The Oregon Rodeo and Cowboys
By Mike Marino

Rodeo, ro-day-o, radio, three syllables all, but only one has an 8-second ride astride a bucking Brahma bull that snorts and spits and wants to kill it's rider. Rodeo men rope and ride, while rodeo women look great in tight crotch fitting jeans with firm behinds that know how to sit on a mount and they can dig their spurs in and hold tight with their thighs so that nothing can escape their rawhide grip.

But...this is about rodeo men, who I suppose also have ass fitting jeans and know how to handle a mount too, but they also wear big hats and bigger buckles and tell tall tales of the deadliest bronc's they know and use words like "yup" and "uh-huh" as a minimalist uses paint sparingly to tell a pictorial story. The hat alone speaks 10 gallons of volumes.

Ropin' ridin' bustin' mutton and buckin' bronco hillbillies with barrels and clowns around who abound on the circuit, traveling show men like carnies with dark secret pasts and no present to speak of, let alone presence to speak of or ill of or kindly too. It is a life of horse trailers and horseshit, lariats and liars and tellers of tales taller than the Chisholm trail is long with rides and drives to rail heads and trail heads in Abilene and Kansas City. Bandito's with bandoleers and bandannas and chewin' tobacky is cowboy tacky, but dusters and slickers are for men, while ladies in Yorkshire and femmemen alike wear lipstick and knickers. The cowpoke pokes and brands his calves and drives the herd ahead, unheard of these days of Cadillac cars and fewer pinto paints and Utes and Paiutes The ministers of prairie churches were wild west stern and turned their heads and opened the good book when the cowboys came to the end of the dusty trail in time to imbibe in drunken debauchery and get soiled by a dove or two after a hot bath, shave and cologne spritz in the barbers chair.

The streets were filled with wild cowboys with a gleam in the eye, saddle sores on the bum, and great longhorn hardons ready for great whores and harlots in the hot wooden upstairs of honky tonk saloons playing ragtime and songs of camp town ladies, do da, do da, da do ron ron.The cowboy years had a heyday, hey, back in the day of the late 1800's. The educated Earp, the kid bravado of Billy, the dentist with six-shooter who never went on a holiday, and those southern fried rebel boys, the James Gang and Cole the Younger and the daunting Dalton's. The era came to close soon after the St. Joseph assassination and the industrial age dawned on darkened factory floors and the the cities expanded and exploded and the old west was tossed away like so many spent shells from a Colt Navy revolver.

Bill buffalo'd the crowds and crowned heads with Geronimo and Wild Bill and the Congress of Cowboys re-enacting the lawless days of a pioneering spirit. These led to the circus coming to town to recreate the savannas of deepest, darkest Africa and then came the rodeo, to keep the cowboy alive, in spirit and image. The cowboy is gone, now, dead for all intents and purposes but a few unique individuals are phantoms of a past, a truly American past where the men drank whiskey and beer and wine was for queers. Today, the hobo cowboy drinks cheap wine, but he ain't no bum, by no means, no way, no how, amigo.

I met two rodeo men once on a beach in Oregon bumming their way south down the coast from the northwest to hit the rodeo circuits as crew in California. Hiking the Oregon coast south of Seaside and it's seashells by the seashore shore made one glad to be alive. Wide open beach really, a football field with the end zone somewhere over in the South China Sea, where Mssr. Monsoon raped Asia with torrential floods and typhoons, which is Japanese for hurricanes or something like that. As I walked along making snake marks on the sand behind me by dragging my hiking stick, I noticed two men ahead, far from the waters edge cooking at a fire by a large dead water soaked log of tree stump by the treeline of the forest behind them.They too noticed me. Now, they could have been deranged mental patients out to thrill kill a boy on a beach, or just lust crazed homosexual rapist hell bent on making me pregnant if such a thing were possible.

