Monday, July 9, 2012

Lessons in Baby Cow Choking

Evy onest in a wile local horse people hosts one o’ them  bullridin’ contests and I heered that ones a comin’. 
Whoa, big fella; back it up. 
It’s hard to write in dialect and not sound like an idiot. Mark Twain I ain’t, so it would be a good idea to drop the pretense and get to the point.
I heard that there is a horse show/rodeo coming to the general area and I’ve been to a few real rodeos. I’ve seen all of the events from bull riding through calf choking and barrel racing. Before the next rodeo-like event rolls into the area it would probably be a good idea to tell you folk (used to NASCAR, hockey and gunfire-exchanging family feuds) a little about the sport. I’m not an expert but, I’ve been to the big rodeo in Denver and the Pikes Peak Rodeo. Heck, I’ve been to the Cheyenne Stampede, known as the Daddy of All Rodeos (people in Wyoming just call it “The Dad.”)
The first thing that struck me about a real rodeo is that it is often sponsored by a popular brand of barbecue sauce and smokeless tobacco. Rodeos sponsored by barbecue sauce is a little bit like having a dog food company sponsor a horse show. Besides, I think that if you mix snuff with a little beer and water you get most store-bought BBQ sauces. Anyway, for those of you new to the art and sport of rodeo I have prepared a little primer that may help you over a few of the rough spots.
Read this and you can casually tilt back your 30X beaver hat, put your new pink, lizard-skin cowboy boots on the rim of any spittoon and talk rodeo with the oldest, most wizened stock molester in the place and not sound like a silly, tenderfoot, cow-pie stepping, greenhorn. So, grab a cup of coffee (strong and black) or a shot of whiskey (neat and raw) or a glass of water (from a faucet in a dirty glass) and pay attention.
Rodeo has an interesting tradition and history. The word “rodeo” comes from the Spanish word “row-day-oh” meaning “to play with your food.” It started when Spanish and Mexican cowboys began to chase their cattle in circles, working them into a lather and marinating them in their own sweat. After chasing them around for a while, they would rope them, throw them to the ground and jump on top of them. Chasing them into a sweat marinated them. Jumping on top of them tenderized them — add a hot branding iron and you have lunch.
It is a little known fact that true BBQ beef is still marinated in cow sweat (along with snuff, beer and water — the secret ingredient in most commercial BBQ sauces).
When Easterners moved west they ran into the “vaqueros.” 
“Vaquero” is Spanish for cowboy. The word was adulterated into the English “buckaroo” meaning literally — “man who struts in tight jeans.”
The Easterners watched the agile vaqueros chase, harass, tease and marinate the cows and asked what they were doing. The vaqueros answered, “Rodeo, (playing with our food) and we can do it better than you.”
The Easterners, not to be intimidated, picked up the challenge and answered with the traditional cowboy taunt, “Oh yeah, well your old man rides sidesaddle and your mama can’t cook.” The challenge was taken and the first rodeo was born.
• Bull Riding — This is my favorite of all of the rodeo events because the molested farm animal gets a real chance to strike back. It is the fairest of all rodeo events. A large man named Tex will strap himself onto the back of about 1,500 pounds of hate named “Toro” (Spanish for “well-endowed hamburger.”) Just in case Toro is not angry enough, they take a rough hemp strap and cinch it tightly around his hips. Get the picture? If not, the strap is roughly akin to a grown man putting on his 6-year-old son’s BVDs and being forced to work in them all day. I think right about 4 p.m. you would understand Toro’s pain and anger. Got the picture now?
The gate is opened and Tex and Toro go into the ring. The object is for Tex to stay on Toro until someone blows a horn signifying that the rider has voluntarily stayed on this furious animal long enough to be committed to a state institution for the terminally stupid. It may well be the longest eight seconds in sports. If he makes it to the horn and looks good flopping around on Toro, he wins.
The object for Toro is to peel Tex off of his back and, by doing a tango on Tex’s chest, turn Tex into a damp spot on the arena floor. If he does, then he and the audience wins.
• Baby Cow Choking — Tex, just back from teasing Toro, mounts a huge horse named Rib Breaker and loosen a rope. When he grins endearingly at the crowd — do not be fooled.
A small, brown, hornless piece of veal (with large soft-brown eyes that look like your first girlfriend’s) will be prodded from a cage. Lost and scared he will moo pitifully for his daddy (but Toro will be too tired to answer.)
In what passes for rodeo fair play, this terrified baby cow will get a short, ultimately meaningless, head start. Tex will chase the veal at full gallop (a horse term for haulin’ ass) and throw his rope over the baby veal’s neck. When the rope drops gently over Veal’s neck Rib Breaker will plant his hooves and the rope will snap tight. This will cause the calf to go from the speed of fright into a back flip over his own cervical vertebrae in less time than it takes to open a can of Skoal. Tex will jump down, run over and grab the stunned and groggy baby cow in the traditional Randolph Scott Full Nelson with an Audie Murphy lock. He will wrestle the semiconscious animal to the dirt, tie three of its legs together and stand with his hands in the air waiting for his score. The buckaroo who does this the fastest wins. The calf becomes tacos, short ribs and brisket. (Recipes available on request.)
Rodeo people swear that this does not hurt the veal, but they also refuse to test this by running at full speed and letting someone rope them. In fact, these are the same people who, very reasonably, strap themselves into their cars with shoulder harnesses when backing out of their driveways to avoid whiplash.
• Bronco Busting — See bull riding, but with a horse. The horse moves faster than the bull but isn’t quite as heavy when he dances on Tex’s chest. It’s more like a cha-cha than a tango.
• Barrel Racing — Women on fast, agile horses race on a course around barrels on the arena floor. (Hint: in barrel racing don’t bet on the barrels — they never win.) It is also fun to watch the women try to parallel park the horses when the event is over.
There are a lot more things to see at a real rodeo, but I’ve run out of room. If you get a chance to see one of the big ones, go. The smell alone is worth the price of admission.

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