You’re familiar with cowboy recording artist Dave Stamey, right? You know his song “Dude String Trail”? On one of his live CDs, Stamey introduces the song that describes days he spent working as a dude wrangler. He says the dude ranch guests were pretty hilarious in that no matter what walk of life they came from — police officer from New York City, chef from L.A. — they were alike in that they were all confident, once wearing boots and cowboy hat, that they by golly knew how to ride a horse. Some of the lyrics are below:
And I said don’t let ’em eat, stay up in the seat
We’ll stop so you can take a picture
And if your pony tries to quit the trail
Just shout and I’ll come and get ya
Well son don’t wave that jacket around
Lady could you calm your little girl down
Well they don’t bounce much when they hit the ground
Out here on the dude string trail
Every one of ’em’s an expert horseman
Ready to astound you with what they know
There’s housewives ‘n’ sailors and CPAs
And they all used to ride in rodeos!
They show up in skirts ‘n’ sandals
And shorts way up on their thighs
And they thump ’em with their heels
And they jerk on the reins
And them ponies just roll their eyes
The funniest part comes when Stamey remembers that, one day, a group of dudes rode back up to the barn and one gentleman was listing terribly starboard, saddle and all. Stamey says he told the guest, “Hey, pard, you better straighten up your saddle there,” and the guy looked at him gruffly and replied in his best John Wayne voice, “Ah, I’ve been drug before.”
My husband and I love that line. In fact, it’s kind of become our life motto. Ain’t nothing can shake us too bad… ’cause we’ve been drug before. Any time we say it, we get to giggling. I guess it’s our way of not making too big a deal out of the less-than-ideal but unavoidable, which — and I would guess you’re in the same boat — we seem to encounter a lot of in this life.
Our family made it home to Porcupine Creek late Sunday night after a wild weekend of camping at and putting on a ranch rodeo in an arena with no running water, with a barely-there fence that was built 240 years ago, and which is 60 miles from our house at the VX. (The photo was taken from the county road about six miles south of our house, when we topped a hill driving into the sunset and caught our first panoramic glimpse of the lovely and serene Porcupine that represents our home sweet home. The hay field is not ours; we don’t put up hay. Instead, it belongs to the disgruntled neighbors to the south of us, and I’m kind of hoping they don’t see this picture, because I’m not sure on the legality of taking pictures of somebody else’s hay field and, like the guy who spilled a cup of coffee in his lap, they’d be just the type to test it out in court.)
Anyhow, we’re home now, another ranch rodeo in the books. You’ll be glad to know there were no, I repeat no, broken legs at this year’s Custer Ranch Rodeo. Your prayers for no broken legs (see last week’s Ranch Rodeo Fever) definitely made a difference. There were not even any serious injuries this year, so far as I know. There were two incidents in which a human or animal could’ve been injured, and we’re so thankful that no one was:
- First, a rider from Team A ran into a rider from Team B, going full speed, in the Pony Express Race — knocking Team B’s rider and horse down. Team B’s rider was, understandably, quite upset, and he got up ready to fight. His (rather loud) opinion is that the Pony Express Race is a dumb event, that the Custer Ranch Rodeo is stupid, and that we’re all a bunch of idiots. We hope he feels differently after his headache goes away.
- A bronc rider — a coworker of ours from the PV, actually — spurred his bronc right over the arena fence. Actually, they didn’t quite make it all the way over, but high-centered right on top. The fence (see preceding explanation of 240 years old, above) teetered under the weight of the bronc… and then about 50 feet of it smashed to the ground. Good thing we started looking for sponsors this spring to help us pay to put in a new fence at the Custer Arena. Actually, we’ve known that the arena was in really bad shape ever since we started the ranch rodeo ten years ago, and we’ve always intended to raise the funds to fix it up… it’s just that time and money have slipped through our fingers. This year, though, I think we’re really going to get a start on it, and several sponsors have already stepped on board to help us buy continuous fence panels. Only trouble is, our goal was to round up enough sponsors to rebuild the north side of the arena this summer… and it’s the southeast corner that collapsed.
So. That sums up all the potential disasters that were withstood at the 2016 CRR, and none of it was terrible or awful or unbearable. We’ve been drug before, right? And lots of other good stuff happened this year to balance it all out. First of all, the wind howled for 24 hours prior to the grand entry, and I was praying hard that it would die down… and you know what? It did. It turned out to be a beautiful evening. Also, as ever, we hosted high-quality contestants who put on an excellent show for a surprisingly large crowd. Not a one of the contestants challenged the final scores, which means our secretaries did a great job. Additionally, the cattle worked really well. What else? People complimented the food from the FFA concessions all evening long; in fact, the concessions sold out, so I didn’t personally get to taste their ribs and brisket! Many times I walked the perimeter of that arena doing my various jobs, and by and large I judged the rhythm of the crowd gathered to be upbeat.
You know, when you’re putting on a deal like this ranch rodeo, there are so, so many people to keep happy: contestants, sponsors, spectators, volunteers, townspeople, stock contractors. Some years I have left that arena feeling like I failed them each and every one. Some years it has taken me a couple weeks after to gain the strength to show my face in public again because I’ve felt humiliated over some shortcoming.
But this year, for some reason, I don’t feel that way. I left the arena feeling pretty content; not that everything went perfect but that I did everything within my human limitations, as a mother of three preschoolers, to make it so… and that it went as well as can be expected in this Life. Maybe I’m becoming gentler with myself as I age, accepting more realistic expectations. Maybe, now that I’m 34 (I had a birthday last week, too!), it’s a little easier to swallow that what I didn’t perfect this year I can try for again next year… because I know that next year’ll be here before I know it. Maybe I’m so grown up these days that I don’t care much anymore what other people think. Maybe it helps that I’m blogging now and so can record my feelings and assume that at least a couple readers (my mom and husband) are attempting to understand. Maybe I’m becoming better at working with the advisors and volunteers who help out.
As a side note, and not because I’m thinking of anyone in particular, I am completely stumped by folks who take winning super seriously. Yes, I understand that some people are very competitive by nature. I think I’m probably not that type. But I also think that Life has spanked me so many times that by now I’m pretty used to the idea that I just wasn’t put on this earth to win. I mean, year after adolescent year I took my animals to the county fair, and I seldom won. Spank. And for seven years of my life I practiced basketball — attending summer camps, praying before every game, practicing super-positive thinking, setting goals for state glory at the start of each season — and my team never even made it out of the stinking district tournament. Spank. What about the PV ranch rodeo team? Every year we haul and/or trail our own cattle, the same cattle we accomplish our work with 364 days of the year, to that old arena for everybody to rope, and do you think we’ve ever won the event? Not a once. Not even close. We’re even worse if I personally am on the team. Spank. Call me defeated, but Life has taught me to never pay an entry fee thinking I’m going to get it back.
But I guess that’s not the way most people look at things. Even my own daughter, age 3, is extremely upset because she didn’t win the stick horse bronc riding at the ranch rodeo (I don’t think she realizes that I judged it… and good thing, too, because she’s not old enough to understand that I couldn’t give my own kid the highest score). Many times since Saturday evening have we wept over the toy Frozen fishing pole that was almost hers when she almost won the stick horse bronc riding.
I try to tell her that I put on the ranch rodeo just so everyone can get together and have a good time and that I honestly don’t care who wins. That you win some, you lose some.
Still, she’s not happy. And she lets me know about it. But I’m not gonna let her get to me.
… ‘Cause I’ve been drug before.
© Tami Blake