They eyed me, I spied back, eye to eyes, they with four me with only two at my disposal to assess the situation so it didn't spiral out of controlled orbit. It was apparent we had seen each other so no sense pretending I wasn't nor were they curious so I walked up to them and said "hello" and they "hello'd" back and seeming friendly enough and not dangerous at all started in on conversation as they had a fire built and a kettle on for coffee and some beans in a can and a bag of rice they intended to cook up separately and then mix together to give it some body then wash it all down with a robust tin cup of coffee to further warm them, as the night was coming soon along with the breeze and the fog and the cold so they had to be fortified.

I accepted the invitation they extended to join them, not still sure if they weren't indeed cannibals that had been set adrift and landed here to re-colonize and I was but something for the stew pot to be devoured much later. Turns out the beans and rice and coffee were delicious and conversation animated and quite enjoyable and engaging.

These were two rodeo men. Worked the circuit cleaning stalls, rolling barrels for the rodeo activity that would be needed by the cowboys, and other assorted odd jobs. They hiked the coast for the most part as they had little money left, except for right after the rodeo but then would spend it on whores and booze and cigarettes. They did have a bottle of cheap wine they broke out at this point and pouch tobacco so we could all outdo each other as we rolled our own, lasso demonstrations with rolling papers, and they seemed impressed with my rolling paper prowess, not knowing I had much experience rolling substances not of legal nature which allowed me to keep pace with them. We had smokes and we had booze, but no whores, and I wasn't about to volunteer.

We talked while the full moon was hung on the wall on a hook and hovered in the heavens above, the fire died down from flame to ember, and the wood turned cool coal had that undulating look about them that made them appear to dance the dance of Salome for the assembled guests, although I have never assembled a guest before. Soon I feel asleep as did Luke, one of the cowboys whose names I forgot to mention. Pat, the other one, who also I forgot to mention, stayed awake most of the night staring at the sky, watching the flicker of the fire, and watched the moon washed crests of waves from the ocean make their way to Oregon's shore, a quarterback making a touchdown on the beach. Somehow, I think it was more than that. Luke and Pat had been together for a long time on the road, and lasted all this time so Pat probably was doing is job of guard duty of which the traded roles and places each night so the other one could get some sleep. Somehow I too felt safe, as I don't think any sane person would want to mess with Texas, or cowboys from there, I think they were from there, never asked, but aren't all cowboys from there?

The day dawned and we didn't dawdle or doodle, but went double time to town down the beach a few miles where there was a rodeo going on. A small town affair with a dirt corral and people standing around it in a circle while others sat in the stands and the bleachers at the highschool as this rodeo was a summer rodeo and held in the football stadium where just six months ago, varsity boys were trying to win a pennant so they could get thier team name on the billboard just before you entered town..."Home of the 1970 Champs"..this rodea was a real ridin' ropin' shit kickin' affair befitting Oregon. The smell of hot dogs and burgers wafted wiffs of bbq charred to perfection meats, cooked by the local 4-H to raise funds for the next county fair and animal sale.

Luke and Pat and me had fortified ourselves with a small campfire breakfast, coffee and half a bottle of a Mad Dog with perfect 20/20 vision to put a bite on and get an edge on the festivities. Small town locals are viewed so much better when slightly intoxicated to tolerate all their little quirks of gossip and intolerance of the outside world. Luke had yellow teeth from too much Marlboro'ing, and so did Pat, but they had healthy ruddy complexions from being outdoors so much over the years, employed and not. Large crevices lined their faces, Grand Canyons of character with a Colorado River of experience flowing through them. We pooled what money we had between us, and bought hot dogs, a few greasy cardboard baskets of greasier fries and Luke and Pat had bought beers for themselves being as I was too young to drink in public anyway.

