I SEE BY YOUR OUTFIT...PART TWO by jackie johnson Booger squints down the length of the pool stick like hes taking aim at a big buck with a Model 94 Winchester. He draws back and punches off a power shot that scatters colored balls all over the green, felt expanse. It also careens the cue ball off the table. The white orb ricochets off the wall and skitters across the floor like a flat rock skipping across a duck pond. Booger calls out, Fore! like were playing some kind of table golf. Then he squirts Copenhagen at a copper-colored spittoon and asks, Whats par for this hole? The Saturday afternoon pool parlor is almost empty; the lights are on over only a few tables, while the rest remain dark shadows in the quite, cool dimness of the cavern-like interior. Everyone must be out at the fairgrounds. One of the other players retrieves the wayward projectile and returns it to our table in the corner. You guys here for the rodeo? Yep, we both answer. When I first looked over here, I thought you were cardboard cutouts selling Lone Star longnecks or something. When you moved, I almost freaked out. He laughs and we laugh back. Buy you guys a beer? Booger says, Thanks, but we have to go to work soon. Me too...I just wanted to say you guys are a couple of cool looking cowboys. I tell him, You ought to come out to the rodeo later, the bulls are planning to stomp a few of us tonight. Might be something worth seeing. Ill be there, he says, I drive the ambulance and we like to be standing by...just in case. Then he grins. *** Its the cowboy attire that attracts the attention. A friend of mine owns a western wear store in Childress and its as good as a gold mine. But leave cow country and youll find those who entertain themselves and their friends by calling out, Hey, wheres your horse? Or Theres the Marlboro man, I thought I smelled cow shit! On the other side of the coin, there are those who want to shake your hand and buy you a drink. Dick likes to say, Everybody wants to be a cowboy but its not as easy as it looks. Then there are those who suppose we must have a screw loose somewhere and sometimes Im inclined to agree. I wouldnt be surprised to find a few of mine may have worked loose and fallen plumb out...along with whatever good sense I might have been born with. You have to be at least a little crazy to be a cowboy. And I firmly believe that an unconscious desire to commit suicide will take you a long way in the bull riding, if you dont get crippled or killed first. You may not make much money but youll see a lot of country. Ranch work is long hours in unpredictable weather around unpredictable animals at predictably less than minimum wage. The big spreads are mostly found scattered in isolated areas, where the pavement ends, the west begins. Far from the lights of the cities and a long way from the talk of the towns. Out where even conversation is scarce. Seldom is heard...a word. Its too lonely out there for most. They say the wind has driven women crazy. There is a lot of money in rodeos, but only for the top few in each event. And the chance for injury is a lot more likely in an rodeo arena than it is out in a cow pasture. I like being on the paved roads but the expense can chew you up and spit you out almost as quick as Booger can go through a can of Copenhagen. If you rope, chase barrels, or wrestle steers, you got to haul horses worth thousands of dollars around in a trailer that cost thousands of dollars and wear out two transmissions a year in a heavy duty Dodge Ram or whatever, that cost thousands of dollars. Add up the feed bills for you and the horses, the costs of motels, the price of fuel, plus the entry fees and thats only the beginning. The only baggage I have to haul around is a bucking rein, a bronc saddle, chaps and a pair of spurs. Booger travels even lighter than I do. All he needs is a bull rope with a cowbell, a right-handed leather glove, and a pair of bull riding spurs. And of course, entry fee money. Working for Dick means all our expenses are paid, plus wages. Every week its a new town and another rodeo, and we get paid to do it. If that dont suit a couple of country cowboys, I dont know what does. *** Wildfire is the kind of horse that makes a cowboy think about getting crippled and wondering if he should have stayed home.If theres one thing Id like to avoid, its a horse that acts crazy in the chute. Hes kicking the slide-gate so hard and so often; its starting to splinter. I drag my riding boots, with the bronc spurs strapped to them, from my army surplus war bag and wiggle my feet into them. Then I slip on my chaps and buckle up. Wildfires still raising cane in the chute and making me more nervous by the minute. It takes Booger and me several seconds to get the heavy-duty halter buckled up on the horses hard head. When I gently place the saddle on his back, he rares up on the front of the chute. The next time we try it, he rears up and falls over backwards, slamming against the back of the chute. When we finally do get all four feet back on the ground, the gate-man runs a rope through the halter and wraps the ends of it around the two-inch pipe frame by the latch. Wildfire cant move his head but that doesnt mean he