Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The 2010 PBR Kickoff, or, the Challenger Series Championship in Drag

Folks, I am pleased to welcome you to Black Boot's stellar description of the PBR Kickoff event in Georgia. Where would I be without my loyal readers? Sad and lonely, that's where. And take a gander at Ms. Black Boots herself. Isn't she gorgeous? Enjoy this--I certainly did.

Three nights of bulls! My best friend (hereafter known as the inimitable “E”) and I settled into our seats on Friday night with giddy anticipation. Thanks to the PBR’s 50% off ticket sale on Halloween, we scored seats in our favorite section (low on the left chute side) for all three nights. It’s prime viewing for bulls, chutes, and arena action. This being the first event of the season, there were some changes. First thing we noticed was the program, or the absence of one. Instead, we got a day sheet wrapped with 2 pages of articles culled from the PBR’s website, with a glowering J.B. Mauney on the cover. Inside, though, were 56 glorious riders. Not a one was Kody Lostroh’s. E and I were not displeased, since we had heard more than enough about our New! World! Champion! two weeks earlier. Also conspicuously absent were the Flaming Bull Heads O’ Death. Instead, we had the four world champions present (Ednei, Mike Lee, Shivers, and Guilherme) standing tall over the chutes with sparklers glowing in front of them, which seemed to startle Ednei the first night. Atop the shark cage was Mr. Mauney with his ever-present toothpick. He got the smoke machine and blue lights treatment.

Once the fire and mayhem were dispensed with, on to the bulls. The Friday pen was rowdy as all get-out. The minute you came into the arena, you could hear them clanging and shuffling around, which was scary considering that the pre-show lights were low and you couldn’t see who was causing the ruckus. When they bucked, it was like broncs with horns. They galloped, they scraped, and they panicked their rookie selves all over the arena. Entertaining for us and even more so for the folks new to the PBR (and there were TONS of them every night), but at the end of the evening the gate and pickup men were exhausted. Saturday night was a mixed pen (Skyhawk Cut-A-Rug, Booger Butt, plus rookies), and then Sunday afternoon was the short-go with Code Blue, Voodoo Child and Chicken on a Chain.

As far as the three-day event being “the best riders you never heard of,” a line Flint kept flogging—well, it wasn’t. The top 15 from the Challenger Tour were familiar names to most PBR fans—Matt Bohon, anyone? We recognized almost everyone behind the chutes. As for the riders we truly didn’t know—Jordan Hupp is a standout. I’d look for him on the BFTS early on this season.

We were thrilled to see Paulo Crimber on Friday, hale and hearty and thoroughly enjoying pulling ropes. He visited with Robson, Valderon, and Guilherme for a long time—fun to watch them joshing around. We were also treated to Guilherme’s warm-up routine all three nights and if you haven’t ever seen it—well, ladies, you need to put it on your bucket list.

There was no mention during the entire event about Dustin Elliot’s father’s passing, so it was awful to learn about what he was going through while we enjoyed watching him ride. (I hope to HADES those Versus cameramen didn’t know about what had happened or they should be dangled by their privates.)

It was tough to see Chris Shivers have such a rough weekend. He didn’t make the last cut and was replaced on the opening hoopla on Sunday by hometown boy Sean Willingham. We sat next to his family and enjoyed meeting them. E and I like Sean because he’s a Georgia native with a genuine accent, and when interviewed, he comes up with something more interesting to say than, “I just ride ’em one bull at a time.”

We decided that “Seems Like a Nice Guy” awards should go to Ryan McConnell, McKinnon Wimberly, (who must have been granted honorary Brazilian status, because wherever they, go he goes) and Harve Stewart. I tried my darndest to point these gentlemen out to my 21-year-old daughter on Saturday night, but she was more interested in exercising her newly acquired legal status (i.e., she was buying a beer) when they strolled around after the event. (I was her designated driver that night, so it was fine.) Her favorite rider is J.B., which will become more important later.

Highlight of the weekend #1: One word--Guilherme. What a thrill to see him ride with that verve and passion. Viva!

Highlight #2: Meeting Ednei, Edimundo, Renato, and Valdiron after the event on Sunday. They were all in high spirits and were wearing these crazy beat-up straw cowboy hats Ednei had tried to fashion into a fedora. He is evidently the prankster of the bunch. Valdiron was truly moved when E told him how happy we were that he wears a helmet. What a sweet, sweet man.

Highlight #3: Instead of the Dickies, bullfighters we were happy to have a Bullfighter Team competition. There were five teams of two bullfighters who rotated in and out of each flight. I’d love to see more of this, and it gave Flint some new material (thank God.)

Highlight #4: On Sunday, Chicken on a Chain was in the pen closest to us. What a big, handsome dude. He spent the entire final round before the short-go standing quietly and scanning the crowd with huge, liquid brown eyes. It gives me chills to think about it. And call me crazy, but when I whipped out my camera (which decided to act up that day, dammit), he knew I was shooting his picture. It’s a bit fuzzy, but I’ve included it here. Just call me the bull paparazzi!

And finally, the J.B. story: On Sunday, just after we’d met Valdiron and Co at the rail, we saw J.B. Mauney in the autograph line. He is my daughter’s favorite rider and she would have been happy to meet him--only that day she had to go pick up her best friend from the airport (no stopping for beer.)

“My child would have a bull calf if she knew we were about to meet J.B.,” I laughed.

“What if we take your picture with him and she ‘accidentally’ sees it?” E mused.

We cooked up the dialogue while he approached, and as he signed my day sheet, E asked “J.B., would you mind helping us with a practical joke?”

JB shifted his toothpick. “Um, yeah.”

“Would you please pose for a picture with my friend? Her daughter just turned 21 and she's smart and funny. And oh yeah, she’s really good-looking.”

No response. E tries speaking his language. “Actually, she’s downright smokin’.” On cue, I nod emphatically. JB’s toothpick stops and his eyes light up. E continues. “She couldn’t make it today. You’re the young lady’s favorite rider and she’ll have a bull calf when she sees this picture…”

Out comes the toothpick. J.B. musters his most dazzling smile and staunchest grip-and-grin pose, then visited with us until arena security shooed us out the door. Said picture is here (that’s me with Mr. Mauney.) What a good sport he was to help out with the shenanigans of two funny old ladies, and thankfully, the camera worked beautifully for the shot, that did indeed cause my girl to have a bull calf of major proportions.

So it was glorious. Three nights of bulls. Lots of Marchi madness. The best prank ever on my daughter. (I know, payback’s hellacious.) I know it was confusing and disappointing to some fans not to have the televised emphasis on J.B.’s Tour win, but rest assured he got the same amount of accolades in the arena that Guilherme did, plus one of those nifty hand-tooled leather PBR hat boxes. I want one!

And 167 rides, not a one of which was Kody Lostroh’s.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Finito: S's Adventures in Vegas, Concluded

Folks, I have managed to beat the millions (oh, all right, maybe three) who are demanding my services back long enough to post the second half of S's charming tale of the finals in Vegas. Here it is, and I for one am sad it's over, it was so much fun. But wasn't that true of the whole season? Enjoy!

Sunday -- The Main Event
Because the hotel we were staying at did not get Versus, and we were too cheap to pay $9.99 per day for the interweb and also had musical theater plans that interfered with locating a sports bar, my knowledge of what the numbers were on the final day was shaky at best. Upon arriving at the Thomas & Mack, I purchased a day schedule and found it very useful; like a big nerd, I wrote down which bull went with which guy and what the score was (and notes like "?!?!" next to the scoring for the ride where J.B. Mauney was hanging off the side of the bull for a substantial portion).

As far as the event, I have yet to see the televised coverage so I don't know what was shown and what wasn't, but I'll try to focus on things that might not have been revealed to home viewers. First of all, as I was entering the arena, I passed by the goofy commentator booth with the Ford truck grill on the front, cordoned off outside the arena. I'm not entirely sure how that worked; I'm assuming there was a live feed so the commentators could, well, comment on what was occurring. Ford can also be, er, thanked for the inflatable "thunder sticks" draped on the backs of each seat in the arena--fortunately neither I, my friend, or the people around us decided to inflate them, because they were quite unwieldy and made an unpleasant noise akin to a high speed inner-tube wreck.

My seat was up in the hinterlands, although at least in the hinterlands midway between the divided arena, so I could see all the chutes without difficulty. To my left were two Kody Lostroh fans; to my right, a couple celebrating their silver anniversary. We started the afternoon off with Not-Tim McGraw (Sean Patrick), a giant flaming $1M on the dirt, and a monstrous American flag descending from the ceiling with sparkles and rappelling army guys. We also had enforced prayer, and a surprisingly not overwrought version of the national anthem as sung by Kissy Simmons, the current Nala in The Lion King at Mandalay Bay. There was also of course a face-off between J.B. Mauney and Kody Lostroh on the bed of a Ford Truck, and a pile-up of cowboys on a slowly revolving platform. Then Flint tried to get a guy who turned out to be a cop to dance to warm up the crowd, but since the fellow was practically shooting a tazer out of his eyes while standing with unmovable folded arms, Flint moved on to someone else.

In-arena announcements that might not have made the broadcast: the white horse (I believe it was a mare, possibly named Jo) was retiring after 17 years working the arena. She also got a moment of fame when her rider jokingly roped the Ford truck that wouldn't start and thus couldn't clear the arena; they jokingly pretended to haul it (in the end it turned out that they were attempting to use the wrong set of keys, which I guess is good as it didn't look so great for the reliability of the Built Ford Tough brand at that moment). Randy Bernard announced that the World Cup will be held in Las Vegas in April, to coincide with the Country Music Awards, something that I see little to no press on, so I'm not sure what that means. The bull Avalanche retired in style by bucking off Dusty Ephrom. And finally, I'm pretty sure I heard the announcer say that Ednei Caminhas is not retiring, in style or otherwise.

There were a few confusing moments... like Say I Won't Gunner having a truly wretched out. Clayton Baethge, well, his being there at all was surprising to me as I wasn't up to date on injuries, but his hang-up in the rope was truly scary. The arena was dead silent for what seemed an age while the bullfighters circled him, and the audience cheered when he was able to walk away. The same thing happened when Cody Nance hit the ground hard and was stunned for a bit; there were a lot of cheers when he walked out of the arena under his own power. There were some very nice moments in addition to the strange and scary, like seeing Guilherme Marchi get it together and make a ride, and seeing Validron de Oliveira's smooth, smooth riding style in person (I had a forlorn hope he'd be the spoiler this year, but maybe next year).