The local radio station was doing a live broadcast from the rodeo and Ed Roberts, who had been an on-air fixture at the small station for over 23 years was setting up his equipment to give a blow of the festivities complete reading commercials live on the air for Harsens Feed and Grain and the local farmers co-op all you can eat pancake breakfast this Sunday to benefit the local ladies auxiliary of the VFW where mostly drunks hung out and talked about wars passed at the post when not holding pool tournaments and playing poker and horseshoes for small side bets. The local wet set junior misses arrived in a pubescent carriage to parade their bottoms for the local boys who would eventually score under the bleachers after the rodeo had packed up and left so the boys could rope and ride the cheerleader fillies across the finish line all beat, spent and sweaty then put them up in the stall until the next ride where they would hitch them up once again and crack the whip to make them gallop or trot on command.

The mayor was there, overweight and out voted at every council meeting, a figurehead position similar to the queen of England or the queen of anywhere. They mainly cut ribbons at grocery store events, along with Ed Roberts, and used the city to their advantage quietly so as not to attract attention, except there was always one or two trouble makers in town who anointed themselves as watchdogs to monitor the civic situation. The town was there, so were Pat and Luke and me. We soaked up the sun on our faces and heard the music start and the young cowgirls rode into the ring with flags and banners and fringe dancing from their jackets and milk white thighs shining in the sunlight like pearls and short little skirts revealing just a hint of the treasure behind the curtain hidden from view waiting to be discovered by Ed Roberts, or the mayor.

The calves were roped and brought down to the ground, and the bull rides were on old bulls, not much of a threat anymore, as they were old, the riders were older, and the rodeo arena, was just a small dirt corral so with whoopin' and hollerin' it was machismo fun and frolic to show off and fall down in the dirt and get up grinning and smacking the dust off your Levi's with a swift whisk of the cowboy hat with a growling "Damn," punctuating the air with a laugh and a smile while the audience applauded madly and roundly yelling things like, "Waytago Roy," or something like that.

The rodeo ended, the horses and other animals put into trailers, the concession people closed up shop, and the trash barrels overflowed with large cups that once held orange soda or beer and the wax paper food wrappers lie everywhere and with the coming of dusk and the sundown winds took flight like little greasy magic carpets to fly away and over into the MacPherson field, just past the old oak near the old Buxton homestead. Some of the female townies disappeared with some of the letter jacket townies who would someday not see the football field or Friday night lights as players ever again, but end up working 10 hour days at the family septic tank supply company or at the bowling alley as pin monkeys.

The three amigo's left the rodeo/football grounds to make their way and snake their way back to the beach, where there, they had another rip roarin' fire for warmth kissing the sky, and a much smaller one for the more specific task of cooking up a pot o' beans. Coffee washed it all down once again and then followed up with an after dinner roll yer own and the rest of the Mad Dog bottle. They talked and the words came out as did the stars above and soon, one by one they drifted off to sleep listening to the gentle ocean and caressed by the gentler breeze.

When morning finally broke, I woke up and looked around, and like the dark of night, the rodeo men were no where to be found. They got up early, as was their habit to get a started on the days journey, miles to cover, sights to enjoy and to soak up life as a sponge to a spill on the floor of cheap wine that stains white carpeting. They were headed southward to California not wanting to wake me, were as quiet as prisoners escaping from a P.O.W. camp. I sat up in my sleeping bag and could see their footprints in the sand walking south marking the trail of the invisible man, or men in this case. I also noticed there was a small fire still burning and next to my sleeping bag was a spare pack of rolling papers and small plastic bag of tobacco. No man left behind.It was the rolling papers that did it. A kid happens to come across them on the beach, they older and wiser, he with no experience versus two experienced, grizzled cowboys, they could have talked down to me, humoring me as all adults humor children, but I had managed to match them on the jousting field in full armor, one, by the simple and sustained act of rolling a cigarette with loose tobacco without benefit of a rolling machine, in the wind to boot, and damn, that fine smoke was rolled as tight as the private region of a virgin before she gives it up to her first lover on a silver platter.

Yeah, the cowboys had ridden off into the sunrise, and left more than footprints in the sand. They left a lasting memory and valuable lesson I never forgot...if you can roll yer own, you can hold yer own!.