious to me that any venture with ESPN will introduce more people, and thus more potential fans, to the sport. The choices the top 20 riders made, though, are fascinating in and of themselves. It’s pretty clear, looking at this list, that in most cases, calculation isn’t playing a big role in the choices. Sean Willingham, who went first, may have made the only calculated choice when he picked Justin McBride, who is the 2007 PBR world champion, but isn’t ranked in the top 20 because he’s been out of action for seven months tending to a shoulder injury. Three of the riders chose relatives (Marchi, Moraes, and Jenkins), and in two of those cases, their picks aren’t ranked in the top 45. In fact, both Matt Bohon and Allan Moraes had been cut from the Built Ford Tough Series (BFTS), so let’s hope they can redeem themselves in this new setting.

This lack of calculation is probably the most immediately remarkable aspect of the Shootout. Of course, the riders appear to have done precious little calculating when they’ve drafted bulls at regular events, but I have to wonder whether any amount of analysis would affect the outcome. To date, the first man to pick a bull in the draft has yet to win the event. The draft has made no difference, none, in the results of the competition, so it will be interesting to see if the cowboys are better at drafting partners than bulls.

This event will not affect the BFTS standings, but of course the more the boys ride, the more likely they are to get hurt. It does appear, however, that participation is mandatory for the top 20 bull riders. No one declined to take part, so the question of what would have happened had someone done so is moot. But I have to wonder how it would have played out had one of the riders didn’t think the potential payoff was worth the risks.

But it’s the scheduling of the Shootout is most intriguing—it’s a very compressed series that run pretty much concurrently with late-season BFTS events. Starting next weekend, there will be three BFTS events in a row, in Tulsa (July 18-20), Edmonton, Alberta (July 24-26), and Glendale, Arizona (August 1-2). Then the Shootout begins in Del Mar, California, on August 10, moves to Paso Robles, California, on August 17, and to Molalla, Oregon, on August 23. There’s a break in both series over the Labor Day Weekend, and then the Shootout starts up again in Guthrie, Oklahoma, on September 7. The BFTS sprint to the PBR finals commences on September 12 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Team Shootout finals take place in Pueblo, Colorado, on September 14, and then it’s back to the BFTS in September 19 in Jacksonville, Florida.

I’m presuming that the teams will be told well in advance which two events they will compete at, but even so, I hope these guys ain’t drivin’ and sleepin’ their way from event to event, or they will never see anything but the inside of their trucks, the inside of arenas, and the backs of a lot of bulls. That’s assuming, of course, that it’s even possible to drive from one event to the next without breaking the sound barrier or their pocketbooks on $5 a gallon gasoline. Just to keep it interesting, the 2008 PBR World Cup takes place in Chihuahua, Mexico, on August 16-17, the same weekend as the Shootout event in Paso Robles. I hope somebody at the PBR is paying attention, since several of the top 20 riders are also competing in Mexico. It would be unfortunate if some of them had to be in two places at once.

Thinking about the logistics of all these (nearly simultaneous) events reminds me of a job I once had that obliged me to attend national sales fairs about six times a year. I wasn’t alone in this—practically all the editorial staff of the company spent quite a bit of time on the road. The last summer I was employed there, I worked 23 days straight, most of it in places like Dallas and Atlanta. Believe me, that gets to be a drag in a hurry. The men who ran the company paid their editorial staff, which was almost entirely female, really well, and they treated us like shit. The salesmen, who occasionally double-dipped as publishers of the various magazines, sat around raking in salaries plus big commissions from accounts with squirrelly (and sometimes shady) businesspeople that we girls were then charged with keeping pacified.

Anyway, about once a year, like clockwork, the Powers That Were would send out a memo reminding us all that if we flew back into town during regular business hours, we were expected to come in to work that day, even if we’d been glad-handing potential advertisers 18 hours a day for 10 days straight, or had gotten up at midnight to catch a plane back home. When I gave notice, I toyed with the notion of circulating my own memo advising everybody that traveling on business was no excuse for not being in the office at the same time. I expect to regret to my dying day that I didn’t do it. What were they going to do, fire me?

It wouldn’t surprise me to find out the Shootout was scheduled this way because the opportunity with ESPN developed rather suddenly, but I’m hoping that if the event survives into next season, the PBR execs will consider moving it to the long summer break, the one we presently are suffering through out here in TVLand. While it’s true that the money the winners will earn won’t help them in the BFTS standings, it’s also true that seeing a little bull riding during that stretch would ease our pain. Riders who aren’t participating in the Shootout would, of course, be free to compete in Challenger events while the Shootout contestants matched wits with bulls and boys elsewhere. It could be a win-win situation for everybody, except, probably, the bulls, who will be on the road even more than the boys. Fortunately for them, they don’t have to drive.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Bull Diaries

The Stockyard Queen's note: A few weeks ago, I finally got around to e-mailing the link to “Turn Him Out!” to our friend Jay, who lives in Southern California, damned near at the jumping-off place. Jay and Montana Barn Cat have been friends for nearly as long as they have both been alive, and among his other exploits, Jay was best man at our wedding, an event that included a broken zipper in the bride’s dress, my Spanish (now ex) sister-in-law, a Fulbright scholar at Cal Arts (I swear I’m not making this up), calmly sewing me into said dress, and the baker forgetting us entirely, so the cheesecake was still hot and runny when it was delivered to the reception. It also featured Montana Barn Cat looking absolutely gorgeous in a black tailcoat and white tie, stunningly beautiful weather, and hummingbirds hovering above us as we said our vows on the deck in my new father-in-law’s back yard. In short, it was one of the most perfect days of my life, right down to the champagne and cigars.