During the "intermission," the lovely woman who won the Invasion of the Bulls custom PBR Ford truck was fun to watch. She looked so incredibly happy. This whole segment also helped me understand why I had seen a camera crew following a guy around at the Meet & Greet--he was one of the finalists. I believe that somewhere in here, Shorty Gorham won an award--he was wandering around with a giant check, anyway. I was distracted by some traditionally nasty nachos at the time and wasn't entirely paying attention; please forgive me.

And then it was back to the action.

I understand from others that on the televised coverage there was a lame off-hand comment from Craig Hummer after a break and before the short-go saying they'd run the numbers and Kody Lostroh was the world champion no matter what happened, which seems tragically anti-climatic. I can tell you that it wasn't like that in the arena at all. Short of any enterprising math people in the crowd running the numbers themselves, I don't think anyone there knew for sure how it was going to play out. When Mauney got his ride for 93.75 points, the fans went absolutely crazy.(I loved seeing the pure joy on J.B. Mauney's face when he rode Black Pearl, I have to add.) And then as Kody Lostroh looked like he was going to ride Voodoo Child, the crowd jumped to their feet at around 7 seconds. The arena was filled with cheering in the expectation he would ride, and there was a huge gasp as he bucked off shortly thereafter, mixed with what I can only assume were the cheers of people who thought that meant that Mauney would take the title. I don't think Lostroh himself knew if he had enough points to win, as he promptly pressed the red review button. The in-arena announcer was emphasizing that if he was holding onto any part of the bull rope to 8 seconds, he'd get a score. It was tense, tense, tense as the crowd and Lostroh waited for the verdict.

The arena was filled with awkward silence while people shuffled around and wondered what was going on. Eventually the buck-off was upheld, and parts of the crowd groaned. Kody Lostroh had disappeared somewhere behind the chutes, and when the announcement finally came that he had won, the crowd made some noise but he was nowhere to be found. I'm still not sure Lostroh knew he won at that point because it seemed to take some time for him to make his way out to the random red carpeting and foliage, and then to burst into a huge smile as Randy Bernard said something like, "But no one wants to hear from me, they want to hear from your new World Champion, Kody Lostroh!"

I don't recall them announcing bull of the year, or why Bones wasn't there, but I'm sure they must have at least done the former. I don't remember much going on in regards to Cody Nance, our new Daisy Rookie of the Year. I hope he got some congratulations at the Awards Banquet, which I did not attend, nor did I attend the press conference (instead I sped out to the mile-long line for cabs). I do wonder why so little has been said about Cody Nance since, but I guess it really doesn't matter because he's quite talented, and I'm sure we will see more from him.

And while I am not a wild Kody Lostroh fan, he earned his moment in the sun and seemed genuinely thrilled. It will be interesting to see how he deals with the additional media scrutiny he will get as the World Champion. J.B. Mauney fought a good fight and has nothing to be ashamed of with his event title and with being the first man to stay on all 8 bulls during the finals. Guilherme Marchi seemed to be getting his mojo back at the end there, so I have high hopes for next season. All three guys, as far as I saw, conducted themselves with class in the face of the PBR attempts to build up some sort of rivalry mythology between them, and were truly good sportsmen.

And on that note, I will conclude this far overblown tale of my time in the tacky, tacky desert town with cowboys, musical theater and sangria, and leave you to try to figure out the signatures on the in(famous) drawing, and I will attempt to come down after a thrilling weekend.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

S's Adventures at the Thomas & Mack

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to present the report of the divine S, who journeyed to Vegas last weekend for the PBR Finals. Reading this cheered me up immensely--I hope it does the same for you. And check out these photos. That's her, S herself, in the arms of Valdiron! Lucky girl! And don't blame her for the inexpert arrangement of said photos--that you can lay at the feet of the Stockyard Queen and Blogger. Enjoy, folks. It's the next best thing to being there.

So, your intrepid reporter set out to the city that never sleeps, the city that is so, so unabashedly tacky, the city that hosts CSI: The Experience (for a mere $30, you too can collect evidence!), the city of neon and dollar margaritas... Las Vegas, Nevada. Friends and coworkers alike were confounded by my reasons for doing so: the PBR, musical theater, and a side of tapas. I soldiered on in the face of their disbelief.

Saturday -- Team PBR Meet & Greet
The PBR part of my adventure started bright and early on Saturday morning at Mandalay Bay, where my friend and I, firmly clutching my poster tube and my coffee, walked through halls festooned with banners and signs depicting the top cowboys and bulls (including I'm a Gangster, leading me to wonder just when these were printed). After joining a massive line outside the Fan Zone in the parking lot, a friendly man gave my TeamPBR membership card a cursory glance before handing over some red paper bracelets for entry to the Meet & Greet, and a friendly woman handed me a map of the Fan Zone that I quickly disregarded as utterly useless (my directional sense is not great and the map wasn't great either-- bad combination. What I needed was Cowboy GPS. Sadly, this does not appear to have been invented yet). Immediately following, I was bewildered by being handed, in quick succession, a free DVD which is apparently some sort of cowboy testimonial (I can't say for certain as I didn't exactly rush home to the DVD player to find out) and lanyards and cards from Cooper Tires, who had their people out taking pictures of fans and the cowboys, to be uploaded to their website for future viewing and downloading.

In an attempt not to be tedious, I won't go on about each interaction I had, but overall, the cowboys were friendly and kind, as were the fans I talked to in various lines. The ones that weren't, well, although I do wish that a few of the guys would have summoned at least a semblance of interest in the proceedings, I can understand lack of enthusiasm at 8am, especially when tons of people want a piece of you. Part of my general good impression might have had something to do with the fact that I didn't even attempt to get anywhere near Kody Lostroh, J.B. Mauney or Guilherme Marchi (although he did bump my friend's elbow as he was coming through to get to the draft), all of whom had utterly insane lines.

As you may know, I had prepared a digital painting to get signed, and the reaction from the cowboys and other fans was good for my ego. Pretty much every cowboy said, "Hey, that's Brian Canter on Big Mac," or, "Who is that there on Big Mac?" when they saw it, which was pretty amusing and thrilled the former art major in me. Also, numerous people asked me where I bought it or where they could buy one, so I guess I missed a lucrative opportunity. Alas. Perhaps next year.

A few highlights:
- Running into Chad Berger, who was zipping madly around on a Segway. Just try to picture that. He seemed tickled that fans were talking to him and since Big Mac is his bull, he seemed to enjoy signing my painting as well.

- Having Shorty Gorham and Frank Newsom tell us, "Be safe." Um, right back atcha, guys.

(I'm the one grinning madly behind Shorty and clutching the prints of the painting. What can I say, I like the guy and his predictions.)

- Meeting the sweetest table of guys ever: Cody Nance, Wiley Petersen and Michael Manes and his dorky glasses (henceforth they will be dubbed "Team God," although I don't know if Manes is a big God guy or not). On Sunday, Wiley would remember me as the one with the drawing. Good memory on that guy, since I'm sure he met hundreds of people the day previous.

Team God is, unfortunately, rather blurry.

- Seeing a very pained-looking Ryan McConnel trooping through the Meet & Greet; I was worried for him but much like his bull riding career this season, he seemed determined to stick it out and you have to commend that. I hope he is getting whatever treatment he needs now.

- Watching Zack Brown joke around with a bemused Skeeter Kingsolver, and wondering why, if the cowboy in my painting was whoever he wanted it to be, he wasn't wearing Zack Brown's chaps and sponsor patches.

- Talking with Dustin Elliot about the process of making the drawing. Thankfully, no Bob Ross wigs were involved.

- Randomly bumping (well, not literally) into Brendon Clark in the hallway on the way out, which was quite unexpected. He would later reappear at the event with a set of keys that may or may not have started a custom PBR Ford truck.

And of course, the crowning glory was meeting Adriano Moraes, something that had somehow not entered my consciousness as a possibility at all. Some of the cowboys were at tables inside the main merchandise tent (including Team Border Patrol, consisting of Austin Meier and Luke Snyder, and the aforementioned Team God table), and I noticed while we were in there that there was a sign at the Jeffrey Scott booth with a giant Adriano face on it. The small print revealed that the man himself would be there signing during the time slot for the draft. So my friend and I made the easy decision to ditch the draft to get in the already somewhat long line for Adriano Moraes.

After admiring the handcrafted Jeffrey Scott buckles, and taking a picture for the nice North Carolinan in front of us, the conversation went something like this:

AM: "Hey, this is a pretty nice drawing, did you do this?"
Me: "Yeah, thanks so much. It's an honor to meet you."
AM: "That's Chad Berger's bull. You should show this to him. You know, I am breeding bulls now. Maybe one day you'll draw one of my bulls."
Friend: "You could commission her!"
AM: ::look of mock outrage:: "That's not how it works! It should be the other way around!"

Needless to say, if Moraes ever does have a top bucking bull, I'll probably be drawing it. Love that guy, and he looked relaxed and happy, which was nice to see.

In other news, although I don't have any need for a Big Tex trailer, a Ford truck, a Daisy airgun or in fact, anything made and/or sold by most of the PBR's sponsors, this urban liberal vegetarian female can heartily recommend American Cowboy Coffee, a place with great coffee and coffee-based items (such as soap and organic lip balm), which is run by very kind people.

To Be Continued...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Could I Make This Up? Well, Maybe.

Because our hearts are going to be gladdened a little later this week when the divine and refined S reports on her experiences at the PBR Finals, I thought it might be nice to offer you some contrasting scenes that took place in my living room last weekend. Well, maybe I made up some of them, but as Ruth Reichl recommends, never wreck a good story by sticking to the truth. Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, I bring you snippets of conversations at the Stockyard during rounds 5 through 8 of the PBR World Finals, courtesy of Bombay Sapphire and Martini and Rossi vermouth. Oh, and don't forget the queen olives.

Stockyard Queen: I hate that Sir Patrick was ridden and I hate that that piece of s--- rode him.

