I swear out there ain`t where you ought to be / So catch a ride, catch a cab / Don`t you know I miss you bad / But don`t you walk to me / Baby run….
This is Taylor Swift singing her favorite George Strait song: Run
Consider the performance a teaser not on the importance of country music. Personally I love Mozart (five instruments or fewer). I love country; I love what is happening to country music.
Here and now, I am trying to prepare you for my appreciation of the influence rodeo–yes rodeo–has had on my life.
Consider the following first two paragraphs from a column I published February, 2011:
“The handler applies the fully charged cattle prod to the rear of a bull bred for ferocity. The cowboy—Slim really is his name—holds onto his hat with his left hand. In his right hand are the reigns, two strips of leather held on tightly at first, but capable of falling apart to help the rider jump away from the bucking bull to safety after the regulation eight second ride is complete.
“The maximum score is 100 points; 50 for the rider and 50 for the bull. A mean angry bull is the most desirable because he gives the rider the opportunity to make the most money. This bull is mean. When the bull jumps higher after the cattle prod, Slim smiles with optimism. The gate leading to the ring fails to open. Historically, when the gate sticks, a confined maddened bull has been known to break both legs of a rider. Slim, who attended rodeo schools, is aware of the danger.As a reporter at the World Series of Rodeo at Oklahoma City (before it moved to Los Vegas), I am sitting next to the handlers on the inside wooden planks of the chute. It took considerable effort to get permission to be this close to Slim—close enough to watch his pupils dilate into huge ovals displaying a fear he cannot disguise. The lead handler asks Slim if he would like to wait 20 minutes before beginning the ride. Slim nods him off. The gate opens.
“Sometimes it is prudent to know when to give up.”
Later in this posting I will explain how I came to be sitting on the edge of the bull shoot watching the electric prod holder pressing his instrument against the mean bull’s huge hide and watching the fear in the bull riders eyes when he realized he was trapped with a maddened bull with the door to escape locked? What did I learn from that?
Orientation note: I know I am missing something here. It feels as if I lost my car keys and am frantically rummaging through my stuff looking for the keys. Of course, what I am looking for here is some context.
Why is Joel [I am now going back and forth first to third person in describing myself clearly split in some way] writing about rodeo?
He just had cancer.
Doesn’t Joel have better things to do but type away words and words and words about the time he covered the World Series of Rodeo for a solid week of
- Bull riding
- Bronco riding
- Barrel racing
- Fervid pro-rodeo rhetoric
- Groupies up from Dallas just waiting
- a near-fight in the Gusher Club when the World Series Champion of Rodeo five years in a row nearly punched me for lifting the Champion’s $560 hat off the chair I wanted to sit on. It was a close call. “Never, ever touch my hat,” he said convincingly.
Here is the Prologue Joel [that’s me] failed to provide on his way of introducing his rodeo theme.
I have been thinking about my life. Next month I will be 66:
- What have I accomplished?
- What is left to be done?
For me the key to surviving cancer was the knowledge that I could not die because there was work to be done. The first cancer would not let me die because I had a book to finish under contract and my publisher would kill me if I defaulted. Nor would I have been alive to conceive my elder daughter Joanna.
If I died after the second cancer, I would not have had the opportunity to watch Joanna grow until next month when she will marry.
I am especially delighted that she is marrying Jade.
If I had died from the second cancer, I would not have been alive to conceive my younger daughter Amelia Altalena.
Amelia and I will see each other at the wedding after the cancer awfulness became successful surgery to remove the death threat of kidney cancer–an operation less than a month ago from which I am slowly getting better. Slowly.
Certainly, expert medical treatment and good odds were essential. I had the best medical care available during a period when advances were occurring rapidly and I was as close to those advances as possible.
It is late during a very long day during which I made arrangements to attend Joanna’s wedding outside a horse barn in Mebane, North Carolina. I have been writing this posting automatically in the middle of serious stuff I am dealing with. For example, I have not yet recovered fully from major surgery and my mind does not have the attention span it once had. I find I am writing several things at the same time, saving the document, going away for a while.
When I went away for a while this morning, I saw George Strait play Amerilla.
I thought of the rodeo and what it meant to me. Sadly, I cannot leave you with more lessons learned and appreciation of rodeo, not to mention my life. I will return to rodeo. Do not you worry. I have a bad reputation for straying from the beaten path.
You can depend on it.
Copyright 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.
Here is the first stanza from George Strait song Amarillo, the best cowboy song ever written.
Amarillo By Mornin’ / Up from San Antone / Everything that I got / Is just what I’ve got on ./ When that sun is high in that Texas sky, / I’ll be buckin’ at the county fair.”