I enjoyed the rodeo, as much for what took place in front of me as for the memories it brought back. In 2006 I spent several weeks following the senior pro circuit in
I learned a lot about the rodeo that trip: the terminology, the culture, some of the skills and dangers involved. I learned about the rivalry between headers and heelers, heard the jokes about bull-riders and their supposed dumbness, and saw practical, self-reliant people working as a community, engaged in intense rivalry but always willing to applaud a competitor and help him out if needed.
But I was going to explain about the sheep in yesterday’s picture. And because it amuses me, I’ll show the picture again.
Mutton-busting. I didn’t quite catch the announcer’s words, but it seemed to be for the very young, most likely pre-schoolers. The sheep came barrelling out of the gate with a tiny kid clinging to its back – generally for about three seconds. Kind of bronc riding, but not quite so dangerous.
After the rodeo I linked up with Ken and his wife again. They ushered me into the pick-up and set off to visit friends, farmers growing wheat and corn on the better land south of town. We sat and drank beer and ate chips, and after a couple more beers out came the whiskey. I tried to decline; mixing drinks is fatal for me, but of course they were being hospitable and I didn’t want to appear unappreciative. They were great company, and, very solicitous. You get to expect it out west. ‘Hey, that beer of yours is getting warm, lemme fetch you a cold one.’ So by the time the sun went down and we piled back in the pick-up, I had a serious headache coming on. Not the ideal preparation for an hour of stand-up comedy and a hard-rocking country band. I forget who the singer was, but I remember that he had three names, looked about nineteen, but was blessed with the sort of rich, deep voice which, if you heard it on record, you’d assume belonged to a grizzled fifty-year-old. The girls up front loved him, and he was in his element, signing autographs by the dozen as he sang.
We got back to Ken’s place some time after eleven. A huge red half moon was just breaking the eastern horizon. I thanked him for a great day out, pointed Mercy out onto the highway, headed south and took the dirt road back here. Well, almost here, because I’m still not risking the drive down the series of gullies and wash-outs that used to be the road. As I picked my way carefully down the sandy track, flashlight bobbing, I realised my headache had gone. I fell into bed at a little after and slept like a dead man.