I’m a firm believer in learning from people who know how to do it right. Perhaps that’s one reason I put more weight in learning from people like Barbara Rogan and some of the people who will be at Surrey.
Several years ago, Brandon bucked off a saddle bronc and hung up to her. That means he was on the ground, but his foot was still in the stirrup and since he was upside down, the foot wasn’t loose. The mare made two laps around the arena, bucking and kicking and every time she kicked, she jerked him up in the air. On the third round everything happened just right and she kicked him in the head. She knocked him loose, but it was at a terrible price. His head popped completely back on his shoulders and I was certain he’d broke his neck. I was standing next to another mother of a rough stock rider and she was a nurse. I was going over the fence and she told some of the men to keep me back. She was sure he was dead also.
Some morons had parked in front of the ambulance entrance and the even more moronic ambulance drivers were wandering around and didn’t even know what happened. It was twenty minutes before we finally got the ambulance in the arena.
Long story short, he was alive. He was blind when he woke up, but that passed. He did rouse enough to realize they were going to shave his head and he threw a fit about that. The doctors prevailed, shaved his head and installed forty-three stitches.
We decided after that to take him to a Lyle Sankey rodeo school in Kansas. Ah, yes, you thought learning and this wild west story had nothing in common, didn’t you? You should know by now I always meander back to the point sooner or later. Yes, write tight doesn’t apply to wild west tales.
Don, Brandon and I loaded up and went to Kansas. If the kid insisted on riding broncs we were going to see about learning to do it right. He was riding saddle broncs, barebacks and bulls at the time. Bulls he was doing all right on, but he was hanging up to his bareback horses and this fiasco with the saddle bronc was rapidly turning Mother’s hair gray.
The school was held at a little town in Kansas that consisted of an abandoned high school and a bar. There was probably a church somewhere, but I didn’t see it. Small towns usually have a nearly equal ratio of churches and bars. That’s a little known fact you can tuck away for future use.
The high school was a beautiful old building with wood floors and walls. The gym had a balcony running all the way around the top and it had a stage with lovely old painted backdrops. It’s one of those buildings some people, not mentioning names here, dream about buying if they ever get rich and converting into a home. It had electricity hooked up for the school and running water, but no hot water. All of the students were told to bring sleeping bags because there were no motels nearby.
There are lots of learning venues, but if you really want to experience something unique, go to a good rodeo school. There are all kinds of people there and adventures no one can every imagine.
There was a beautiful blonde lady from Sweden who was there to learn how to ride saddle broncs. Most of the guys were biting their tongues to keep from begging her to stop before she messed up that perfect, six-foot body or that exquisite face. To her credit, she proved to be pretty tough and was one of the students voted most improved at the end of the school.
The most inspiring person there was a retired air force colonel. The air force wouldn’t let him go to rodeo school while he was active, but when he retired he decided to learn how to ride bareback horses. He was a very handsome, quiet man with the perfect bareback rider build. Well built and tall with long legs. Tougher than boot leather and even tougher than anyone realized at the time.
The Sankey Brothers were champion cowboys, so a lot of cowboys who were serious about rodeo went to them, but there was also the share of weekend warriors.
My favorites were Mom and Bomb. Mom, a woman in her fifties with frizzy blonde hair and diamonds dripping off every finger, was a newlywed. She married a truck driver who had convinced her he used to be a rip-snorting cowboy when he was younger and bemoaned the fact he never had the opportunity to become a champion like he knew he could.
There is something very perverse in my extreme pleasure at seeing people like this paint their hineys smooth into a corner.
“Don’t you worry, darling. I have a surprise for you. I enrolled you in a rodeo school for our honeymoon and you’re going to be a world champion.”
I still chortle when I think about how he must have nearly fainted. Oh, yeah, Fate has a sense of humor and it’s horribly evil, just like mine.
Mom went out and bought him all the best rodeo equipment money could buy. Custom made black chaps with red and silver fringe. She bought them matching rodeo outfits. Bomb, yes, there’s a reason I named him Bomb, was like the little short, balding guy on Seinfeld. Can’t remember his name. Anyway, he was short, extremely out of shape and had a pronounced gut. I know he was out of shape because I saw him get run over several times as he was trying to escape with his life after falling off a bull.
This was a disaster waiting to happen and I had front row seats. Life is good. Pass the popcorn.
Lyle Sankey tried to match the livestock to the skill of the riders. Getting someone cow killed didn’t teach them anything except pain. He was going to put Bomb on the beginner bulls, but Mom explained to him her darling was a rodeo star and he just needed to tune up a little.
