There's no doubt that these guys are tough, but are they ranch savvy? Sure, the horses bucked hard and the bulls were mean, but it was a pretty nice environment in that arena. There was no wind, no rain and they weren't wearing rubber knee-high boots and slickers. Also, they only had to concentrate on one critter at a time, and as most ranchers will tell you, it isn't the critter you're concentrating on that gets you. It's the one that sneaks up from behind that takes a chunk out of your hide.
The other day I took a moment to sit back and relax. Flipping through the TV channels, I spotted a rodeo. All kinds of cowboys in their fancy Stetsons and purple chaps were strutting their stuff. They were riding bad horses and making it look easy. It got me thinking about how long these boys could hold up in a real rodeo?
So, I decided to come up with my own rodeo, one that's a little closer to everyday ranch life. My rodeo takes place in May, when the muck (not mud, muck) is up to a person's knees. Most guys are about done calving, except for a few late ones, so there's a lot to do. I came up with a handful of events that's sure to test the mettle of most any cowboy.
The competitor is given a pair of knee boots and an old tow rope that's been torn and knotted in the middle. His goal is to rope and treat a sick calf, preferably one down with scours so that the cowboy has to be careful how he grabs it. As soon as the calf's roped, a gate's tripped, allowing the proud calf's mother to try to defend her young. Points will be awarded for how much of the medicine gets into the calf, how long the whole process takes, how many shoes return from the muck, and how much air time the cowboy receives from the cow.
The event of bull fighting is enormously popular in today's rodeo circuit, so it had to be added to our ranch rodeo. The bullfighter is equipped with a four-foot piece of PVC pipe, overalls and knee boots. He's positioned between a bull and the group of cows that the bull's been separated from all winter. If he can effectively keep the bull from the group of cows for 30 seconds, he'll move to the next round, where he'll have his piece of PVC pipe decreased by one foot and the bull's horns lengthened by the same measure.
All the 2- and 3-year-old colts will be brought in from winter pasture and haltered. Contestants must wear big packer boots, insulated coveralls and a long yellow slicker. Not only must they ride the colts, they must also saddle their own mount and climb on without the help of a chute. Points will be awarded for length of ride, not style. Note: This even is better if held on a windy day.
Winter Feeding for the Ladies
Next, I figured I needed an event just for the ladies, much like rodeo has barrel racing. I know many ranchers rely on their wives and daughters to do much of the feeding, so this event will try to duplicate those skills. The lady will be given a pair of five gallon buckets full of corn, which she's to pour into the feed bunk placed in the middle of a corral full of freshly calved cows. But not just any cows, more like cows with a certain degree of, how should I say this, antisociability. Points will be awarded for feed that makes it to the trough. Points will be deducted for any language used that is unbecoming of a lady.
Although I already addressed the sport of roping in Event 1, I knew that we still needed a team sport, which led me to team-pasture roping. The rules are very simple for this event. We take the team out to the pasture of the neighbor who owns the wildest cows in the county and select a calf for them to rope. One guy drives, the other guy ropes. Points deducted for any mirrors lost in the dallying process.
This event is my personal favorite: corral cleaning. Contestants will bring their favorite equipment, whether it's a Bobcat or a regular tractor, to my corral and start cleaning as rapidly as possible. Once they finish my bottom corral, I'll move them to the middle one. Finally, the top two contestants will be allowed to clean my top corral. Note: Entry fee will be waived for this event for any suckers, I mean contestants, willing to participate.
Any cowboys left alive after this rodeo will be personally invited by me to work on my ranch. And I will propose to any gal who can make it through these events.
This is a selction from Cory G. Neumiller's book, My Horse Got a Flat: Stories, Tales and Lies from a Modern Cowboy. (To order, contact 701-324-4258; Cory.G.Neumiller@sendit.nodak.edu.)