cant kick and buck his back end around. I manage to hold the saddle on his back while Booger reaches under the horses belly with a long hook made of twisted, heavy wire. Wildfire snorts. Booger hooks the leather latigo and pulls it across to his side of the chute and runs the end of it through the cinch ring. Wildfire backfires again, kicking the slide-gate so hard, it rattles on its rollers. Booger holds the saddle straight, while I cinch it down tight. Wildfire rolls his eyes at me. Then I buckle the flank strap and measure how much rein to take. This bucking horse takes a long rein. When hes pitching, he keeps his head down close to ground. If you take too short a rein on him, hell jerk you over his head. A horse that keeps his head high will take a short rein. Too long a rein and your arm wont be long enough to pull all the slack out and hell jump right out from under you. The guys that ride the rough ones, study the stock. They watch each and every one, each time they come out of the chute. Most of them are consistent, whether they be calves, steers, horses or bulls. They do the same thing every time. If you dont know the stock, just ask one of the guys. Hell tell you everything he knows and most of the time, he knows plenty. Hell tell you how much rein the horse takes, even though you will be competing against each other. Thats sportsmanship. A roper or dogger may tell you, That calf or steer will sit up on you, which means hell put the brakes on and you wont have time to check your speed and ride right past him, unless you know what he will do before-hand. The calves and steers dont have names but they have numbers and thats as good as a name. When I straddle Wildfire, he puts all his weight against my left leg, pinning it against the gate. A sharp pain shoots through my knee and Booger has to work a length of cedar fence post, kept for this purpose, alongside my leg, between the horse and the gate. Theres no way to get him to stand up straight, not with his head snubbed to the side gate. Its not the best position to be in, but it wont get any better. I nod my head. When the gate-man releases the rope and swings the gate open, Wildfire staggers because his weight was against the gate. He recovers and takes off like a racehorse. Three long strides later and hes at full speed, just like Seabiscuit. Then he ducks, drops his left shoulder and dodges to the right and goes to pitching. My feet are still in the front and this little trick slams all my weight onto the left stirrup and the wooden U, with the strip of galvanized tin around it, breaks in half. Only the tin doesnt break, of course, it simply folds up on my foot, like a varmint trap. Wildfire goes to the right and I go straight ahead over his left shoulder like Im shot from a slingshot. I hit hard but Im hung in the stirrup and jerked off the ground by Wildfires next jump. Hanging up is a good way to get kicked in the head. I know to twist my body around to face down. This never fails to free the spur from the rigging or the foot from the boot. I do the twist and sure enough, come loose. The walk to the chutes always seems longer when you hear the whistle on the way back. Marvin and Melvin are bouncing and bounding around behind the chutes like Mexican jumping beans, loosing up for the bull riding. If I didnt know who they were, I never would recognize them. What with white clown faces and big, round, red circus noses. Rodeo clown costumes are the same everywhere, over-sized, baggy, blue jeans with red suspenders and long, red neckerchiefs hanging out of both hip pockets, over red tights. Orange haired wigs sticking out from under black, narrow brimmed hats that look like someones been using for a seat cushion. I see by your outfit... Marvin makes a decent ride on Poncho Villa, a decent bull, might even get a little money. Boogers bull is called One Ton, because the big, blond, Charlois weighs 2,000 pounds. Hes stout but slow and Booger puts a good ride on him, keeping his right shoulder aimed at the bulls head and his chin tucked in to it. He keeps his back straight and his spurs in front of the bull rope with his toes turned out. The big bull twists, turns, humps, jumps and kicks, but Booger sticks to him like a cocklebur in a cows tail. He takes first place in the 2nd go-around and Marvin takes second. All I end up with is third place in the first go-around. No day money in the second go, so that leaves Booger and me out of the average. You have to score in two go-arounds to get in on the average money. Marvin covered both of his bulls and ends up taking 1st in the average, which means he gets paid for two scores that total up to enough to win the bull riding. He gets three checks. Not to mention the 100 dollars he won from Dick on the bet. He makes out like a bandit. Dick has a date with the rodeo secretary so we catch a ride to the motel with Marvin and Melvin. We leave the arena with Marvin doing the driving and trying to imitate Ray Charles singing Born To Lose for our benefit. You know how clowns are, always trying to be funny. We dont laugh but Marvin and Melvin do. Marvin says maybe well have better luck at the rodeo dance. Ray Price and the Cherokee Cowboys are playing.