Montana Barn Cat, having interrupted his viewing to repair the dog door, solicits SQ's opinion of his new door flap, conveniently created from the seat of his worn-out Wranglers. Stockyard Queen: It's a thing of beauty.

Stockyard Queen, speaking of a rider who shall remain nameless: I am going to drive to wherever he lives, slap him senseless, slap his entire family senseless, slap his dog senseless, bulldoze his house, set fire to the rubble, and sow the soil with salt.

Montana Barn Cat: That'll show 'em.

Montana Barn Cat to the Stockyard Queen, who is lying nearly prostrate on the sofa, begging for another martini: Did you hear what Leah just said?

Stockyard Queen: That she needs another martini?

Montana Barn Cat: She said she was moving her legs for him.

Stockyard Queen: Who was she talking to?

Montana Barn Cat: Kody Lostroh.

Stockyard Queen: Damn. She could have at least saved that for Elliot Jacoby.

Montana Barn Cat, having survived nearly half an hour of swearing and spitting on the part of his lovely Stockyard Queen: Why are you telling me this? You should be writing this s---I mean, these pearls of wisdom down. Where's your bull riding journal?

Stockyard Queen: It's in the other room. I reserve that for important stuff, like Challenger events in Miles City.

Montana Barn Cat, rummaging in the breakfront for a writing implement: Can't you at least keep a pen down here in case we have to make a grocery list or something?

Stockyard Queen: Do you mean to tell me you mind having to run to the grocery store 15 times every weekend to buy one thing? Oh, and don't forget the olives this trip.

(Disclaimer: I don't remember what the s---I mean, the pearls of wisdom are. I just remember MBC advising me thus, then grabbing a notebook and scrawling away on it. I bet everyone of you wish he'd just kept it to himself.)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Let the Games Begin

It's here, it's finally here, and I am just about beside myself with anticipation. What a season this has been! I have neglected you all shamefully, but I plan to be back with a vengeance for the finals. Yessiree!

I just went online to the PBR site and voted for what I think will be the final standings: Marchi, Mauney, Lostroh. This is doubtless a reflection of the fact that Kody Lostroh bores me six ways till Sunday, but I can't ignore how much Marchi has cut the lead in the past three weeks. Don't look back, Kody, somebody older and wiser might be gaining on you!

And J.B.? I just don't think he can make up the ground, not with the way Marchi is riding of late, but I'd never count the boy out. All in all, it's going to be a barn-burner, a nail-biter, a photo finish.

I won't burden you folks with information that you don't want, so I'll just say that the past two years, and in particular the past six months, have been perfectly awful around the Stockyard. A lot of people are way worse off than we are, for sure, and I'm thankful every day that I'm able to keep working and that people are interested in hiring me. But I only said that to be able to say this: in 2009, the PBR season, and especially its second half, may have saved my life altogether by giving me something different to think about for a few hours every weekend. I have to tip my hat to the whole outfit, and shake hands in gratitude all around.

So I am ready. I am SO ready. Got the snacks, got the drinks, got the remote control. Bring it on, boys. Let 'em buck.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Excitement and Disenchantment: A little bit of everything . . .

Friends and neighbors, the Stockyard Queen is proud to present the Divine Shannon's description of her adventures at the PBR in Ontario. You've doubtless noticed that the Stockyard is falling into disarray, mostly because I've been too busy working on the Ranch House to come down here and mend the fences. So I am very happy to be able to offer you something besides my usual lame excuses. Without further ado, here's Shannon!

“I liked it better than I thought I would!” That was the sentiment I got from each of the three members of the family after their first live PBR event. I’m not surprised—even if bull riding is something that bores you, it’s hard to imagine not having fun with the party-like atmosphere surrounding the bull rides. My daughter, Amelia, who’d put together a collection of bull pictures for the riders to sign, decided that it was worthy of one of her teaching moments in the classroom that the teacher will indulge her in when they have a few extra minutes. After taking time with her to help her write up the rules and an explanation of some of the equipment, as well as what Flint and the bull fighters do and the range of personalities in the bulls, this is what she had me write for the end of her presentation:

“But wait, I've saved the best for last! Just before the show starts, the announcer greets everyone and announces that they are at the PBR and the letters PBR get lit up in fire on the dirt and fireworks go off with a loud bang! Then, with a little bit of fog across the dirt the riders are introduced one by one and while they are walking out, fire and sparks shoot out of the ground. When the leader of the first round comes out, the fire and sparks get bigger and higher!”

And that was on the second day—I can only imagine how she’d have felt on day one when the opening is even more dazzling.

So, why is it, I was left a little disenchanted at times? Funny that I should feel that way after this weekend when the PBR sight is being flooded with comments about an article on JB Mauney being such an upstanding guy (maybe he is—I don’t know him well enough to say otherwise.) and the Team PBR forum has a debate going about the guys coming out for autographs (or not in many cases). Now, perhaps it’s because I live in Southern CA and bull riding isn’t quite as big here, but I have yet to see these guys flooded with fans to the point of not being able to escape them (which is often an excuse for them not feeling up to dealing with people), and by Sunday afternoon, I was feeling rather frustrated with the number of guys who decided to come out for the fans. Yes, I’m aware of the exemptions and the penalty, but we got a total of 20 autographs (4 of which were in the concourse/VIP section) and believe me, my kids wouldn’t let anyone go by them. I know that there weren’t 20 riders with injuries and exemptions that night. By the time I left, I wanted to write to the PBR and say “By touting yourself as a sport ‘for the fans!’ and making it a point to crow about how your riders are always out for autographs, you are setting a lot of fans up for disappointment. I’d much rather you say ‘That’s it—we’re dropping it. If you want to go out for an autograph, that would be great, but we’re not going to force you. If you want to risk your reputation with the fans, that’s your business’ ”. Seriously—I’m going to say almost half of the 20 who went out didn’t even bother to try to fake that they wanted to be there. Would a smile and a “Did you have fun?....Thanks for coming…” have been that hard to say to a child? Thankfully, I had warned the kids ahead of time of the exemptions and told them that even if the riders did come out, they may be shy or not in a good mood, but couldn’t afford the money to pay the penalty, so they were left unphased. I guess it was the mother in me who was getting her ire up.

Ok, I’ll get off my soap box now. Sorry about that, but I felt the need to share it. I’m sure many of you will disagree and believe me-- you won’t be able to say anything to me that I haven’t already said to myself. There are so many gray areas to the subject that it’s a no-win argument. So, let me list highlights of the weekend:

1. The robbery had me seeing the worst of people, but the PBR was still able to make me smile in spite of my feelings about the riders giving or not giving autographs. It was a nice distraction and while I was sad that our family day was messed up, I did have a good time.
2. I got to meet Leah and Justin McKee and they were both really nice.
3. Junior Seau as a volunteer bull fighter. I’m sure they gave one too many interviews with him on the televised event, but having him there added a whole new dimension to the drama and the humor.
4. The sweet older couple gave the kids their VIP passes because they were done with them and thought that a couple of children might get a kick out of getting down to the special section and meeting the riders. Boy, did they ever! They were so excited. I got my pass and we went down and met Zack Brown and Renato (who promised the kids he’d do his best to do a back flip), then made a couple of posters before finding our seats.
5. Talking to Guilherme on night one and having him say “Yes, I am!” when I asked if was going to go back to back this year.
6. As hard as it was watching Ryan writhe in pain after breaking his jaw, seeing him stand up and walk out, and then finding out that he’ll be back sooner than suspected was a relief. He’s such a nice kid and has so much potential that it killed me to think that he may be out for the rest of the season. All I could think was “Please, not again….” (Speaking of twice in one year: I still miss Paulo Crimber). As of today, there’s an article saying that Ryan should be back by next week.
7. Shane Proctor, Ryan McConnell, Chris Shivers, Mike White, Aaron Roy and Zack Brown for noticing that they were signing a picture of a rank bull that they’d covered during their time on tour and mentioning it to Amelia. We had a hard time getting pictures of those bulls and it was sweet to have them recognize and acknowledge the effort. It was especially nice of Shane to listen to the quick version of why she wanted them to sign bull pictures and respond with “That was a good idea.”
8. Getting onto the dirt. In all honesty, it really isn’t much different than being on the other side of the fence except for the different perspective and not having to fight the bars for a picture with the riders, but it was still neat to be in the ring.
9. Watching Chris Shivers on Julio’s horse. He’s looks good up there and seeing a sense of humor (in the face of defeat) when Flint joked “Chris told me before the show that he’d be in the short go!”
10. JB Mauney taking his buck offs in stride. He really is maturing this year.
11. Finally: McKennon Wimberly. He listened intently when the kids talked to him as though he really cared about what they had to say. He answered them thoughtfully when he told Amelia that he’d probably pick Troubadour as his favorite bull and when he told Dalton, who suggested he name one of his bulls ‘Crash and Burn’, that it was a really good name and he may have to use it. He moved around the table and got down on one knee to have his picture taken with them. Then, he chatted with me, too, as though he was interested in what I had to say. At a time when I’d been losing a bit of faith in some people, I needed that. (He also came out after the event even though he didn’t have to.)

Well, this will probably be the only installment from me. I really wanted to do a much better write up, but as you can imagine, after Saturday night, I was exhausted, and between that and having to watch two young kids by myself in the arena, I wasn’t soaking in as much as I normally do. As a final thought, I’d like to say that even though I’m a Marchi fan, I’m looking forward to the Vegas rounds no matter what the outcome. All three of these riders have made it a great year and no matter who wins, it will be exciting for different reasons (a first-time winner, a back-to-back champion, or JB’s record from his rookie year to present). If they keep it up, it will be a nail biting finish and those are my favorite kind.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I have Seen the World Cup

And I have a few things to say to several of the participants. Line up, please, and take your medicine. To maintain our undisputed reputation for fairness, we will go in alphabetical order. (Under most circumstances, we’d go boy/girl, boy/girl, but we all know where that would land us, right smart.)

Mr. Zack Brown: You’re probably disappointed in your performance, and I wish you’d ridden better for your own sake, but I’m proud of how you handled yourself, sir. You didn’t back down, you didn’t leave anything on the table. At the end of the day, how many people can say that?

Mr. Brendan Clark: Either take some time off and get yourself together, or quit riding. It might be time. I’ve never been a huge fan of yours, but I don’t want to see you get hurt again and I’m worried that your head isn’t where it needs to be. Think about it, please.

