For a few years, I had a job inspecting high school English programs
in rural districts.
One night, after a meal at the hotel, I walked around looking for something to
In western Nebraska, there isn’t much happening after the businesses close
Then, I noticed trucks with big trailers headed for the Fair Grounds, so I followed
An amateur rodeo was going on, a kind of practice show. I was
the only one in the stands.
Everyone brought a favorite roping horse and a calf to throw down in
the dirt and tie up.
Someone manned the shoot. Someone timed each run. Someone
watched the horses.
Another released the calves afterwards and headed them back to the shoot
for another run.
Some of these would-be rodeo cowboys were reasonably good, but most
were just awful.
The shoot would open, but the calf wouldn’t come out of the pen.
The shoot would open but the calf would outrun the horse.
The shoot wouldn’t open, and the horse and cowboy came up short
50 feet out.
Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. It was comical, but
I didn’t dare laugh.
One cowboy secured the rope over the horns, but landed face first in
The calf would plant his feet and change directions just as the lariat
The cowboy jumped right on the animal but couldn’t stop it from
running away with him.
Once in a rare while, everything went just right like it does on television.
The cowboy, horse, and calf performed perfectly. I applauded, but
The cowboys wanted to act as if this is the way it went every time and
just glared at me.
What did I know? Eastern slicker. All I knew was what
I saw on television.