A country boy’s rodeo
The recent Morgan County Sheriff’s Rodeo reminded me of the dream I had as a country boy to become a cowboy and compete for cash prizes as a rodeo performer.
In spite of the fact that I was a farm boy, my passion for ranching soared when I read a Western book, saw a shoot’em up movie or fired a BB gun.
The reality was my environment offered little encouragement to a cowboy want-a-be. Our livestock consisted of two plow mules, two milk cows, two hogs, a yearling calf and a yard full of laying hens. Only one of the mules was broken to ride and he was off limits while being used to work the crops.
Occasionally, a group of us farm boys would talk our parents into letting us ride the working mules and horses on a Sunday afternoon. We’d bridle them and throw a burlap sack across their backs and head out to a favorite wash hole in a nearby creek. Our mounts would gorge out on a patch of tender grass while we cooled off and competed in a game of fish and minnow in the creek below. Later, we’d challenge them to give us their best speed on the way home. The afternoon ride ended in fun for a rider but it didn’t have a long-lasting effect. The next day we’d nurse the pain of chapped inner thighs by walking awkwardly behind the plow stock.
When the yearling mentioned earlier reached 350 to 400 pounds, it became the object of a riding challenge to me and my younger brother Billy. Every time we corralled the calf in the barnyard and crawled on his back he would leave us on our backs. This only added to our desire to emulate the ability of a professional cowboy to ride a mean bull for a count of 10 seconds.
We got our chance a few days later when we spotted him hiding in a scope of pine saplings in the far corner of the pasture. With bridle in hand, we closed in and managed to rope him with no trouble. I climbed on first but jumped off after my legs made contact with four or five saplings. My brother followed but bounced off after a short turn, rubbing his scratched legs. We brushed the tree bark and dust from our jeans and agreed to “go do something else.”
I don’t remember wanting to ride a bucking bull again. Perhaps the experience is one of the reasons I chose to pursue the career of a newspaper reporter.
Clif Knight is a staff writer for the Hartselle Enquirer.