Mr. Ryan Dirteater: What a show you put on for us! You are going to be with us for a long, long time, and I for one can’t wait to see what you do the rest of this season.

Mr. Pete Farley: I finally see what all the fuss is about. I’ve been thinking for a couple of years that you need to just quit, but I have to take all that trash talk back. You really showed me what you can do, this time out of the chute.

Ms. Leah Garcia: What a trooper! On the go through the whole event, standing up to the waves of sound rolling through the arena, tucking your head close to the interviewee's so you could both hear yourselves think, fearlessly swallowing down street food and chatting up street performers, and giving us a lesson in Portuguese on the fly, you were the epitome of engaged professionalism. And the top you wore on the last night rocked the Kasbah.

Mr. J.W. Hart: I was pleased to see you looking uncharacteristically sober for a lot of the event, because clearly you recognized what you were up against. Certainly you coached the team to a victory that wasn't unexpected, but it wasn’t in the bag, either, till the last round. But please, don’t compare this team to the 1980 Olympic hockey team. That’s just silly—your team was never the underdog, not for a second and not by a long shot. Your guys are young, but they aren't rookies. No analogy is perfect, but this one was so wrong that all I could do was shake my head.

Mr. J.B. Mauney: I’ve had issues with your behavior in the past, but you’ve grown up a lot this season, and you really showed some class during the World Cup competition. Nobody doubts your talent and now we can’t doubt your dedication, either. Just one tiny suggestion: Please find something new to say besides, “I’m just doing my job.”

Mr. Ryan McConnel: No, the Brazilians didn’t applaud you. Did you really expect them too? You, sir, are the man who took their trophy away. J.B. may have been the anchor, but you were the go-to guy in tight situations, and didn't you step up to the plate? My hat is off to you.

Mr. Rocky McDonald: Talk about determination! I still can hardly believe that I saw you keep climbing on one bull after another, right down to the end. Certainly I wouldn't have blamed you for throwing in the towel when two of your four riders had to drop out late in the game, but you never shirked, you never faltered. Hold your head up high, mister. You’ve earned our applause.

Mr. Justin McKee: Really, Justin. Did you really say that “Leah has mastered the Australian and Canadian languages, too”? I’m damned near speechless, and you have to know what that takes. Montana Barn Cat is so impressed, he may ask you to bottle it so he can shut me up regular-like.

Mr. Austin Meier: I have been a closet fan of yours since your rookie season, and certainly since I saw you eating lunch in the bar at the Sheraton Hotel in Billings in 2006, but it’s time for me to come out of the closet and proclaim my fanhood from the mountain top. I don’t think I have ever seen anybody display so much grit. Those short stubby spurs were giving you fits, we could all tell, but you never gave up, never refused to climb on the back of yet another bull and give it another go. That last ride wasn’t purty, but I was on my feet cheering for you every second. You may have been robbed of a score, but you didn’t lose, not in my book.

Mr. Adriano Moraes: What a fine human being you are--what generosity you showed when you grabbed Austin and consoled him after his re-ride challenge was rejected! I don’t know what you said to him, but I’m sure it made him feel better. I felt better just watching you.

The bulls of Brazil: Yes, I admit it, I really only watched the World Cup to see what you bulls could do. I’m not that big on team sports to begin with and the nationalistic angle of this one sometimes sets my teeth on edge. And I have to say that at the beginning, I was mostly disappointed—you all seemed big, fat, and slow. Then the rank pen showed up, and I, for one, was glad to meet its members. A big salute in particular to Pesadelo and Tambureti. Could you send us some of those straws (you know what I mean) up here to the north country? Did anybody think to save any of Bandito’s, er, contributions?

Whoever designed the World Cup trophy: Even taking into consideration my view that most trophies for professional sporting events are UG-LY, you managed to outdo yourself in the BUTT-UG-LY department. If that’s the prize you wanted to win, hang up your spurs—you can’t possibly do any better, ever again.

Friday, August 28, 2009

MacKenzie Speaks: JDub Must Go!

Hi, folks! Long time no type at you! And I don’t have much time now—-I have to get this done before my mom finds out I’m on the computer. She’s downstairs chasing Carter the Great, my new baby brother, and she totally doesn’t know I bribed him to run outside and bark his head off, so I could get a minute on the machine. That little doggie has a great future ahead of him.

Of course, this means I’ll have to come through with my bribe, and I’m not sure I remember where I buried that last rawhide chew, except that it was somewhere in one of the front flowerbeds last fall, before it ever snowed. Might take me a while to find that.

First, I guess I better let you know that my mom is fine, just really, really busy. She’s so busy she didn’t even really walk me in the mornings this summer, and you know how she gets when she doesn’t get regular exercise. She got a new job back in May and I guess I should be thankful because it’s probably why she’s been buying all those smoked pig ears for us lately, but boy! She hardly ever gets up from in front of the computer anymore at all.

And since there’s barely been any bull riding lately, she really doesn’t have much reason to, does she? And since it’s hardly ever broadcast within about a million years of when it happened, she’s starting to wonder why she even bothers to comment on it. It’s all old news before she gets to see the action.

But she finally managed to finish off a huge job that, and I am not making this up, took five years! Five years! That’s longer than I’ve been alive! She was showing it to my dad the other night, and he said it was beautiful. I’ll have to take his word for it, since I can’t read and I don’t understand why anybody’d want to look at pictures of horses when they can go find some real ones to bark at, but she does seem a lot happier now that it’s over.

But the reason I’ve commandeered the computer is because I want you all to join me in protesting J.W. Hart’s existence. I mean, my mom would never say this, because she’s a human and all, but the man clearly is prejudiced against dogs! Seriously! Just think about all the anti-dog stuff he said in Nashville!

First, he remarked that Justin McBride was “shaking like a dog that had eaten a bunch of thumbtacks and needed to go to the bathroom” before he went onstage at the Grand Ol’ Opry. Now, my folks are big-time country music fans, and they weren’t at all impressed with McBride’s singing, guitar playing, or song-writing ability, but they would never say anything like that under any circumstances! I guess that might just prove they love dogs, because they did have some snarky things to say about Mr. McBride’s performance, but you get my drift.

My mom did say that we were lucky JDub managed to edit himself enough not to use the true version of that expression, which has something to do with peach pits. She put her hands over my ears when she said it, but I did catch that much.

And then, JDub started making fun of McKinnon Wimberly, just because the man was glad his dog came home! And he actually said HIS dog left and wasn’t coming back! That really hit my mom hard-—I don’t think she’s told you all that we lost Belle Doggie and Mattie both last winter. She still cries when she thinks about them. Sometimes I do too. I miss them terribly.

It’s a good thing for all concerned that she and my dad adopted Carter, because he’s really livened up the place, and now I don’t have to pester Tiny G to play, which she hardly ever did, anyway, and then my mom would get really mad at me for barking in Tiny’s face and getting her all riled up. I thought it was all in good fun, but when I saw mom grab the squirt bottle, I figured out I was wrong.

So on behalf of all dogs, everywhere, I demand that those who love us rise up and strike back! Of course, my mom is mad at JDub for a whole lot of other stuff that she probably thinks is more important, but I beg to differ with her on that.

Whoops, gotta go. Just have to tell you, though, that all us four-legged creatures in this household are praying for the day the World Cup is televised. Maybe then things will lighten up around here. I have to tell you, though, if I weren’t such a red-blooded American doggie, I’d have to root for somebody besides JDub. Nobody likes a dog hater.

Monday, August 3, 2009

I'm Mad as Hell

So I waited literally for months to see some televised PBR action, and I dutifully avoided visiting the web site so I wouldn’t see or read anything about what happened in Tulsa, and I was looking forward to a fine weekend of coverage of Tulsa and San Antonio.

Then, because we are ridiculously busy here of late, so busy that one or the other or both of us is working at least part of every weekend, we managed to watch Versus on Saturday night, but then one of us was on the road by late Sunday afternoon, and the other was scrambling to finish a bunch of chores that just couldn’t wait till Monday morning.

So the short end of the story is, I (the one left holding the chore bag) finally managed to tune in to Versus just in time to see the championship round for San Antonio last night. I was just stretching out on the sofa, with three dogs trying to shove one another out of my lap, when Matt Bohon came flying out of the chute on Spit Fire, got smacked in the head with a big ol’ horn, hung up and got trampled, and ended up face down in the dirt.

Doctor’s verdict: A broken shoulder blade, broken upper jaw, broken lower jaw, facial lacerations, and a(nother) concussion.

My verdict: Enough is enough. I am so mad I’m just about to stroke out.

So now hear this: It’s time for the PBR to make it mandatory for competitors to wear helmets.

And furthermore: It’s time for fools like J.W. Hart to quit opining that if you wear a helmet, you’re a pussy. Okay, so he hasn’t come right out and said that on the air, but I’d bet good money he’s said that, or worse, in unrecorded conversations.

Certainly I recall that in Beyond the Bull, J.W. remarked after a particularly lackluster performance that he might as well just sell his bull-riding equipment and buy himself a purse and some make-up. That kind of crap has no place in any professional sport, and taking a position that puts people’s lives at risk, like lobbying (yes, I'm saying he's lobbying) for riders to go helmet-less, is unconscionable.

And one more thing: Here’s why it’s time: Sooner or later, some helmet-less bull rider is going to take a horn or a hoof to the head, and that will be all she wrote.

Somebody (somebody’s son, husband, father) is going to die, right there in the arena or in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, or in the hospital after his family has had to decide to pull the plug, because the folks in charge at the PBR don’t have the guts to stand up and do the right thing.

When that happens, those folks at the PBR who declined to fix this will have the blood of that young man on their hands.

It’s just a matter of time.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I Need a Vacation

Goodness, I’m tired, folks! I suppose I’m fortunate that my only real addiction is the PBR, because if I were prone to substance abuse, this past few weeks would have driven me straight into the arms of methamphetamine. I have been buried in work and there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything I need to do done. I’m reminded of the title of a book published years ago by a woman named Barbara Gordon: I’m Dancing as Fast as I Can. Ms. Gordon was addicted to downers, not uppers, but certainly I can sympathize with the sentiment.

