Bodies on the Ground

Years ago, when Brandon was rodeoing in high school and the High Plains Association, he used to leave little “signs” along the way. Summertime is a flurry of activity and travel for people who rodeo. For ropers and barrel races there are also special events that are strictly for them as well as the full rodeos. The pure bullriding events are also becoming more popular, but Brandon was a rough stock rider who competed in all three events: bullriding, saddle bronc and bareback riding.

Sometimes I’d get a call from a friend who’d tell me she noticed Brandon went to this rodeo or that rodeo. At first I didn’t think much about it, but after a while I started thinking. Her husband and son often took off to a roping while she and her daughter went another direction to a barrel race. Every now and then they all converged at a high school rodeo.

Rodeos, ropings and barrel races take a lot of time and planning. If you’re in a circuit, you try to hit as many of those shows as you can to win the finals. You keep up with where all the shows are and if you plan things just right, you might be able to hit two, three or even four shows in one weekend. Everyone knows where every show is and they often know about who will show up where.

Nita called one Monday. “I see Brandon went to Seguin this weekend. How’d he do?”

“Yeah, bucked off his bull. Rode his bare. Missed his bronc out.” That translates to he didn’t last eight seconds on the bull. He rode his bareback horse. When a bronc, either bareback or saddle bronc, takes their first jump out of the chute, the cowboys spurs must be in the point of the shoulder. If either spur isn’t connected with the horse when his feet hit the ground, he didn’t “mark him out.” Thus, he gets a no score no matter how well he rode his horse. There are a lot of rules to rodeo. It isn’t just all yee haw and let ‘er buck.

My next thought was how did she know that since they were supposed to go to a big roping which was not at Sequin. “How’d you know he was at Seguin?”

“We saw his body on the highway.”

“You what?”

“We saw his body and figured he’d been that way.”

“He was laying on the highway?”

At this point, I’m ready to go hunt down my son and see if he’s been hurt again and neglected to tell me. This has happened numerous times. It also necessitated the, “Call me when you get there and call me after the show and let me know you’re OK.” He was usually pretty good about it, but every now and then he neglected to tell me about something or another like a broken bone. I had to be content with knowing he was well enough to talk and tell me how he did.

“Well, not him,” Nita said. “His chalk body.”

My son has a chalk body? I gave birth to him. This is really something I should have recognized by now.

“His chalk body?”

“Yeah, the outlines of bodies he draws on the highway when he’s going somewhere. This one had a missing arm and leg.”

Time to call my son. “You’ve been drawing outlines of bodies on the highway?”

“Yeah, that way people know where I’m going.”

So, instead of just calling your friends and letting them know, my son draws chalk outlines of bodies on the highway. It’s kind of like a “He went thataway sign” only different.

“You drew one with a missing arm and leg last weekend?”

“They weren’t really missing. They just weren’t attached. John thought it would be funny.”

“I see. Did it ever occur to you lying on the highway while someone draws your outline might be dangerous?” I say this with a perfectly straight face even though he has been nearly killed several times and has more than a few broken bones.

“Naw, we always do it on a straightaway so we can see traffic.”

The dead body routine lasted throughout the rodeo career although it hit its peak during the high school and High Plains years. One body appeared in front of the doors of a Golden Corral steakhouse. I’m not sure how they managed that since traffic was heavy with a rodeo in town. However, it was deemed one of their greater successes. The three outlaws who had drawn the body then sat in a car where they could watch people coming in and out. Nearly to a person, no one stepped on the “body.” One man came out and looked around after his panic stricken wife almost fell trying to avoid stepping on the body. He spotted the guys and gave them a thumbs up.

They also did one at a motel on a Coke machine so part of the body slumped against the machine and part of it was on the sidewalk. People apparently stand as far away from a machine that might be killing people and drop their money in at arm’s length. What if the machine was actually a man-eating machine and chomped off hands when they reached for their Cokes? I suppose it’s a testament to the power of Coke that people continued to buy their drinks while trying not to step on the body or add another one to the pile.

Their crowning glory was a body on the steps of a sheriff’s department in a very small town. This particular sheriff and his deputies apparently didn’t like cowboys. They invariably got stopped for no reason and searched as they were leaving town. Unfortunately, there were several shows there for various organizations so the hassle was worth going back. The guys had staked out the department several times and it was nearly impossible to get to the steps without being seen. However, after the very last rodeo, they got their body on the steps without getting arrested.

Sometimes it’s just the little things in life that make it interesting, like bodies, bodies bodies on the ground.


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