Prairie Poetry   
  Out On The Range

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 do.
In western Nebraska, there isn’t much happening after the businesses close at five. 
Then, I noticed trucks with big trailers headed for the Fair Grounds, so I followed them.

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 dust. 
The calf would plant his feet and change directions just as the lariat was released.
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 stopped immediately.
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.

  Gary Lehmann
  Copyright © 2006 Gary Lehmann
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