All this is by way of saying that while I am going to miss the PBR something fierce for the next two months, I am sort of guiltily thankful for the break, because I don’t really think I’m holding my end up here. I very much appreciate your patience and willingness to stick with me, Gentle Readers, because I’m sure I wouldn’t handle the unrelenting pressure of working for a living without your wit and wisdom. Being self-employed has a lot of advantages, but one serious risk you run is getting really isolated. Another is that some of the time, the boss is really a bitch.

That said, I have a few observations about the F-150 Invitational in Pueblo last weekend, which I hope you will find interesting and/or enlightening.

1) I can’t tell you how gratified I was at the quality of the bull pen. Only 10 boys managed to stay aboard in round 1, and only five more made the whistle in round 2. That’s a new record low, folks. This suggests to me that Cody Lambert has been sandbagging us all season—where were these bulls when the PBR was at Madison Square Garden?

2) Ryan McConnell had better stop pushing his luck and put on a helmet. Anyone who saw Fog Horn step right on McConnell’s face in round 2 knows the cowboy is lucky to have walked away with only a broken jaw and a concussion.

3) I know it’s almost certainly none of my business, but I am really, really curious as to what Travis Briscoe is talking about when he keeps commenting that he’s had a lot of hardship lately. Is there something we can help you with, Travis?

4) Wasn't Cody Nance just the cutest winner we've seen all year? When the dust settled and he knew he'd won, he clearly didn't know what the program was from there on out. I predict we'll see more good rides by that young man.

5) I may be misreading the situation, but I think we are starting to see some cracks in Kody Lostroh’s icy veneer. He rode in the first round, got bucked off in the second, and then made a serious mistake when he picked El Presidente in the draft. Sure as night follows day, Lostroh hit the dirt and El Presidente got a bull score of 44 points. If there’s one thing we’ve been able to count on all year, it’s that Lostroh will pick a bull he’s sure he can ride in the short-go. Who is he kidding? It’s the secret of his success. True, he didn’t get to pick first, but there were still some easier bulls left in the pen when his turn came. From where I sit, it looks like he’s overcompensating for his injury by trying to pick the rankest bull, and rank bulls, frankly, are not his strong suit. Kody, I’m not feeling this new strategy. Best go back to what got you where you are in the first place.

Well, the PBR may be on vacation, but I do plan to be around the Stockyard, and I hope you’ll all drop by to chat. I have a few things in the hopper, and I love hearing from you. See you right here!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Oh, the Things that We Learn in Times Like These

Sometimes it seems like Brian Canter just can't catch a break. His triumph at the Bass Pro Shows Shoot-out in Omaha last weekend, which was a long time coming and most definitely well deserved, has been somewhat overshadowed by the nasty pounding Brendon Clark took when Black Smoke threw him and then tried, and nearly succeeded, in stomping his guts out. I guess I'm at least as bad as everybody else on this score, because though I am genuinely happy that Canter is back in a big way, it's Clark's story that I've been following on the PBR website all week.

It looks now like Clark may be out of the Creighton University Hospital and on his way home to California by the end of this week. Doubtless he owes his rapid improvement to the bull fighters, who dashed in there to get the bull off him, to Tandy Freeman and his medical crew, who hustled in, assessed the situation, and got him out of the arena and to the hospital without delay, and to the doctors and nurses at Creighton, which also happens to be a first-rate trauma center. If there were ever a patient suffering from trauma, it has to have been Clark, who arrived at the ER with a lacerated liver, bruised lungs, and several broken ribs, spitting up blood and barely able to breathe. It also didn't hurt that Clark is in good physical shape--if he hadn't had such core body strength, his injuries might have been even more serious. Oh, and the vest. Never underestimate the protective qualities of the vest, which helped to spread the pressure from the bull's feet out over a wider area, just as a Kevlar vest simultaneously stops a bullet and spreads the impact out.

Still, I was interested to see that the "friend" who raced to Omaha when she got word of Clark's injury wasn't Anna Hunt, of bucking-bull-breeding fame, but one Allison Renz. Almost equally interesting is the fact that Ross Coleman called her with the news. This pretty much tells me that the "glamorous power couple," who were featured on 60 Minutes almost exactly two years ago, is a couple no more. I may be reading more into this than it deserves--I suppose Anna might be off at some bull breeder's convention in Kuala Lumpur and hasn't heard that her sweetie was mauled to within an inch of his life last Saturday night. But frankly, I doubt it.

All that remains for me to wonder at this point is whether Brendon Clark, who will be out of action for at least three months while he heals up, will follow the path of other badly injured PBR riders and drop off the face of the earth till he suddenly appears back on the BFTS circuit. Let me remind you that we never hear anything anymore about Lee Akin, who suffered a serious brain injury back in 2006, or about Paulo Crimber, who broke his neck last summer and pretty much hasn't been seen or heard from since. If I hadn't stumbled across that episode of CW's In Harm's Way last October, I most likely still wouldn't know that at that point, Paulo's doctors were giving him a less than 1 percent chance of ever riding a bull again.

In my most cynical minutes, I wonder whether this isn't deliberate--after all, it's a safe bet that nobody at PBR headquarters wants to keep reminding people how dangerous the sport is. In my slightly less cynical minutes, I suspect that it's a policy by neglect--the riders and the brass don't like to think about it, so they don't talk about it, and the fans are left to glean what little information they can from other sources.

All this flies in the face of the outpouring of support that Brendon Clark has gotten from the public and the riders. As Ross Coleman told him a day or so ago, “We’re brothers. That’s what we do for each other.” I don't doubt that's the case, but I do wish the PBR would update us more regularly about the status of those of our brothers who are out of our sight, but never out of our thoughts.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Return of the Native Son

Aside from the (predictable, but predictably irritating) overhyping of Kody Lostroh’s presence there, the story most obviously emerging at the Nile Invitational was the return of Flint Rasmussen to the arena. Flint had missed four events while he recovered from a mild heart attack in March. We attended the second night of the event, and there Flint was in his new white jersey, kicking up the dust.

His performance was definitely less energetic than we were used to seeing, and featured a lot more talk and a lot less action. Gone was the high-speed, impossibly kinetic dancing, the running up the stadium steps into the nose-bleed section, the charging around in the dirt like a maniac five-year-old on speed. In place of all that, we heard a bunch of jokes about his medical condition and treatment, the changes in his exercise regime, and his new diet. Probably the most interesting moment came when Travis Briscoe bucked off Big Mack and threw a small temper tantrum as he stalked out of the arena, which apparently he followed up with a bigger temper tantrum as he stalked down the hall to the locker room. Said Flint: “Boys, remember the movie Footloose? From now on when you fall off a bull, don’t stress! Dance!”

I really wish he were in a position to take his own advice, because as much as I wish Flint well, I didn’t particularly enjoy his performance Saturday night. My disinterest had nothing to do, really, with the lower energy level—I really just don’t find the man particularly funny, and there was a lot more that reminded me of how un-funny I find him. The low point was definitely when he donned a fake-fur coat and climbed up on the shark cage to sing a parody of Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long”—arguably the dumbest rap song ever written, right down to the opening riff that sounds like it was lifted right out of Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London.” Kid Rock is way overrated and Flint’s choice didn’t do anything to elevate my opinion of his taste. Just a sample of the lyrics: “Drinking Jack out of the bottle/Have a heart attack tomorrow.” Get the picture?

The evening had its moments, of course. One sweet turn transpired when Flint asked to have the spotlight turned on a group of fans in the middle level of the arena. There they were, all the way from Hungry Horse, Montana—damned near a seven-hour drive—decked out in their Flint outfits and holding up their “We ♥ F-L-I-N-T” signs. Even if I can’t fully appreciate his performance, I can certainly join those folks in heartily wishing him a complete and uneventful recovery.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dear Guilherme

I want to apologize for failing to keep my promise to shake your hand at the Nile Invitational in Billings last weekend. I am genuinely sorry that Montana Barn Cat and I didn’t get to meet you. We had been looking forward to it for a long time.

One of our problems, quite frankly, is you weren’t scheduled for any public appearances during the day on Saturday. I really do wonder what that is all about. It seems like every year, the PBR trots out the same crew in Billings—Chris Shivers, Mike White, Mike Lee, Ross Coleman, and Brendon Clark. I won’t say “the same old broken-down crew,” because I have no call to insult any of those guys, but still, you get my drift. This year they did manage to add Robson Palermo and Valderon to the line-up at Shipton’s Big R, but you were nowhere to be seen. Reese Cates also was at the Boot Barn, but sadly, we had made a lunch date with some friends we haven’t seen in a long time that conflicted with both his and Robson’s appearance, so we didn’t get to meet either of them. I really wanted to ask Reese about that van, too.

I have to confess I’m totally mystified as to why the PBR folks didn’t have you prominently on display sometime during the day. You are, after all, the reigning world champion! Are they afraid of your accent? Are they afraid of your charisma? What’s going on here?

Something else did raise its ugly head during the competition on Saturday night, and I sincerely hope that it doesn’t mean what I, in my worst moments, suspect. For some reason, Kody Lostroh rode Soulja Boy, the last bull in the next-to-last flight, rather than at the end of the evening, as usually befits the event leader. As a Kody-Lostroh-rides-a-spinner experience goes, it was okay, but it was most certainly not a 91-point ride, not by any stretch of the imagination. The only conclusion I could draw was that the judges were trying to score Lostroh high enough to guarantee he’d win the round, even though five top contenders were yet to come. Your ride on Why Not Minot, which is the bottom picture, was way better than Lostroh’s, but what did you get? A measly 86.25! Just take a look at this picture, at the top, that Montana Barn Cat took, about five seconds into Lostroh’s ride. This is what a 91-point ride looks like, Guilherme! Yes, you're right! It looks exactly like a bull’s ass!

Now, ordinarily, I would have to excuse myself from this discussion because I am completely in your corner, and thus might not be the most objective person to talk to on the subject, but what really convinced me that Lostroh is being favored is the fact that Zack Brown, who literally got his guts stomped out at the Metra in 2005, and who came back out of retirement to win the event there last year, got practically NO acknowledgment from the announcers. That was bad enough, but I was mortified that the crowd didn’t seem to remember him, either. Between you and me, if you don’t repeat as champion this season, I am rooting for Zack. As far as I’m concerned, he has all the goods.

