Story-Telling the Right Way

Don't you hate how people take a perfectly good, honest and completely true story and shape it into something so grotesque that it doesn't resemble, in any form, the original event that took place? Take me, for instance. I always tell stories good and honest and true, much like Hemingway would've. Yet, when other bystanders retell the same story, they always manipulate the facts and truth.

Take, for instance the last time I was riding with my nephew, Josh. I was riding a green-broke 3-year-old who, sensing that the world was collapsing around him, decided to blow up in world-class fashion. I really wish we'd had a video camera, because the way he bucked, I could've sold him for the National Finals in Vegas and made a killing. He started off by catching sight of a shadow out of the corner of his eye, so he blew at least 20 feet to the side in a single jump.

Wouldn't you know it? My hat shifted on my head when he blew sideways, which caused him to get excited, and he commenced to dropping his head and bucking real hard about a dozen times.

Now, I'm no greenhorn, and none of this bothered me much as I was sitting up there pretty relaxed, still drinking a can of Coke®, but then he started to get ornery. He started rearing up, which caused me to spill a little soda on myself, and made me quite unhappy with the situation.

Then he did the thing I fear most about riding colts. He tipped on his side. I felt it coming, kicked my feet out of the stirrups and hit the ground scrambling away from him, lucky to come out with my life.

But is this how my nephew, a 5-year-old who should be innocent enough to tell the story straight, describes the event to his father? No. He tells his dad, "Uncle Cory's horse stepped funny, and Uncle Cory fell off."

I can't believe it! My brother should've spanked him on the spot. You can't let a child at the tender age of 5 lie like that. It could turn chronic.

I wish I could say that my nephew was the only person I've seen with this problem, but, unfortunately, it seems to surround me. Just after getting married, I bought a really good-looking filly down at Larry's Livestock, but I paid too much for it. Well, I didn't actually intend to buy it. I was just talking with one of the horse jockeys, discussing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness when the filly came into the ring. During the discussion I was describing how tall a draft horse I used to own was, with my arm extended in the air to demonstrate, when - out of the blue - the auctioneer takes my perched hand as a bid and sells me the horse.

I explained this real nice to my wife, and I thought I had things smoothed over real well, when Wild Willard called over.

Willard, talking to my wife, says, "You tell Cory I ain't really happy with him for runnin' me on that filly colt and buying her away from me."

Some friend!

The only guy I can ever tell stories with is my uncle, Windy, because he remembers the facts like they happen. Sometimes he even adds facts that I've forgotten. One of our typical stories goes something like this:

We're down at the Long X discussing cowboying, and I'll start a story about a roundup that we worked a couple of years back.

"Well, the day started off nice enough, so we all left our hats and gloves back in the truck."

"And our coats," Windy adds.

"And we started working our way down some pretty rough country out by the North Unit of Teddy Roosevelt Park when I spot this rattlesnake. Now me, I'm riding a colt, and Windy is riding an old hammerhead."

"Used to be a buckin' horse, but I thought he was too good for that, so I broke him out," Windy adds.

"So this rattlesnake begins to shake its old tail and make a bunch of noise, and my colt begins to blow. He takes off running, and Windy has to lay spur to his horse to keep up. Next thing you know, we covered, oh, what would you say, Windy? How far?"

"At least three or four miles."

"Yeah, probably four. So we get about four miles before I get my horse pulled up, and then we realize that we're a ways away from anything and, wouldn't you know, the temp starts a fallin'."

"And she starts a snowin'."

"Oh yeah, I'd almost forgot." Like I said, he adds good facts that I forget. So I continue, "But we're pretty tough guys, and a little snow and blow isn't going to bother us much, so we start looking for cows. We find a pretty good group of them and start pushing them north toward the catch pen, when the wind really starts to pick up."

"Don't forget about the wolves."

"Wolves?" I ask, hoping for a prompt to spark my memory.

"Yup, the wolves that begun to follow us. They were so skinny their hides clung to the inside of their ribs."

"Oh yeah, the wolves. So wolves start to follow us. How did we get rid of the wolves?" I ask Windy, still trying to jog my memory.

"Well, I up and shot three of them with my old six-shooter. Carry it right on my saddle, ya know."

"Oh yeah. Now I remember," I tell him, my memory refreshed. "Hey, guy! Where are you going? Guys?"

The whole table cleared, with the patrons of the Long X moving to different areas of the bar, every one of them grumbling something about lies. But how could we be telling lies? Not possible, at least not with two of us remembering the same facts.

Like I said before, that Windy, he's a guy you can tell the honest truth with.

This is a selection from Cory G. Neumiller's book, My Horse Got a Flat: Stories, Tales and Lies from a Modern Cowboy. Contact 701-324-4258; CoryG.Neumiller@sendit.nodak.edu.