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by Frank Shortt
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2015 Spectator Ron - The Spectator All Rights Reserved
Joe Brown tended to brag about every exploit he had ever accomplished. If the deed was
blasé he embellished it with a few quickly thrown-in adjectives. Joe was a cowboy, not the greatest, but, nevertheless, a cowboy on
the Montana/Wyoming border.
Our ranch, Leaning T, was made up of mostly younger men, Joe
Brown being the youngest. To hear him howl one would have thought him to be much older. One of the veterans once conjectured, “If
Joe had done all the things he brags about he would have to be three-hundred years old!”
Cheyenne Frontier days approached swiftly. Late July was to be the opportunity for the Leaning T riders to show their stuff. There
would be wild bronc riding, Brahma bull riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, and all the other events connected with rodeo.
“I’m gonna win every event at that stampede!” Joe boasted.
“You mean you’re gonna try to
win everything.” Bill Bates the foreman replied.
“If there’s money to be had, I’ve
already won it!” Joe continued.
All the other waddies just remained silent. We knew
that there were lots of extenuating circumstances at a rodeo. A lot depended on the bronc one drew, or the Bull that was chosen for
a particular contestant. Sometimes a roper missed his mark at a calf roping, making his entrance useless. Sometimes a person missed
the long horns of a steer, ending up lying in the dust looking stupid.
are you enterin’ Frank,” Bill Bates inquired.
“Oh, probably the calf ropin” I replied
I had spent many long hours practicing my roping. If a wily old coyote
happened to come by the bunkhouse, I would run out and try to rope him on the run. I must say I got pretty handy with that reata.
There was lots of excitement as the Leaning T cowboys descended on Cheyenne. There were
parades to watch, pretty buckskin-clad majorettes leading each entrant’s float. Some cowboys chose to imbibe in John Barleycorn, causing
them to become completely unglued. These usually ended up in the calaboose, missing all the rest of the doings. Only a couple of the
Leaning T crew had any real yearning for alcohol, this would include Pesky the cook and Happy the horse wrangler. These two had to
be hauled back to their home range on a wagon as they would be in no shape to ride.
It was rumored that one supplier of rodeo stock had brought along the meanest bull that had ever entered the arenas of Cheyenne. They
called this Brahma, Babe the Bruiser. He was purported to have never been rode.
I draw that critter, Joe bragged, I’ll tame him down in nothin’ flat. Wy, I ain’t seen the bull I couldn’t ride. I could ride a raging
tornado if given the chance. Bring on the worst, boys!”
Silence is golden! All the
rest of us were trying to get up the nerve to even enter any of the events, much less, pick the worst bull of all. Most of us were
just rank amateurs compared to the cowboys who followed the circuit. Listening to Joe Brown, one would think he was a veteran of many
Joe was only five-seven even in his high-heeled boots. When he hired on he told
us that he had bought the boots in San Antonio from a bootmaker from Mexico who used horse urine to tan the leather. This was to make
them softer than run-of-the-mill cowhide. We figured the reason he bragged so much is because he had a short-man syndrome. Yet, his
boots did look better than any man’s in the outfit.
“All bull riders get into position!
This event starts in ten minutes!” the loudspeaker boomed.
Joe Brown hesitated a
little, but went forward grudgingly as the Leaning T crew egged him on. Who should he draw but Babe the Bruiser! It seemed that things
went wrong from the outset. Old Babe kept bucking so much in the chute that Joe couldn’t even mount him. When he finally did, the
keepers had to subdue the infuriated animal with blindfolds and ropes stretched across his body to hold him down until Joe could mount
him. Joe’s legs and arms were bruised heavily from being bounced against the rough chute boards.
“And now, Joe Brown will attempt to ride a new bull, Babe the Bruiser, who has never been rode!” the announcer cried.
The whistle blew and Babe went charging out, bucking furiously as he entered the arena. Joe barely hung on by the skin of his teeth!
Just as Joe thought he had settled in for the long haul, a strap broke on the belly band, allowing Joe to fall off to one side with
the bucking rope still wrapped around his hand. He became a living puppet, dragged around the arena like a rag doll. It took the clowns
a lifetime, as Joe later put it, to corner the raging bull and free Joe’s hand. Boy, did the fans get a show that day! They all felt
that they had gotten their money’s worth. Giving the devil his due, Joe had done pretty well until the belly band broke.
I thought, “It’s surely curtains for Joe! How could anyone survive that thrashing?”
The boys in white finally were able to get to the bloody, mangled body of Joe Brown who lay face down in the mud. They rushed him
to Cheyenne General Hospital, all the while trying to calm this poor wreck of a man down. Joe kept raving about having made the best
ride of his career. I guess in his deluded mind he thought he had.
I managed to secure
a second-place purse with my calf roping. This netted me all of twenty dollars. The first place winner got fifty.
After the doctor examined Joe’s body, he found that he had two fractured ribs, a broken arm and a displaced hip, not counting all
the bruises and scratches all over his body. Joe also rode the wagon back to the home range. He was the quietest buckaroo that any
of us had ever seen. From then on, the only bragging Joe Brown did was to the dudes that came from back east occasionally to visit
Old man Tallman. If any one of the crew of the Leaning T was within earshot, Joe’s lips became so tight you could not have pried them
open with a crowbar!
Nauseating! Was all I could think
As I gazed at the gore and the blood
The results of a rampaging bull,
Joe Brown, lying face down
in the mud.
“I’m not afraid of tackling anything!”
Joe bragged upon entering the ring.
“I could ride a raging tornado,
swooping eagle on the wing.”
Things seemed wrong almost from the offset
A strap came loose on the belly band
Joe was dragged
around like a puppet
With the rope still wrapped around his hand.
The clowns finally cornered the bull
That large Brahma had
made quite a show
Spectators had won a great bonus
As I thought, “man it’s curtains for Joe.”
Men in white picked up Joe’s limp
One broken arm and a displaced hip
His ridin’ cut short by his braggin’
He’s a cowboy much tighter of lip.