So all in all, the experience of the Nile was a mixed bag for us this year. Our seats were marginally better than last year, but we were stuck at the end of the row, next to a barrier, which meant we couldn’t get out without crawling over about nine other people, so we regretfully passed on the beer. With the exceptions of Apache Leap, Wrangler Big Rig, Unabomber, and Husker’s Terror, the bulls in the go-round really weren’t very good, but the cowboys kept falling off left and right anyway, so I guess I really can’t complain too much about that.

Our single biggest mistake, however, was that we raced out to the parking lot right after the event was over—and sat there for one hour, count them, 60 minutes, before we managed to get out off the Metra grounds and headed back to the interstate. We were in a rush because the restaurant we wanted to try closes at 10 p.m., but as it worked out, we would have been better off to have stayed and shaken your hand during the autograph session. We won’t do that again, I assure you. If you’re back next season, we will stick it out to meet you, come hell or high water. That’s a promise.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dreaming of Billings

Dear friends, I write to you today as one who has her eyes fixed firmly on the prize, the Nile Invitational in Billings, Montana. This weekend Montana Barn Cat and I will saddle up our hosses and point them east, where we will land overnight in a free hotel room (courtesy of the millions of not-free hotel rooms we stayed in back during the Flood of '08), eat indigestible objects and wash them down with huge quantities of beer and hard liquor, and then toddle, weaving a bit in our high-heeled cowboy boots, down the long concrete staircase at the Metra to the Saturday night event.

All is in readiness here. We have the animal-sitting routine lined out for the youngster who will be charged with their care, the car gassed up--hell, we're even almost packed. This will be our third trip to Billings to witness firsthand the semi-organized chaos that is a live PBR event. We hope to see a bunch of Chad Berger bulls, especially Big Tex, and we hope to get to talk to some of our favorite riders, especially Guilherme Marchi. We've come close on a couple of occasions, but always before that weird tongue-tied shyness has overtaken us. Not this time, sez I. This time, it's shake the man's hand, or bust.

You could certainly make the case that Billings, Montana, is one of the least attractive cities of its size anywhere, and if you further suggested that it's one of the stinkiest, you'd get no argument from me. What with the flat, prairie-like terrain, relieved only by the Rims lurching abruptly skyward at the north edge of town, and the three or four oil refineries belching out huge clouds of hydrocarbons, you'd be hard pressed to find another contender. But I have my reasons for loving Billings. If you dropped by here in April of last year, no doubt I bored you senseless with my two-part rhapsody on the subject. In many ways, I count that long-ass post as the true beginning of this blog. On our return, I will bring you the best observations I am capable of, and this time, I promise, there will be pictures, too!

Saddle up, Barn Cat! It's time to head east. See y'all round the Stockyard next week.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Yes, I've Sold Out

Folks, you've doubtless noticed that suddenly advertisements are showing up on "Turn Him Out!" Yes, I must confess, I've signed up for Google Ads. I seriously doubt that I'll see any revenues to speak of, probably not enough to buy me a cup of coffee, but maybe it will help assuage my conscience for putting in time here that might be better spent elsewhere.

On the other hand--where could I possibly better spend my time? When I read the Zonkboard and your comments, I feel like I am being lifted up by a host of angels. I wish I could gather you all up and deposit you in my living room some Saturday night, and serve you snacks and drinks while we whoop and holler and yell at the tv set and offer up our unvarnished opinions on the bulls and the riders and (gulp!) the judges. But until such a moment arrives, wherever you are, laissez les bons temps rouler!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

It's Deja Vu All Over Again

So I was lounging around Sunday evening after supper, knitting (yes, I know, I'm the most boring person on the planet) and watching the PBR. Dull as it doubtless sounds, I was thoroughly enjoying myself as the short-round riders commenced flying off their bulls. And then suddenly I had the strangest feeling: I've seen this all before.

No, I hadn't fallen down a rabbit hole. No, I wasn't having an attack of vertigo. No, I hadn't drunk too much Jack Daniels and slipped off the sofa in a heap. No--I had just seen Guilherme Marchi ride Big Tex for an astonishing 94 points, and I was jumping and hollering and embarrassing anybody within earshot. And then Kody Lostroh turned in an adequate, but hardly stellar, ride on Big North, was awarded 91.25 points for his pains, and stole the win from Marchi--by three-quarters of a point.

I started feeling like Yogi Berra when Lostroh was climbing down into the chute. I just had the most awful feeling that if he rode, he was going to get the win, regardless of what kind of ride he got. See, I was right! Again! And doesn't that make me feel special?

No, it doesn't. It made me furious. It took several days, as you can see, to get a tight enough grip on my feelings to write something even modestly coherent on the subject. My initial reaction was, "Marchi was robbed!" along with a bunch of stuff that I can't post here, for fear of offending even my most tolerant readers.

How to explain this atrocity? Some possibilities:

1) The judges just get so excited when somebody rides exceptionally well that they feel like they have to score the next guy high, too. I, for one, would like to know what's in that confetti--seems like anytime it falls, the judges lose their heads and start handing out 90+ scores like Halloween candy.

2) The judges think the guy in first place has to be "knocked out" to lose--in other words, if he rides at all, he deserves to outscore everybody else.

3) The judges were trying to impress everybody with their ability to run their calculators fast enough to figure out that three-quarters of a point would be enough to put Lostroh in the winner's circle.

Other possible explanations are, frankly, way more sinister. We talked about them all last year, when any (white, American, born-again Christian) rider who could stick for eight seconds seemed to outscore Marchi. But how anybody with any objectivity could have watched those two rides Sunday night and in good conscience have decided that Lostroh deserved a higher score escapes me. It makes me wonder, and not for the first time, what the judges are thinking. Damned if I can figure it out.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

This is a True Story

I received the March 2009 issue of Pro Bull Rider magazine yesterday, which includes a nice story about Ryan Dirteater. Of course, it made me very sad because Ryan has since broken his femur and will be lucky to get back in action any time soon. But the call-out on the cover, "The Name's Dirteater, Get Used to It," reminded me of a story my brother told me years ago.

After I was grown and gone from home, my family lived in a town close to the Oklahoma border, and a lot of Cherokee folk lived in the little communities over in the edge of Oklahoma. My brother made friends with one of his classmates, who was Cherokee and whose last name was "Glory."

So one day my brother, who would ask the devil himself pretty much any question that came into his head, and would enjoy the conversation up till the moment the devil got tired of it and vaporized his inquisitor, asked his friend how he came by that last name. The friend replied that when his grandfather enlisted in the military, the recruiter asked him what his last name was, and Grandfather replied with the English translation of his Cherokee name: "Dog."

The recruiter probably sputtered a little when he informed Grandfather that "Dog" was not an proper name for an American soldier. Grandfather replied, "Okay, put my name down as 'Glory,' then."

Descendants of that man call still themselves by the last name he chose for himself on that day. But if you go out to the little cemetery where Grandfather is buried, on his headstone you'll find the name "Dog."

Monday, March 30, 2009

I'm the Pot, and I'm Calling the Kettle Black

Gentle Readers, last week was pure hell here at the Stockyard, for reasons professional and private that I won’t burden you with. Suffice it to say I was so mired in the mess that I paid scant attention to the permutations of the big Kody Lostroh versus J.B. Mauney challenge, finally held on Friday night at the Ty Murray Invitational in Albuquerque. I did notice, just for a second, that suddenly it was being billed as “East Versus West,” instead of “Number One Versus Number Two,” and of course I knew that this change in midstream came about because our hero Guilherme Marchi outrode Mr. Mauney AND Mr. Lostroh in Tacoma. Suddenly, Mauney wasn’t Number Two anymore. Quelle quandary!

I really didn’t have time to follow all the discussions, so I am grateful to the splendid Jaye of the Tarheel State for telling me that apparently after Marchi nudged Mauney out of second position, some fans helpfully pointed out that the “Number One Versus Number Two” appellation wasn’t accurate anymore. Soon enough, somebody changed the name of the challenge to match the circumstances. I don’t have a problem with that, really—I happen to think that the ability to adjust to changing situations is one mark of professionalism, and, indeed, of good sense. Now that you know that about me, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that I thought young Cody Ford was out of his mind when he explained his determination to ride with a concussion and a stiff neck by saying, “I’ve never turned a bull out in my life. I was going to get on no matter what.” There’s brave, and then there’s stupid, and I’m sure you can guess which label I’d apply to Mr. Ford.

But I also imagine that a lot of fans thought Marchi should be given the chance to ride against Lostroh, and if I’d been running the show, that’s exactly what would have happened. Still, I suppose somebody somewhere must have felt that the tide couldn’t be turned and the show must go on, as billed.

The remarkable aspect about this whole drama, however, is that after all that hype and hoopla and hurrahing, the challenge was barely covered—at all. At intermission on Saturday, Versus aired clips of Lostroh and Mauney falling off their respective bulls the night before, and nobody, not one soul, said a single word about the results, or speculated on who “won,” or indeed said anything at all about it beyond, “This is what happened.” Furthermore, I couldn't find one word posted on the PBR website about it. Given that the PBR website is genuinely confusing and difficult to navigate, maybe I'm just not looking in the right place. It wouldn't be the first time that's happened to me. But considering that the run-up was all over the home page, reasonable people might expect to find some report of the outcome there, as well.

Now, I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten up on Monday morning, full of vim and vigor and vitality, and sworn with God as my witness that I would post on “Turn Him Out!” five times in the coming five days, and made a list of possible subjects to scrutinize, and started off on the straight and narrow, only to be sidetracked right out of the chute and, metaphorically speaking, pitched face down on the arena floor by a host of other obligations, my own self. I’m embarrassed to confess that I know all about follow-through and the lack thereof. Fortunately, I’ve finally come to my senses and learned not to announce that I plan to write the grand treatise on bull riding over the course a week, because some damned thing always comes up to derail me.

But I still can’t understand why the PBR didn’t do a better job of handling this controversy. The difference between them and me is obvious—I work for a living, I work for myself for a living, and if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. Nobody is going to go hungry if I don’t post on the blog five times a week. The folks at the PBR have an obligation to fans and riders to finish what they start. Their handling of the challenge suggests that they are slinking off and trying to pretend that nothing happened here. Here’s a bulletin from the Stockyard Queen: That ain’t the Cowboy Way.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I Hope the Rest of the Week Goes Better Than It's Starting Off

Gentle readers, I am so bummed. Yesterday morning, our cable box suddenly developed a hiccup. First, it had no audio, then it had neither audio nor video, then finally (after I'd spent a half hour on the phone with a cable company tech), it had both audio and video for about 30 seconds, at which point it would considerately turn itself off.