I don’t know why I had not thought to send Jay the link before, because among his other attributes, Jay is a remarkable writer and one of the few people I know who still sends off LETTERS to his friends. I always get a thrill when I pull an envelope from him, addressed to Barn Cat, out of the mailbox because I know it’s going to contain something entertaining. I thought (hoped) he might find some of my observations interesting as well.

Now, I have to admit that when it comes to literature, Jay and I have our differences. For one thing, he worships at the altar of Charles Bukowski far too much to suit me. (As a matter of fact, Jay even sort of looks like Bukowski, though more like C.B. might have looked if he’d drunk responsibly and hadn’t been afflicted with the worst case of acne ever described in American letters. If you want to be truly grossed out on that subject, see Ham on Rye for all the gory details). As far as I’m concerned, the only good use for a Bukowski novel is to throw it at bugs on the wall, or at someone who has offended your sensibilities beyond bearing, which is killing two birds with one stone, don’t you think? Since his books tend to be pretty small, you’re far less likely to dent your drywall or your man’s head than if you were throwing the Oxford English Dictionary.

So I sent Jay the link, and he replied enthusiastically, so enthusiastically, in fact, that we are now thinking of dragging him and the stylish and regal Pamela along with us when we hook up with our new virtual friend Shannon to see the PBR event in Anaheim next season. Jay is already planning his outfit, which will include a denim vest with a picture of Scene of the Crash silk-screened on the back. I told him that was fine, but he had to wear a shirt with it, to which he replied that wearing a vest without a shirt was just “so New Jersey.” As it happens, my BBF Elisabeth grew up in New Jersey, so I guess it’s a good thing that Jay didn’t voice that opinion at our wedding, since Elisabeth was my best woman. She might have thrown the Oxford English Dictionary at him, or at least held him under in the koi pond for a few hours.

Since I think it’s good, from time to time, to offer up a different point of view on “Turn Him Out!,” I invited Jay to write some guest posts. He most magnanimously agreed. Thus I am proud to present his first observations. I hope you find them as enlightening as I do.

by Jay Windsor

Episode 1: A Neophyte Is Introduced

I guess it was about a year or so ago when I asked Barnyard Cat, “So, except for the usual nonsense, what are you up to?” He offered two words: “Bull riding.” A short yet poignant discussion followed. I made a mental note, afterward, which went something like this: “Bull riding?”

But after hanging up the phone, related stuff came flooding into my head. Rodeos I’d attended as a kid in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. The sights and the sounds and the smells: Beautiful cowgirls on horseback, riding into the arena holding a large, American flag. The fragrance of barbecued meat, and corn dogs, and hay, and animal doody poop, and my father’s breath, on his second beer. I still think the funniest thing I’ve EVER seen was from back then, when a series of (mostly, but not exclusively!) boys no more than 7 or 8 were plopped on top of a sheep, told to “Hang on!,” then set out into the arena with a slap on the sheep’s rear. . . .

Well, given Barnyard Cat’s sensibilities about the more interesting things in life—which I knew fairly well and appreciated in large measure—I began to think about bull riding in earnest. (Which is a fancy way of saying, “Hey, maybe the knucklehead is up to something good.”) And so it was that I investigated what I could watch, or see, or experience, or quickly learn. My preliminary examinations of the sport had me utterly fascinated, and yearning for more. . . .

Thin is the thread, and bitter the necessity.—Teilhard Chardin

A dispatch was sent soon thereafter to Bozeman. “Damn! I don’t get the ‘Versus’ channel via my basic cable service, and there ain’t a rodeo scheduled nearby, near as I can tell. I think I have the fever. What do I do?”

Utilizing deft intelligence, Barnyard Cat turned me over to the Stockyard Queen. “Dear Rookie,” she wrote. “Please stop your whining. If nothing else, you can go to the PBR’s website and view film clips of recent rides, not to mention all manner of other things that you might find interesting. The link is attached.”

Well, she saved my ass. The link is, to date, my lifeline. Since then, several things have come to mind:

  • Bull riding is akin to Good versus Evil. This goes back to Greek and Roman mythology, I think. (Not to mention the film series called Star Wars.) I dare say that it is Shakespearean, in its poetic, dramatic attractions. And long may that be so.
  • The natural thing to do, as a human being with a bad back and a bad attitude, is to root for the cowboy. And I always do, initially. But sometimes I find myself rooting for the bull. I don’t know why, but I suspect it’s similar to the nascent wish that some folks feel when they watch Godzilla stomping on New York City?
  • As a spectator, this is an amazing spectacle. To a professional bull rider, this is very, very serious shit.

In time, I suppose, I will become aware of and maybe be fortunate enough to SEE the finer nuances of the sport, the pursuit, the brave foray into dangerous realms, in person. Until then, I wish every bull rider health, and every single bull a seriously bad attitude.