Well I cowboyed up this weekend and volunteered at the annual Historic Empire Ranch Celebration of the Cowboy. They asked me to volunteer, not knowing that I am not allowed to walk and chew gum without wearing my helmet.
The Empire Ranch once was the biggest ranch in Arizona and is located in Sonita , Arizona where a lot of cowboys, coyotes and cows live, with the occasional rattle snake and scorpion dropping by for a visit. It is in the historic desert grasslands of Southern Arizona and a cowboy explained to me that there were eight different types of grass in the grasslands. That was kinda cool and those cowboys knew their grass like Eskimos know snow.
They had many events at the rodeo including Cowboy Mounted Shooters, Horsemanship, Sheep Herding, Mule Packing, Horsehair Braiding and Reata Making, but they did not list my favorite event – Find the Bar.
I was assigned to a group of real cowboys who owned ranches and I was to help them build a temporary corral. Helping these guys build a corral was like me helping Einstein with math, helping Mozart write a symphony or giving Hemingway writing tips. They knew what they were doing.
And these guys were real cowboys, not some urban cowboy with a belt buckle you could eat dinner off of. Their hands were as gnarled as a pinion oak, the hands as calloused as a lawyer’s heart and their skin as tough as an iguana’s hide. They used cactus needles for toothpicks, used branding irons to give themselves tattoos and skinned rattlesnakes for fun. Their boots ware as scuffed as my morals and someone forgot to tell them to wear pretty hats. Their hats were stained with sweat, dust and faded by the sun, because the guys actually worked on ranches. These guys ate barb wire for lunch, cut rattles off snakes for their kids to play with and wrestled Javelins for fun.
While I am getting my exercise walking, these guys are riding 2,000 pound bulls and when they get tossed off, they give the bull another chance to crush them. That’s not a sport. That’s a death wish.
I fit right in with my white polo short, baggy jeans I borrowed from Bozo and my Wal-Mart sneakers.
But they were nice to me and helped me carry the sections of the corral to be hooked together by a nice cowgirl. I asked her is she was the Hooker and she actually laughed. Aw – that down home humor. Despite my help, the corral went up pretty quickly and they all wanted to know if I wanted to go horseback riding with them.
I am a small person and a horse is a big animal and I think falling from a horse is like being dropped from a four story building. Plus the desert gets rain once every ten years and you would be better bouncing off a concrete parking lot than falling off a horse onto that iron desert ground.
I declined their invitation to ride. I had better things to do. I had to go home and polish my sneakers. Plus I am glad that I resisted the temptation to tell them my name was Buck Board. I’m sure I was the only one who would have thought it was funny.