So here we are, stranded in a high country snowstorm with no television. We missed the ongoing sagas of the PBR and Breaking Bad, and the season finale of Big Love, and since the cable company can't get anybody out here to fix the box before tomorrow morning, we will also miss 24 tonight. This is no way to start off the week.

Please, please take pity on me and enlighten me. I know that Ryan Dirteater broke his leg, but what happened on Sunday night? I can always look at the results on the PBR website, but they can't possibly tell me as much as you can. Throw me a line, please!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bucking Through the Pain

There once was a bull name of Bones
Whose balls were as big as millstones.
But that baby got hurt,
Left his pride in the dirt,
Now Big Tex has the largest cajones.

The trash talking has stopped, the contest is over, Tom Teague’s pocket is lighter by $50,000, and a lot of people, including my poor suffering friend Jaye, are off licking their wounds in dark corners and muttering to themselves. I don’t have much comfort to offer, since I do think that Big Tex bucked harder than Bones on Sunday night.

But it seemed clear to me as soon as Bones left the chute that he didn’t have the same trip he had before he got hurt. Now I’m a little worried that we may never again see that adorable baby jump straight up in the air and then make that big signature drop of his. The cowboys who rode through that must have felt like they were strapped to a car careening over the edge of a ravine, watching the ground come up to meet them and realizing the brakes were useless.

After weeks of Dr. Carla's therapy, Bones may be feeling as good as new, but it’s impossible to explain to an animal that what hurt before shouldn’t hurt him now. I’m betting Bones remembers what it felt like to land on that injured shoulder, and I’m afraid he won’t be jumping like he did before for a while, if he ever does. I genuinely hope I’m wrong, because it would be a huge loss to the sport if I’m not.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bring on the Alligators

Friends and neighbors, we have much to look forward to at the PBR event in Birmingham, most notably (or at least, most loudly) the big contest between Bones and Big Tex. I for one will be glad to get this settled. I started to say “settled once and for all,” but somehow I have a sneaky feeling that no matter which way it turns out, this shoot-out won’t be the last shot fired.

All that said, I really haven’t minded Tom Teague and Chad Berger trashing talking one another, because it’s distracted me from something I haven’t wanted to think about. What it boils down to is this: Every time I see Kody Lostroh climb into the bucking chute, I wonder why I really don’t give a damn about whether he rides or doesn’t. Then as soon as the ride is over (and sometimes before that), I hastily sidle off to some other line of thought, since if I think about this at any length, I’ll have to write about it, and the next thing you know, I’ll be up to my ass in alligators. But Guilherme Marchi’s return to the winner’s circle last weekend has forced me to deal with the issue. Here, in ascending order, are the reasons why Kody Lostroh bores me senseless.

1. His riding style is dull.
Obviously a lot of people are going to disagree with me about this, and clearly the judges do, because it all goes back to my preference for buckers over spinners. It seems to me that all I’ve seen Lostroh do all season is perch on the back of a spinning bull. Surely at some point he must have ridden some wild and crazy bucker, but I cannot for the life of me remember any such occurence. I don’t, for instance, recall Lostroh ever completing a ride remotely as spectacular as J.B. Mauney’s on Crosswired at the PBR finals. Since the judges always, without exception, favor spinners over buckers, I’m not in the least surprised that Lostroh is leading the pack on the strength of such rides. But I don’t like it one bit. And the endless nattering from the broadcast booth about how Lostroh “dresses up a bull” just adds insult to injury. Chris Shivers, who actually does manage to make watching a spinner sort of interesting, is the only rider who merits the “dressing up a bull” honor, in my book.

2. He’s not charismatic. Now, unlike many of my lovely readers, I’m not unduly swayed by looks, so it’s probably unfair of me to even mention them here. As Montana Barn Cat once replied to my question on the subject, “I’m a brains man.” But on reflection, I have to admit that it’s not just brains that appeal to me, it’s also charisma. Lostroh may be the most charming rider ever to strap on a pair of chaps, but I haven’t seen any sign of that so far. It really struck me last Sunday night, as I watched Marchi stride out of the arena after he’d ridden Big Iron in the short-go, that I like ’em smart, confident, and charming, and good looks just sweeten the deal for me. I don’t always agree with Ty Murray, but I think he is the third most adorable cowboy I ever laid eyes on—behind Adriano Moraes, and Marchi, of course. Who can resist those dimples, that manly scar on his chin, those huge forearms, that swagger? Watching him makes me purr like a cat high on catnip. Compared to that, Lostroh is offering me a plastic cup of pink Zinfandel out of a cardboard box—another elitist comment that will doubtless land me in hot water. Well, damn the torpedos, and grill me up some arugula.

3. Every once in a while, something creepy raises its ugly head. I’m thinking first of the incident in Dallas when Lostroh told an interviewer that he’d ridden “like a girl.” My recollection is that he was talking to Leah, which only makes the offense worse, since the divine Ms. Garcia is a former all-around rodeo champion and professional mountain bike racer, and presently runs her own personal training business in Boulder, CO. I bet she could take Lostroh two falls out of three, probably in her dancing dress and high heels. She even has a college degree, which is more than I can say for most of the boys she spends her time interviewing for Versus.

I can sort of excuse this crap on the theory that like most of the riders, Lostroh spends his time hanging around with guys whose senses of humor would make frat boys look like card-carrying debutantes, so maybe it just hasn’t registered with him that other people might not find that expression as funny as he apparently did. But then there was also that time when Lostroh posted a video of himself and some of his buddies hunting an old, worn-out lion for sport online and then appeared to be mystified at the outrage it provoked. He finally apologizing in the “whatever” vein that every parent of a teenager is intimately familiar with.

I am loathe to decide on the basis of these bone-headed missteps that Lostroh holds opinions that are creepier than those of your average redneck, but I’m also not ready to let him off the hook yet. I will need to see a little more sensitivity out of him before I regard him without any suspicion at all. And unless and until I can get the bad taste out of my mouth, I’m not going to be cheering him on to the world title. In that department, my heart belongs to Guilherme.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Three Guys Were Sitting in the Versus Broadcast Booth

Which you might consider as close to heaven as you can get, but then think about our good friend Shannon, who sat right behind the chutes at Anaheim two weeks ago, and you’ll realize that there are other places a lot closer to the celestial choir at a PBR event. Anyway, these three guys were sitting in the Versus broadcast booth in St. Louis, and somehow, in the midst of the gabfest we are privileged to enjoy anytime Justin McBride and J.W. Hart both shoehorn themselves in there, the third guy, Justin McKee, turned to McBride and asked why there had been so few qualified rides in the first two rounds. Was the long, grueling season finally catching up with the riders? Were they getting hurt? Were they just tired?

I didn’t hear how McBride responded because I was too busy getting up off the floor, where I had landed in my astonishment. But I am happy to answer on Mr. McBride’s behalf, since I’m sure he didn’t get the answer right.


Anybody who has stopped by here since the season began knows that I was not impressed by the bulls that bucked for about the first six events. Thank God somebody has finally come to his senses and gotten us some decent stock, because frankly I was so bored during the Baltimore, New York, Fresno, and Sacramento events that I was seriously considering finding something else to waste my time on, like needlepointing new seat covers for all my dining chairs or taking up growing bonsai, or maybe, in a pinch, building model suspension bridges out of pipe cleaners. All that started to change in Dallas, finally, and certainly since Oklahoma City, I have had no complaints about the bull talent.

So, Mr. McKee, I don’t know whether the cowboys are *tired* or maybe just *tired of all the drama,* which you have to admit has been considerable this season. What I do know is, at St. Louis, twelve riders—just twelve! twelve out of 40!—rode more than ONE bull all weekend long. Out of that twelve, four rode only two bulls, five rode three, and a grand total of three rode all four. I was glad to see Zack Brown ride well—he finished third, less than three points behind the winner—but doubtless everybody already knows that I don’t give a damn how Kody Lohstroh rides, and Wiley Petersen is just about to lose me for good, what with his giving God the praise and the glory whenever a microphone is shoved in his face. I mean, really, Wiley. Do you think God is what’s keeping you on the backs of your bulls? Do you believe you score more points the more you proselytize? Actually, the last proposition might be true, since nobody can tell why the judges score any rider or bull the way they do, but as for the former, I can guarantee you it just ain’t so. I’d say it’s a safe bet that most, if not all, the riders are praying they’ll ride, but the stats speak for the efficacy of that strategy.

So bring on Kansas City, folks. I, too, am back in the house, on the couch, clutching my remote in one hand and my Jack Daniels in the other, hollerin’ and cussin’ and generally making Montana Barn Cat clap his hands over his ears about 30 times each go-round. It feels just like old times.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Final Night: Day Two, Part II

It is with some sadness that the Stockyard Queen presents the final installment of Shannon's inimitable report on the Anaheim event. I appreciate her thanks, but truthfully, the thanks go to her. There's nothing like hearing from the folks who are down on the ground, and I am grateful that she was willing to go to the trouble for us. Enjoy, folks! And if others of you do manage to get to PBR events, by all means, let me know if you'd like to guest blog about it. I'm all ears.

The Final Night: Day Two, Part II

Once back inside the event, we said hello to my brother and then went to our seats, which are in the same section as they were before. Behind the chutes, we see Judd Leffew and, wow! Luke Perry! *dreamy sigh* I had the pleasure of meeting him quite a few years ago when my husband worked in the movie industry. He is a great guy—very personable—and all of the sudden, I find myself splitting my attention between the chute seats and the riders. My brother, who, as you may remember, doesn’t really follow the PBR anymore, was ushered with a few other agents, up to watch from the chutes themselves. In the grand tradition of younger brothers teasing older sisters, he just had to ring me up and say, “Did you see where they brought me?” *sigh* “Yes, Sean, I saw you.” “Yeah, I’m watching Ryan in the chutes right now.” “Uh-huh.” “Hey, I can see you! Wave!” *grrr….* I’m not even going to discuss the irony of him being up there. . . . Later, he rang again: “What’s up?” “You know—watching from up here really isn’t that good. You can’t see anything.” “Right.” (Speak for yourself, buddy—I’d have given up watching a few rides just to be able to watch the action behind the chutes—but then, good-looking cowboys were never his thing, anyway).

