Sometimes there are two rodeos, one inside the arena and one outside. No buckles are awarded for the one outside.
When the sun goes down the west Texas heat lets up a bit making it tolerable to sit outside at night and enjoy the quiet of the evening.
Beanie Franklin and Ike Stovall were sittin’ on the rail watching the stock eat the hay they had just thrown out. Ike watched Beanie as he took his time filling a blanket. He twisted both ends and licked the entire stick with his tongue before placing it in the corner of his mouth. He struck a match against his leather chaps, lighting the freshly rolled cigarette. He squinted as the smoke rolled out of the side of his mouth and drifted up into his eyes.
“That little one is fine as cream gravy,” Beanie said, as he exhaled a stream of blue smoke.
“Yep, but you don’t want to get by that boy’s ears,” Ike replied. “That gray one over there the horse you rode today?” Ike asked, pointing in the direction of a dapple gray gelding.
“Yep, he just didn’t seem to have it. He is just plum fagged out. Four years ago he bucked me off and hung me up and dragged me for a few trips around the arena before I learned saddle broncs and I don’t mix too well. Then I went bareback. That was ‘bout three years ago. He’s been around a long time. These damn small rodeos ain’t got the cash to bring in good stock like they should.”
“How’d that bareback work out for ya’?”
“Not much better. I got jerked down in the well and stomped on a few times. Now I do a little roping’ and ride pick up whenever I can land a gig. When you’re younger you live like the road goes on forever and the party never ends. But it ain’t long before you begin to see the bend in the road and you begin to fear what’s around that bend, the unknown.”
They both sat and let the quiet of the evening settle in while listening to the stock quietly chomp on the hay.
“Well,” Beanie said while standing and slapping his thighs, “if that sun don’t come up tomorrow, you’ll know I at least had a good ride. You hungry?”
“Yeah, how’s the food at that joint, the Crystal Cactus?”
“Purty good and so are the drinks. It’s a right nice place. They even give you eaten’ irons but it’s the afterclaps you gotta look out for. I was on the shitter all night the last time I ate there.”
They heard a gunshot, then another before the telltale crash of panels and a cry, “Get the horses saddled.” It was the night watchman, Felix Dunn.
“Who fired them shots, Felix?”
“A couple of ol’ drunks came ridin’ through here yellin’ and a cussin’ and firing their dadgum pistols.”
They looked up and watched as a corral full of bulls came running past, led by none other than Dirty Sam, one of the meanest bulls neither of them never rode and never wanted to.
“Did you see that? It was Dirty Sam. He lit out of town like his dick was on fire.”
“Well, let’s go git him.”
They grabbed their saddles and tacked up their horses and took off after a half dozen crazy-ass bulls as they left the fairgrounds toward the stockyards that ran parallel to the tracks of the Santa Fe Railroad.
Beanie and Ike were just about to catch up with the rest of the cowboys when someone yelled out, “There they are,” pointing in the direction of the levee road that snakes its way east toward Pumpkin Vine Creek.
They all turned and headed out at full gallop, the steel shoes of the horses throwing sparks off the asphalt as they rode in pursuit of the bulls.
As they got closer, one cowboy tossed his rope around Dirty Sam’s big old horns and proceeded to dally it around the saddle horn when Dirty Sam busted free, taking the rope with him while he headed back for the train tracks and a platform loaded with boxes with the rest of the bulls following him. As they passed the startled cowboys one of the horses reared, tossing its rider in the tall grass lining the road. The riderless horse took off in the direction of the bulls with the rest of the cowboys in close pursuit.
When they arrived at the platform, Dirty Sam proceeded to hook the boxes and toss them all over the yard while the other bulls stomped on the contents that spilled out on the ground.
A train whistle and the clanging of metal on metal startled old Dirty Sam and he turned and ran off across the tracks and dropped down. His left front leg got stuck under the rail and was broken and twisted grotesquely in an oblique and unnatural angle to the rest of his body. He was snorting and bellowing in obvious pain while the rest of the bulls, not knowing what to do or where to go, just stood there milling around.
“Well, one of us has gotta fix his flint,” Beanie said. “You been know’d to always carry an equalizer, Ike. You got a rifle in that scabbard?”
“Ya, I got one. Damn!”
“Just put it between his eyes and git it over with.”
“I can’t do it Beanie.”
Dirty Sam let out a deep moan and whipped his head back and forth slinging snot over Beanie and Ike’s legs and both their horses. His eyes were red and still filled with hate.
“Aw hell,” Beanie said, dismounting from his horse. “Gimmie your gun.”
The crack of the rifle echoed in the night. Ol’ Beanie’s eyes filled with tears.
“It ain’t right, Beanie. Dirty Sam shouldn’t have ta go this way. He was one of the best there ever was.”
About this time a couple of railroad dicks drove up in a white pickup truck with blue lights flashing on the top of the cab.
They saw the carnage and what was left of Dirty Sam and asked, “What in the cornbread hell is goin’ on?” the bigger of the two dicks asked.
“A little rodeo,” Ike replied.
“Well, who’s going to clean up this mess?”
“I reckon you should call the owner of the fairgrounds back there. We’ll take the rest of these bulls back and put ‘em away. They played enough for one day.”
“That’s it boys, the monkey’s dead and the shows over. Let’s throw a rope around Dirty Sam and get him off the track and get the rest of these boys back so we can go eat.”