In a Sow’s Ear 7-12-10
Recently I read a column in a regional monthly publication wherein the writer offered advice to tourists and newcomers on how to “fit in” with local Montana populace.
“Blend in,” he wrote. Folks in Montana, he claimed, do not wear cowboy hats. “Blend in” by avoiding purchase of tall-crowned wide-brimmed chapeaus, pointy-toed boots or any clothing items bearing fringe. Mr. Blend-In further exhibited his patronizing arrogance by asserting that not even ranchers wear cowboy hats. “No,” he declared, “they wear baseball caps.”
This came as a surprise to me. My conclusion? That writer is not from around here. I’ll wager he’s a transplant to Montana from East Metropolisville. For sure, he’s never been to the Old Boot Saloon in Cow Town on a Saturday night. As for baseball caps on ranchers, hey, those are feed-store caps, buddy. A rancher/cowboy saves his “good” wide-brimmers for goin’-to-town-doin’s, weddings, funerals and church.
If Mr. Blend-In believes Montanans don’t wear cowboy hats, he’s never been to a ranch rodeo. The last one I attended was on the 4th of July. The event began with the Grand Entrance. Cowboys and cowgirls on well-broke ranch horses, rode at a collected lope into the arena. And lo! Every darned one of ’em wore a tall hat, boots and fringed chaps! (The cowboys and girls, not the horses).
Three dozen riders circled the perimeter of the arena, then brought their horses to a halt, lining up side-by-side facing the main bleachers. Next, bursting from the side entrance, came a rider on a dark bay horse carrying the Stars and Stripes. He, too, galloped the perimeter, then halted facing the bleachers but positioned in front of the line of riders.
From the crows’ nest, the announcer invited the crowd to salute the flag. Everyone in the audience and every cowboy and cowgirl doffed his or her 10-gallon, placed a hand on heart and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Following that, the “Star Spangled Banner” rang out across the arena. Then once again, the flag- bearing horseman circled the arena, the American Flag streaming in the breeze. He exited at a stirring gallop; the line of riders spun their horses and followed him.
There’s a difference between a “ranch rodeo” and a commercial rodeo. The ranch rodeo strives to demonstrate the challenges a cowboy and his horse may face in the daily work on a cattle ranch.
Each contest – Team Branding, Team Trailering, Team Doctoring, Ranch Bronc Riding, and Wild Cow Milking requires three or four roper-riders – except for Bronc Riding. Bronc riding only calls for a cowboy to get on a saddled bucking horse and stay with the animal for 10 seconds. It’s a fine opportunity to acquire bruises, break bones, chance getting hung up, maimed or killed. Gotta love those cowboys.
Wild Cow Milking involves a close relationship with a mama cow. Cowboy One on his horse head-catches mama. Cowboy Two attempts to heel catch the same bovine. Cowboys Three and Four, both afoot, dart forward. Cowboy Three grabs cow’s tail, sticks his boot heels in the arena dirt and hangs on while Ms. Cow freight-trains him flapping like a kite in a high wind all over the arena. Meanwhile, Cowboy Four, clutching a long-necked bottle into which he’s supposed to extract some milk from Bossy, dashes alongside. Seeing there’s no halting Ms. Cow, he grabs onto her tail alongside Cowboy Three.
Ms. Cow sunfishes around, bops Cowboy Four with her head, slamming him to earth where he eats a whole lot of dirt. Meanwhile, Cowboy One throws his rope (still attached at one end to Bossy) to the ground, piles off his horse and grabs mama cow around the neck. They kiss – not on purpose.
Cowboy Two, the would-be heeler, pitches his rope to the ground, piles off and grabs the bottle from Cowboy Four (the dirt-eating would-be milker). He has regained his feet and now rushes to help Cowboy Three still flopping like a rag doll at mama’s rear.
Cowboy Two, bottle in hand, drops to his knees and knee-walks alongside Bossy (who continues to plow up arena doo-doo with the pair of tail-clinging cowboys). Finally he manages to extract milk from the irate bovine. Rules say ropes used on cow and milk pulled from ditto must be rushed to the judges’ stand.
Milker Cowboy Two, arms pumping fast enough to churn butter, races to the judge and hands over his milk bottle. Judge upends it. Nothing falls forth. Cowboy Two, as he ran, forgot to put his thumb over the neck opening. Every time his arm went downward, he lost liquid – from the bottle, that is.
Basic rule: Milk must be inside the bottle or team is disqualified. Maybe Cowboy Two should’ve worn a ball cap and “blended in?”
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