The Real Cowboy Dad, Part. 2

Daddy worked hard and played hard. For most of my growing-up years, he dedicated his free time to preparing for rodeo calf-roping contests. He had the same attitude toward calf roping as he did farming. He always wanted to be better, maybe the best, at whatever he did and he put in the time and money needed to achieve his goal.

He loved the rodeo competition. Calf roping is a timed event where cowboys compete to beat each other’s time, tossing a loop of rope over a calf’s neck, dismounting the horse, throwing the calf on the ground, and tying three of its legs together with the piggin string the cowboy carries in his mouth during the chase. Timing is exact  and segments of seconds count. A well-trained cowboy and roping horse are essential to winning the competition.

Daddy, like all the other roping contestants, was always looking for a better roping horse. Timing was everything and a roping horse was trained to back into position, wait, and Gallup after the calf at the exact second it had gained its head start. And then, when the lasso slipped over the calf’s neck the horse stopped and pulled the rope taunt to hold the calf in place until the cowboy dismounted and ran to throw the calf. It’s serious business with a jackpot at stake. Daddy wanted practice so he built his own roping pen on a couple of acres behind the barn.

And I was hired to man the calf and chute. A dime a release. My timing was also of utmost importance but sometimes I had a little trouble opening the chute gate at the exact moment Daddy and the horse were ready. Some days on the job are just hectic for a ten year old.

Once I was pretty good at opening the gate on time, Daddy gave me more responsibility — And getting the calf in the chute from the pen turned out to be a little above my pay grade.

“Twist his tail and get him in there!” Daddy would say.

I concentrated on managing the young calf that outweighed me by a few pounds (I’m not sure the mom with the wet hen temperament knew about this). Still, what Mama might have said didn’t matter; I knew how short Daddy’s patients tended to be. I twisted that tail with all my might. It wasn’t enough. By this time, Daddy may have decided his daughter belonged in the house with Mama (or, maybe Mama decided). And I earned my dime pulling off his smelly boots at night.

I wasn’t all that sad when I lost my dime-a–release job, although I loved penny candy. If you’ve spent any times around young calves, you probably know their tails swish flies and get in the way of some bodily functions. I’m not sure how Daddy managed the calf release in my absence but I think he asked some of his competitors to practice in his roping pen. You know, a few seconds riding and roping for a calf release.

I can’t remember just when Daddy stopped riding in the rodeo but  my son has good memories of watching his grandfather compete in the calf-roping contest. At some point, Daddy traded his roping horse for a golf cart. After that, he and my husband spend many hours on the golf courses in Oklahoma and San Diego. However, age and arthritis took their toll and the day came for Daddy to trade his golf cart for a … I don’t think he’d want me to finish that sentence.



The Real Cowboy Dad ( Part 1)

Daddy and Mama married young but Cowboy Dad was probably a little older than he was in this photo.

Like his father before him and a long line of grandfathers, Daddy was a farmer and rancher. He might have been the first cowboy in our family.

Daddy always took his non-farm activities seriously. The first I remember, flying lessons. About once a week, a small airplane would land in the alfalfa field near our house. Daddy would climb aboard and fly away under the tutelage of his instructor. I was pretty young, maybe five, and I remember talk about Daddy’s solo flight and shortly after that, the small two-seater stopped landing in our alfalfa field and Daddy’s flying days ended.

I later learned the story from my mom — not sure if it was the first solo flight or one shortly thereafter — But it seems that Daddy got a little over-confident and buzzed our house. I think I remember standing on the front porch during the fly-over. As it turned out, something happened that Mama and I couldn’t see as he flew over… Mama said he scared himself… and Daddy never flew again. Instead of becoming a Flying Dad, Daddy turned to riding and roping… [amazon_link id=”B00BEKDP8E” target=”_blank” ]Cowboy Dad [/amazon_link].

In real life, the rope that sailed through the air and grabbed Little Brother and me round the middle was real, not imaginary. Most of the time, Daddy used a cotton rope in the house. It was a fun time for Little Brother and me. In fact, it’s one of my favorite memories. But, one day, Daddy came in from ridin’ and ropin’ with a real rope in his hand. Of course Little Brother and I were ready for play. We dashed across the front yard, yipping and yelling. “You can’t catch me! You can’t catch me!” Daddy couldn’t resist the challenge and he let the rope fly…

…Just about the time Mama stepped out the door. “Don’t you dare put rope burns on those kids!” She shrieked. I think our fun ended right then although Little Brother and I weren’t ready to stop. I don’t remember anything about any rope burns… well, not much. A rope does scrape as it slides down the side of one’s neck. What I remember most is that it was really fun Although we anticipated the whirring rope sailing through the air… And, we were ready. I’m pretty sure it was a gentle toss.  Daddy wasn’t ready to face Mama’s wrath… She could get madder than an old wet hen when the thought her chicks were in danger.