This time, the bulls were even more exciting, as you all probably saw on tv. I actually got hit with quite a bit of dirt and was able to collect some of J.B. and Skeeter’s 90 point confetti. Brendon’s, for some reason, went in the other direction. Anyway, you all saw the rides, but I thought I’d report on one bull moment. They showed Frank getting clocked, of course, and there were a few who had to do a victory lap, and one that thought a barrel needed to die, but you only saw part of McKennon’s bull’s antics. After he bucked off (distraught, I tell you! ;), the whole song and dance of getting the bull back behind the chutes went on for quite a while. He would turn towards the chute and take a step, then turn back. Then again, and again, and again. Finally, Julio Moreno was able to lasso him. When Julio headed straight back behind the chutes, this bull decided that no mere mortal and his fancy horse were any match for him! He yanked back on the rope, and suddenly, it went slack and came back out from behind the chutes—without Julio attached to it (did you hear the gasp?). After a minute or two more of playing, the bull decided he’d had enough. He walked through the gate, but then decided he wanted one more moment in the spotlight—either that, or he was ticked off that the gateman was closing the gate so quickly. He started to buck when it was halfway closed, kicking the crap out of it. That’s when about five guys slammed it shut and held it there while he continued his routine. I only wish I could have seen behind the gates to see how they got him to stop. That was fun.

After we’d watched some great rides, the draft (where everyone one gasped in awe, then shouted and applauded when Skeeter chose All In), and listening to the two people around me try to explain the sport to their buddies who’d never watched before (that can be fun), and to the announcer talk incessantly about the cut, just on the off-chance the riders forgot (no pressure guys!), the show ended. I was torn between trying to holler out to Luke and going down right away so I didn’t miss any autographs. I decided to go for the autographs, since security probably would have frowned on me shouting “Luke! Luke!” over the railing. We chatted with a few more riders and waited forever for J.B. to finally decide to come out. Most people had left, figuring he wasn’t going to, but some of us waited (patiently!). When he walked out with Kasey, the little girl with the family next to us got giddy with excitement. She couldn’t have been more than four and obviously, her parents are big fans because she knew who she was waiting for! Kasey and J.B.! She was bouncing away until Kasey got there. He gave her and her older sister a smile and a hello, then obliged when mom asked for a picture with all three ladies (dad got to take the picture). We all got a laugh when the little one had to be convinced to turn towards the camera and stop staring at the cowboy (a girl after my own heart!) and then sweetly called “Bye!” with a wave after he left. Kasey turned and waved back. But, that wasn’t the end. Not for them and certainly not for her! J.B. was still a ways behind. She leaned back over the railing and shouted “J.B., come on! J.B.!!”. God love her, she was adorable. And when he got there, it was the same exact routine as with Kasey (“Look at the camera, sweetheart!”) and he was just as good with her.

Finally, it was time to go. We once again got lost (proof that I wouldn’t last one leg on The Amazing Race!) and when we made it back to the hotel, as we turned into the parking lot, I’ll give you three guesses who we saw waiting for us to pass. Brian Canter. As we laughed at running into him once again, I pulled up the last few yards to the front doors. The last rider we would see in person this year was standing there: Kasey. More laughter from us because how fitting was it that we ran into them all weekend, then one last time before our night ended?

As I drove off, I thought about an older couple that we’d met in the lobby. They’ve attended several events a year since the beginning of the PBR 16 years ago and have become friendly with many staff/crew members and riders (I had no reason to doubt them after the warm welcome they got from a staff member who walked by and one Renato Nunes). We told them that it must seem odd for the riders to see us there all day, both days. They smiled and said, “You keep coming back every year and sitting on that couch. They will appreciate it because they know that the fans are what brought the PBR this far, they will remember you [as they were certain Guilherme remembered me from the year before—they said he was very sharp] and, they will even eventually start looking for you.” You can bet from now on, I’ll be at that couch whenever I can get to Anaheim, because as odd as it may be, I have a great time when I’m there.

Thank you, Stockyard Queen, for letting me tell my story. It was nice to be able to share it with people who would get it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Back to the Couch: Day 2, Part I

The Stockyard Queen proudly introduces Shannon's penultimate installment about the Anaheim PBR event. Just thinking about those ladies staking out the hotel lobby makes me smile.

Back to the Couch: Day 2, Part I

When I last left off, I was ready to head out to day two of cowboy oogli . . . erm, I mean, watching, after only four hours of sleep. I left at 8:30 a.m., after a habitual, and on this day necessary, stop at Starbucks, for what I thought was supposed to be a breakfast date with my brother. At 9:30 a.m., I was standing in the hotel lobby, calling him, wondering why he hadn’t called me yet. It seems that there was a miscommunication and he just wanted to meet me “sometime” before he had to be at the event at 3:30 p.m. (don’t ask). Of course, I still would have been there early, but would have probably opted for at least one more hour of sleep. So, I called Laura to tell her I was there and within minutes, she was downstairs. We both dragged ourselves, exhausted and hungry, to the restaurant where, over my second cup of coffee and her protein-filled plate, we observed Flint and his family, Randy Bernard, L.J., and Clayton enjoying their breakfasts, neither of us breaking one of our cardinal rules: Never bother anyone during a meal. As we were leaving, it was a pleasure to look outside and see Flint (whose family was just finishing eating as we were ordering) sitting in a chair at poolside watching his girls enjoy the swimming pool in the middle of February—something they don’t get to do too often, being from Montana, and something to remind us Californians not only how lucky we are, but how much the blood can be thinned in warmer climates, as those of us who have lived here for years think 70 is still too cold to go swimming. [Stockyard Queen: Hell, when we lived out there, everybody whined like 10-year-olds if the temperature dipped below 60. No wonder I had to leave.]

Back on our couch in the lobby, we were surprised at how much different it was than the day before—there were no riders to be seen outside the restaurant. After a quick trip to Target (when upon returning, we almost collided with Kasey, Brian, and a couple others—finally!) and an hour in the lobby without any further sightings, we finally went to lunch, at which time Guilherme stepped out of the elevator and offered a pleasant “hello” for us as we walked by.
After a lunch, we were back at the hotel for another couple hours of sitting. During this time, we saw Luke Snyder walk out in full cowboy-sponsor clothing and step outside to wait for a taxi. We watched as he took a minute to play with another guest’s bulldog, then, as he sat on the bench right outside the window, our eyes turned in shock to the back of his shirt. The closest thing to a metro-sexual the cowboy world has probably ever seen, the always well put-together Luke Snyder was wearing a shirt so terribly wrinkled it looked like he’d slept in it. It had us wondering what Rachel Ray would think if she could see him at that moment. A few minutes later, he was joined by Mike White and they headed out to their autograph signing.

After a bit more time, J.B. Mauney walked by, again with his girlfriend, and then, a few minutes later, Flint walks by. I decided to call him over. I told him that I was the sister of the Border Patrol agent he’d spoken to the day before and asked if I should smack him upside the head for asking if he was “the head clown.” Flint laughed and said “Nah, it’s okay.” Then, as he turned to leave, he looked back at us and said, “Tell him I’m not the ‘head’ clown—I’m ‘the’ clown. That he is.

Not long after that, we finally saw Brian Canter alone. This was Laura’s big chance as she’s a huge Brian fan. After a moment to take a deep breath, she waved him over. Without thinking, because sometimes, when faced with a favorite celebrity, one can be prone to not thinking, she smiled and gave him a hug. Since I was behind them, I got to see the shocked look on his face as his arms slowly kicked into “hug back” mode. I grinned and gave him a helpless shrug, let her say her piece, then took their picture. Okay—my turn now. Surely I can keep it together . . . well, maybe, sort of . . . I shook his hand and told him how good it was to see him back healthy and riding so well. Unfortunately for him, I did one of those handshakes where you use a firm grip, but then let your hand soften to just hold the fingers for a second while talking. Once again, the little voice in my head started shouting, “Let go!” Thankfully, I listened to it. I told him about our encounter from the year before, because I’d been told that I should remind him and he’d probably remember. Yeah. Right. It was obvious from a few sentences in that not only did he not remember, but he also had no idea how to respond. It was time to let him off the hook, so I said something to give him an out and he took it—being as gracious as possible as he left. So, I can file my encounter with him under the “awkward” category. I was, however, able to look back at it and laugh.

The final group of riders we saw before we left was the international crew of McKennon, Renato, Leonil, and Peter. They came out and sat down right around us, McKennon right next to me. He started talking to us and I was actually able to have a good conversation—well, as good as I could, given that this guy’s eyes are so mesmerizing that it was hard not to just stare at him. We learned that the lobby had been so empty because all the guys were sleeping in. He himself didn’t wake up until just a short time before, but that was due to two hours of sleep on Thursday night—something to do with an early flight and time zones. We talked about Reese, autographs, his getting to Arizona by hitching a ride with Chad Berger. I told him that I’d left my autograph item in the car because I didn’t think we’d see anyone. He told me that he wouldn’t be in the ring that night after the show because he was going to be at the Jeffrey Scott Booth from 4:30–5:30 p.m. I told him I’d be there. When we had to leave for dinner, I wished them all luck and said I’d see him later. Finally! The second of two really good encounters (the first being with Guilherme)!

Dinner at the Outback Steakhouse was very relaxing—too relaxing, in fact. I glanced at my watch and noticed that if we didn’t leave for the arena, we’d miss McKennon’s signing. I really wanted his autograph and I told him I’d be there! My sense of responsibility sometimes goes into overdrive and I swear, this signing factored into my anxiety. Sadly, in our rush to get there—because I just knew that McKennon would be distraught for days because the girl on the couch promised she’d be there and didn’t show up!—I didn’t pay attention to the street signs and we got lost (again!). By the time we got there, I had accepted the fact that it was too late—the booth was closed. Hopefully, we’ll see him in Ontario and I can get his autograph then. The jury is still out as to whether or not I’ll remind him of our talk at the hotel in Anaheim.