The Haxtun-Fleming Herald - What can we reason but from what we know? -Alexander Pope

Under the Wire

A sinking feeling


Anyone who has ever hauled a horse to a rodeo, team penning, barrel race, cutting or horse show, has had this happen. You’ve been tuning and grooming on old Bay for days, maybe weeks, even months. Today is the day it all comes together. Bay looks good and you feel great. The hours on the road fly by because today is your day. You have plans to take names and kick ... well, you get the idea.

About five miles from the fairgrounds you begin to notice them. One over there in a field, two along-side the road. Water puddles. Innocent enough, you hardly notice. In another mile, puddles begin to resemble small ponds. As you get nearer to your destination, these ponds start to look more like lakes. When you turn the corner into the site of your big event, you are greeted by the biggest lake yet, masquerading as the arena. Dust will not be a problem today.

I honestly don’t know how horse shows handle these situations but rodeos must have coined the phrase, “The show must go on.” All of a sudden, a barrel horse that runs hard to the first barrel and a calf horse that can lock onto a ducking and dodging calf like white on rice, don’t seem like such a good idea. Steer wrestler’s horses get to run straight ahead but eventually the rider has to slide off onto the steer. It’s amazing where mud can get lodged when you do this at 25 mile per hour.

Personally, I have never enjoyed these situations. I seriously doubt anyone else does either, but there is another ridiculous tradition involving cowboys. Nobody complains. Barrel racers complain more about a hard spot under a perfectly dry arena than they would if the pen resembled Lake Michigan. It’s the cowboy and cowgirl way, I suppose.

If it’s a one day event you can seek comfort in knowing everyone else has to compete under the same circumstances. “I’m still going to get ‘em,” I would lie to myself. If everyone else had dry conditions in previous days, you ride into the arena to rope understanding how Custer must have felt.

Ironically, even though I can’t remember if I drew a check or not at those soggy episodes, I have some great memories of being there. It took a while for some to become funny but they did. A broken water main under the arena at Lewellen, Neb. along with a four inch rain comes to mind. The rodeo committee put little red flags around spots in the arena and recommended you not follow your steer if he went there. A downpour in St. Francis, Kan. left an 18” wide dry path next to the roping chute as the only way to ride in and chase your calf out of the box. We hired a four wheel drive to pull our trailer out of the parking lot in Billings, Mont. once.

The sinking feeling (literally) of arriving at a wet arena is a memorable one, all right. There’s only one feeling that’s better. That’s getting on dry clothes and leaving when it’s over. Can hardly wait to get to the next one. My horse is tuned up. I feel great. Look out folks I’m going to be taking names and ...


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