Liberal, Kansas

A Pinch of Rodeo

By Joe R. Nichols


 Liberal, Kansas

On our way to an amateur rodeo in Liberal, Kansas, my bull rider friend asked which bronc I would like to draw that night. We discussed the stock contractors bucking horses in detail, and Richard knew most of them well. “That Socks looks like he’d be good, until he turns back off that right fence.” he said.

“No, that aint Socks. He’s straight down the pen.” I corrected.

“A little flax mane sorrel?”

“Yeah, but he’s straight down the pen, like a jackhammer.”

“Naw, I saw him last week, he made a circle to the right, really leaped and hung in the air. Man when he come off that fence though, he spun to the right and it was wicked. If I guy could get by that deal, he’d sure win first.”

“Richard, Socks has never turned back in his life. I’m tellin’ ya he bucks straight away and takes forty-two jumps in eight seconds. If you spur him all you can, you might win third or fourth.”

“You’re confused. I know what I saw, it was Socks and he turned back like a bull.”

“You’re crazy,” I said. “You’ve been ridin’ too many bulls. I’ve been on him five or six times. I’ve seen him for years. Never has, never will.”

Guess what horse I drew.

Soon as Socks walked in the chute, Richard began tormenting me. “Might ought to bear down when he gets to that fence. Don’t be afraid to make you some big free arm moves when he comes around. Course, he could buck you off before he has a chance to turn back.”

I ignored him, because he didn’t know what he was talking about. I never considered there to be any chance the horse would do anything different than he ever had.

Most of bronc riding happens in the sub-conscious mind, but real time thoughts are present too. It took me a little bit to realize how good a trip Socks was having. I could feel him gather himself up and push off the ground, jumping high in the air and kicking directly over my head. I was in a perfect rhythm, and it felt awesome. Then it dawned on me. He’s circling to the right. He’s headed for the fence. This aint right. Then I heard Richard holler, “Get ready, he’s fixin’ to come around.”

Ole Socks planted his front feet, sucked back under me, and whirled right. He made several revolutions in the remaining three seconds and it took everything I had to stay in the middle. The spin was fast, but he didn’t lose any kick. That crazy bull rider went in to a frenzy. “I told you he was going to turn back! How do you like him now?! ” he squalled.

I rode him eight seconds. I didn’t ride him eight and one hundredth seconds, but I was there for the whistle. And like Richard predicted, I won first.

The next time I saw the little sorrel horse with the flax colored mane, he went straight as a chalk line, pounding the earth in rapid fire jumps. Just like always.

All except once, I guess. Well, maybe twice I suppose.

Damn bull riders.

2 thoughts on “Liberal, Kansas

  1. I concur…nice job on capturing the “cowboy way”. The bull-rider sounds like a very detail oriented individual that understands stock and is attentive to their “trips”. Very precise ATD (Attention to Detail)! Very helpful attribute when making one’s living competing on stock. Hopefully the hard headed bronc rider gleaned some lessons learned / best practices from such a sage cowboy.

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