In my younger daze . . . er days, I once worked for an outfit with a “semi-absent” owner. He’d show up to get in the way for a few weeks during the summer, and other than branding and shipping, he would hardly show up at all. Still he figured he needed an extra horse for himself, and it had to be a big horse as Floyd stood 6 foot 5 inches tall. He also had one other requirement…it had to be cheap.
It just so happened that at the time I was married. My wife’s sister-in law had complained to her that her horse was bucking her off. Seems she was having a hard time selling her because the mare was bucking everybody off. We found this a little hard to believe as my wife had started the mare before we met, and I had ridden her a few times. Plumb gentle mare. We attributed it to the fact that her sister-in-law was a tiny woman who was half afraid of horses. The in-laws, who were coming to visit, agreed to haul the mare to Montana from Nevada for $500, and the ranch bought her.
Now we knew she was big, but she had grown even more in the year since we had last seen her. She was so big that the vet ran her across his scales just to see how big. 1,800 pounds of horse, which hadn’t seen a saddle in six months. That’s why she was named Sherman, after the tank.
The first ride ended before it began, with a crash and burn. No sooner did my off foot hit the oxbow than Sherman’s head came up, her butt went down, and she imitated a space shuttle lift off, complete with roll. Now like any good blue heeler will do, both of mine noticed Sherman was misbehaving and started doing their best to get her lined out. They did a pretty good job of it too. Between trying to get shuck of me and fighting the dogs, she failed to see the ditch. When we both got up, she just
stood there like a good broke horse should and let me get back on her and stepped out aspretty as you please.
Now Sherman wasn’t your average bronc. She didn’t have any particular pattern to things. One time she might buck when you
first stepped aboard. She might do it in the middle of the day or wait until the end of the day. She also had a neat trick of being able to strip a bridle, complete with brow band and throat latch, right off her head between jumps.
The first time I discovered this peculiar talent, I was fixing fence and had her hobbled. She decided to go home, broke a set of heavy leather hobbles, and said “adios.” As I had left all of the gates open, she had no problem. However the ensuing walk that included wading waist-deep through spring run off had me slightly agitated. When I got to the house, she was standing in front of it with the (now ex) wife who was checking to see if the horse was hurt before worrying about me. (One of the reasons she is now ex)
I climbed aboard and asked the mare to step out. When she refused to move a single foot, I took my cow equalizer off the horn. This was a piece of braided nylon rope with a loop on one end for a handle and a knot on the other to help dissuade snotty cows from coming over the top of their calves while I was doctoring them. I gave old Sherman a whomp on the rump, and she went down the driveway in her space shuttle routine. About halfway down the drive, I started gathering up all of the slack that had suddenly appeared in the reins only to discover the bridle was no longer on her head. While I was wondering what was going to happen next, she suddenly went down than she had gone up. We had covered the hundred-fifty yards of driveway, and she had bucked off the loading ramp and was headed for the barn. Figuring I was not going to clear the top of the door with the upper half of my body, I hastily made a CED (calculated emergency dismount) and bounced into the
end of the barn. When I led her out to get back on, closing the door in the process, she hadn’t a concern in the world and behaved like a lady the rest of the day.
A few weeks later I had a couple of hundred heifers to move, and Floyd told me to get Yote to help me. Yote was good help and fun to be around. There was no telling what he would do. In fact, he had gotten stuck with the moniker of “Yote” by seeing how close he could get to a coyote with his snowmobile. He got close enough that the dog jumped on with him.
We were about halfway down the mountain with the heifers when one decided to make a run back up. Rather than send the dogs after her, I decided to give Sherman a workout. Just as the heifer turned, Sherman bogged her head, and the rodeo was on. By
this time she was pretty well legged-up and decided to put on an aerobic bucking session.
When she finally stopped, I had lost not only my hat, but also my rope, a spur, and one boot. Yote came riding up with eyes as big as platters.
“I counted to forty-five and quit!” he exclaimed. “She covered another two hundred yards after that,” adding, “Don’t you ever get bucked off?”
Well, the next weekend was the big local Podunk rodeo, and I had entered up in saddle bronc. Yote knew I couldn’t get bucked off in a mere ten seconds as he had seen me ride. Ever eager to make a few bucks, he took the first twenty-dollar bet he could find that would give him odds on me winning.
Meanwhile, back of the chutes, I was trying on a borrowed saddle. I didn’t bother telling anyone that I had ridden bulls
for two years so there were plenty of pointers. The bronc I drew kept lying down, and everyone was hollering at me to get off her (which I was already doing. It would be nearly impossible to be as dumb as I look.) After the bronc went down the fourth time, I came up with plan “B”. Rather than sit down on the bronc, I was going to get my feet in the stirrups standing on the fence and drop down as I called for the gate.
I had my left foot in the stirrup and on the gate. My hack rein was in my right hand and my right stirrup was in my left hand. If this were not enough of a position to be in, someone had to ask me a dang fool question, “Are you OK?” Well I wasn’t bleeding and hadn’t even been bruised yet so I answered, “Yeah.”
Right answer . . . Wrong time. Someone opened the gate. Next thing I knew, I was looking into the eyes of the left-hand judge,
holding his pencil poised on his scorecard. Seemed like a right friendly sort of fellow as I went by, but I would have rather been looking at the front end of my saddle, so I could have followed it a little better.
They said I looked really good coming out of the chute. Got my marks and went to spurring, but that I looked lost (which I was). I finally hit bottom at the end of the fourth jump and had a little trouble getting up.
This time it was the announcer who asked the fool question, “Are you OK?”
Some how I hadn’t lost my sense of humor, and I replied, “As soon as you make all of these people quit spinning around, I will be.”
It was a fine picture on the front page of the local paper. My hat was a foot off the ground, hack rein still in my hand, left foot still in the stirrup with my head buried in the dirt.
There are two lessons to this story: First, don’t answer any questions to the positive when it’s your turn to ride, and
you’re not ready; second, don’t bet on any rodeo.
This story is an excerpt from my book A Million to One Odds (Times Five) Available on Amazon