I ran into Randy in the airport. He was draggin’ his right hind leg like an escaped convict tryin’ to cover his tracks.
I could see it had taken him a while to pull his pant leg on over the swollen knee. He side-slid to a stop to visit for a minute.
“So.” I asked stupidly, “Hurt yourself?”
Randy is a rodeo announcer. A good one, I might add. I’ve seen him work. But this injury could certainly not be work related, I thought to myself. Rodeo announcers are a little higher up the food chain than those of us who actually get within striking distance of large herbivores. They sit in their ivory towers above the dust and flailing hooves, inciting the fans and titillating the timers. Occasionally stooping to act as straight man to the barrel man’s jokes but above it all, maintaining their dignity. Ringmaster of all they survey.
He gave me a raised eyebrow, realized that I was not smart enough to have asked the question facetiously, and explained. In an effort to “keep up with the competition,” he had taken to announcing rodeos ahorseback.
“Say no more,” I thought. Riding a strange horse furnished by the stock contractor into the center of the arena surrounded by thousands of foot stompin’, whistlin’, avid rodeo fans, reins in one hand, microphone in the other, with flags flyin’, banners flappin’ and music blarrin’, the outcome is almost predictable.
His story included all of that and concluded with a wild bucking exit where he bailed out with the grace of a sand bag fallin’ off the back of a runaway stage coach.
What makes people do things like that says something about the cowboy mentality. This mentality is best characterized by that old joke where the guy holds his hand in front of his face and bets his friend that he can’t “hit my hand before I move it.”
I once had to wear a neck brace for several weeks. Not in public, of course. Maybe I wouldn’t have been so reluctant to wear it if I didn’t have to respond to the question: “So, did you hurt your neck?”
What did I tell them? No. It’s just decorative. A cosmetic article of clothing designed to offset my bad posture and enhance my fine facial features. Or maybe my wife gave it to me on our anniversary or, I wrenched it saving a school bus load of children from a burning building.
If I had been forced to explain, I would have to have said I was riding down the trail with an amigo whose horse was jiggin’ and tossin his head. So, I told this amigo that he didn’t have to put up with that kind of unsavory equine behavior. When he throws his head, I said, conk him between the ears. “Whattya mean?” asked my amigo. So I demonstrated by leaning out of the saddle and whacking his horse on the poll with a 32-ounce mug I’d got at the GIT AND GO. The mug broke, his horse stampeded and when I straightened up, I couldn’t move my neck.
See what I mean? Randy’s story isn’t that preposterous after all. Just part of the cowboy way. Here, bet you can’t hit my hand before I move it.