A Pinch of Rodeo
By Joe R. Nichols
Learning how to lose – Part Three
Riding broncs provides a completely different way to lose. So many variables that are out of your control. For instance, the opinion of the judges.
Or; the men opening the gate can give you a bad start, not intentionally, usually by not paying attention, or just not understanding the importance of their job. The flank man can miss pull the flank for several reasons, or just not have it adjusted right. The pick-up men can get in the way and distract the horse. It might have rained and some horses won’t buck well in the mud. The stockman loading the horses might put your horse in the front chute when he wants to circle to the right, giving him no room to do so. Or maybe they put him out of a right hand delivery when he always circles left. Lot’s of things get overlooked during a rodeo performance because of the time limits and pressure to keep the event moving fast. When you draw a good horse, you expect to win, and it’s very frustrating when someone on the labor crew screws up your chance.
Sometimes, a bucking horse just won’t have his day, for no reason anyone can explain. In San Francisco, 1985, I place in the second go-round, and qualified for the short-go. First or second place was out of reach, but third in the average was mine with a score of seventy-three or better. They had previously scored seventy-six and seventy-seven in his first two outs on the horse I drew. I watched the film of him, and he was just a good solid bronc. I couldn’t wait. He started good and I was tapped off. He weakened, but I couldn’t tell what my score would be. Sixty-seven points later, I wanted to puke. I split sixth in the average three ways for a check you couldn’t pay for a six-pack of beer with. Go figure.
One more example of a hard loss to take. The New Mexico State Finals. A two go-round good amateur rodeo. I won second in the first round, and had kind of a rank horse for my second one. Big John of Edgar Wilson’s. Big Bay horse that would go about four jumps down the arena, then turn back and spin to the left. Hard son-of-a-gun to ride. Even though I knew his pattern, he still dumped me to the outside of the spin. I spent three seconds of the ride pushing off my right stirrup, trying to get square in the saddle. Finally, I got back in position and finished the ride well. The instant I heard the eight second horn, I reached down with my free hand and double grabbed my rein. I had all I wanted of Big John.
Even though I had my difficulties riding this horse, I figured I should still win third in the round, and that would be plenty good to win the overall average.
One judge gave me a no score, said I reached down before the whistle. I made my case, saying I heard the whistle, then double grabbed. He said no, I grabbed with my free hand just before the horn sounded. I said, “If I was going to grab down, I would have done it when I was hanging off like some kind of growth on the side of the horse, not after I got back in the middle of him.” He wasn’t interested in my theory.
Behind the chutes, a friend said to me, “You know why that happened, don’t you?”
“I guess I don’t,”
“The buzzer is at the other end of the arena. You heard the sound before the judge did.” I didn’t know, he didn’t know. He wasn’t trying to cheat me, it was just a circumstance. There’s lot’s of ways to lose, none of them good.
It takes perseverance and a good attitude to prevail, no matter what trail in life you’re heading down.