Staying aboard a 2,000-pound bovine for eight seconds. Yes sir, I can now scratch that one off my bucket list.
OK, I wasn’t exactly aboard a raging bull in a rodeo arena, hell-bent on throwing me off his back. Instead it was a docile Texas Longhorn steer complete with a comfortable Western saddle.
It was much more of a photo opp than a rodeo. But when the folks from Folsom Falls Ranch offered me the chance to get my picture taken on one of the beautiful beasts they saddle up and ride in the New Mexico Ag Expo parade every year, I jumped all over it. Rank has its privileges and after working most of the year on planning the Expo I wasn’t about to pass one up.
I never even had my own horse. I had cousins and friends who had horses but dad never kept one. Some of those friends and cousins rodeoed to different degrees but not me.
At branding time I remember my granddad would let us ride some of the bigger calves. All I remember was coming off real quick and how hard that rocky cow lot was when I landed. Bucking bulls or horses seemed to be a little too dangerous for my taste and roping was never going to happen with just a rope and no horse.
The Longhorn handlers Fred and Clay told me earlier in the day they wanted me to get onboard one of the steers to have my picture made and I politely told them maybe later.
After photographing the Longhorns and their riders during the parade, Clay made the offer one more time.
“Where would you like to get the picture,” he asked?
By this time quite a crowd had settled around us and so I said how about right in front of the doors and the new sign to the Roosevelt County Events Arena.
When he asked if I wanted them to go get a step stool so I could climb onboard I felt my heritage and manhood being challenged.
“That’s alright, I think I can do it without them.”
About that time John Wayne, if he had been in the gathering crowd would have hollered: “That’s mighty bold talk for a short fat man like yourself.”
Clay sized up the girth of the tenderfoot he was inviting aboard his prized mount and immediately began checking the cinch on the saddle.
“Somebody hold that other stirrup,” he instructed.
Clay pointed my oxford into the stirrup and when I stepped up the arthritic knee held long enough for me to swing my other leg over the wide-backed beast. I thanked the Lord I was aboard without the humiliation of someone boosting me from the backside.
While we took the photos I was more than just a little uneasy. All I could think about was who in this crowd was betting who on just how long the guy from the Chamber would stay on if something suddenly startled that Longhorn.