Ah, yes, Bomb had regaled her with many a story of his riding skills.
Lyle asked Brandon to help some of the younger students get on their stock. Brandon confirmed what I suspected from the panic in Bomb’s eyes. Bomb had probably never been on a bull in his life. He was trying to put his rope on the bull backwards so Brandon helped him get it on right.
Bomb fell off several bulls the first day. Lyle was smart enough to ignore Mom and put Bomb on some easier bulls, but Bomb was still getting his head buried in the dirt.
His lady love wasn’t worried about how many times he bucked off. “It’s okay, baby. It’ll come back to you. Tell them you want another one.” I’m fairly certain she was a cheerleader at one point. If not, she should have been because her voice carried across the arena very well. Each time Bomb tried to hide out, she found him and demanded the Sankeys give him another bull and quit wasting his time.
Ah, but I was enjoying myself. Bomb would sneak behind the bleachers and Mom would sniff him out like a trained bloodhound and send him back to fame and glory. He couldn’t very well tell his rich bride he had lied about being a cowboy, so he shuffled back to the arena every time she found him.
Watching Mom and Bomb was worth every dime for the tuition.
Mom and Bomb were a little late the next morning. They were staying at the same motel Don and I stayed at. Brandon wanted to stay in the room with us so he could have a hot shower, but we wanted him to get full advantage of the school and encouraged him to stay. We might have actually locked him out of the pickup and beat his fingers off the door handle. They had classes at night and singing and other fun things. I think Brandon just wanted the hot shower and soft bed, but we convinced him the campfire singing would be fun.
Brandon made friends with a long, tall kid from a ranch nearby. He asked Josh why he didn’t go home so he could have a hot shower at least. Josh said they didn’t have hot water at the house anyway so it didn’t really matter to him. He thought it would be fun to listen to the stories and campfire singing.
See, who doesn’t like campfire singing, aside from Brandon?
Thought I forgot where I was again, didn’t you?
So Mom and Bomb didn’t participate in the night lessons and campfire singing, but they were definitely taking in the cowboy experience. Mom had been rewarding her fearless cowboy and so they were late. I really didn’t want to think about the adventures of La Quinta love so I made some excuse when she started giving me the lurid details and left. Mom was pretty healthy, shall we say, and was built like a Jersey cow. She had everything every man looks for in a woman, lots of money and lots of boob. No wonder Bomb didn’t want to disappoint her. Mom showed up with skin tight black Wranglers, a low cut white tank top that exposed more than should be legal, a black denim jacket with rhinestones and shiny chrome spurs. Oh, heck, yeah! Mom’s going to ride too. Sadly, she was just dressing up to encourage her honey. Drat.
Bomb was wearing his matching cowboy outfit sans the low cut white tank top. He did have a rhinestoned black shirt, though.
So, Bomb goes through another day of getting bucking off on his head and Mom yelling at him, “You can do it, baby!”
One of the guys asked me if she really had no clue he was scared of the bulls. I was beginning to wonder how much life insurance she had on him. That would be the perfect murder mystery, death by rodeo school.
The last day of the rodeo school, they were having a kind of ride off for buckles. To his credit, Bomb stayed to the end of the school, which was more than most of the students did. I have the theory he was more afraid of Mom than he was the bulls.
Bomb bucked off his bull and they took him to the hospital because he thought he sprained something. Mom grabbed her black cowboy hat, crammed it on the peroxide nest on her head and chinged her way into the ambulance with her hero.
The colonel got hung up and slammed into a fence before the horse fell on him. They tried to get him to go to the hospital, but he said he just had the wind knocked out of him and told them to save the other ambulance in case someone needed it.
Two more guys got hurt and they hauled them to the hospital.
The colonel was leaning against a fence and Lyle kept watching him. He finally convinced the colonel to let him take him to the hospital. He had ruptured a spleen and broken several ribs as well as some other internal damage.
I would like to meet the colonel again someday. He was definitely a class act and an intriguing man. Mom and Bomb had the eye appeal, but the real story was a very quiet, friendly man who had little to say, but spoke volumes with his courage.
Lyle told me later he was a highly decorated soldier. I don’t doubt it.
I’m hoping Surrey will have the flavor of a rodeo school. Lots to learn from the instructors and lots of characters to meet. Schools are pure heaven for writers for many reasons.
Yes, I’m excited.