Well folks, I bet that there are a lot of you out there wondering just how it was that this New England Boy came to be a Cowboy in Washington, DC, and find himself on top of and under steers, ropin' calfs and ridin' horses. Well, I believe that being a cowboy was something that was always in me. Part of my heart, just the way Massachusetts is. To borrow a phrase that the gay community often uses "I was just born this way." There are people who are born in this world to be cowboys and cowgirls, just as there are people who are born in this world not to get their hands dirty. It's a part of human nature that you can't explain. It just is.
That said, now for the logistics of my cowboy way.
When I was younger, a kid, the area that I grew up in was a bit more rural than it is now. There used to be a lot more farms around and a lot of them had horses. One in particular, Turkey Hill, had horse riding.
My cousins and I used go up there from time to time to ride the horses. I remember the first one that I ever rode bucked me off him.
I had been riding him around at a trot and wanted him to go faster. I gave him a kick and he started to canter; another kick, he started to gallop; another, he started to run, and another, which he didn't like to much.
I wound up plop on the ground. My Aunt came over to me just to make sure that I was all right. I sure was. Maybe, it was at that moment that I realized how much I liked the excitement of ridin' and being thrown. I got right back on that mare and rode her around the rest of the day. Prouder than an All-Around cowboy that I "Fell of the horse, but got right back on."
Fast forward to about 15 years later, when I was planning on moving to Washington, DC. I was in one of those big chain bookstores looking at a copy of Fodor's Gay Guide USA to see what bars were in the DC area and one of the names jumped right out at me, Remington's, and underneath was the little symbol w standing for Country Western. Well, I had been listening to Country music for years since I wasn't able to understand the words that "mainstream" singers were doing, and here was a bar that played country, but was also a gay bar. A place where I could find other folks like myself.
Shortly after I moved down here, I took a night to go to the bar. I tell you I was scared s***less about going in (I always have had an anxiety about meeting new people). But as soon as I walked in it hit me like a brahma in a bull poker event. This place was exactly what I was looking for. The bar was beautiful, made out of all wood with three different bars to it and a long, wide wooden staircase going up to the second level (I always had a love of staircases as well). Lot's of fun and friendly folks to talk to, though my dancing ability was far from anything. In spite of that I pretty soon was spending about 5 out of 7 nights a week there.
One of those nights the local rodeo association had a table set up to promote their upcoming rodeo. I had passed by it a few times, glancing to see what was there. They had programs, shirts, hats and pins and such. I didn't get too close to the table much that evening on account of my nerveousness with meeting new people and I was real poor in those days, and a bit of a softy for any ligitamate persons trying to raise money. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to say no if they were to ask me to buy something.
Towards the end of the evening though, they had begun to pack up there stuff and I went by the table once again. Hoping to snag a program without too much interaction with the organization's cowboys. But fate decided that I needed an introduction.
As I picked up one of the programs one of the cowboys said to me. "You ever been to a rodeo?"
"Well, come to ours." He said and smiled.
I shook my head somewhere in between a yes and a no and moved on before he could talk to me any more.
I never did make to that first rodeo, but became a member of the association and part of two of their committees. How's that for confronting my fear of meeting new people?!
Anyway, I was real involved in helping set up the Annual Awards ceremony that they were having that upcoming January. I was working to get all of the awards ordered before going home for New Years. The committee chair suggested that I do all the preliminary work for the getting the awards ordered and then call us this bullrider who lived close by to me and have him do the follow up. I did so, never knowing how much of an effect that would have on my recreational activities.
Now before I continue with the story I gotta tell you that this bullrider sure had one hell of an effect on my life in more ways than just getting me into rodeo. He wound up being one of the greatest friends that I have ever had, and probably one of the greatest men I've ever known. We never really got together or dated or even played around or anything like that. He's just somebody who is real big part of my heart and always will be.
Anyway, my initial meeting and chit-chat with the bullrider and more so at the Awards ceremony shortly after, made me decide that he sure seem like a nice enough guy and that I would want to get to know him better. So, I gave him a call to see if he wanted to go to see the movie Titanic with me. I had seen it before, but was so impressed with it and caught up with the story that I wanted to see it again to analyise it in my filmakers mind.
After the movie he and I went to grab some dinner. We got to talking and had a real good converstion. I remember I asked him what he valued most, I don't recall his answer, but mine was "My friends."
We went dancing after that and Alan Jackson's "I want to dance with you." Came on and the bullrider came over to me and asked me to dance. I shook my head no in a panic because I knew I would be horrible at it and just flat out embarrass him up there on the floor. He tried to get me up there but it was no good. I had not plans of wearing a red face that night.
On the way back home in his truck that night, proded by that and his earlier talk of riding, I remember that I looked at him and told him that I wanted two favors from him. "I want to learn how to dance and I want to learn how to ride bulls."
He said back to me that he'd be more than happy to teach me how to dance and that riding would take "strength, practice, and concentration."
I spent that summer working on all three of the afore mentioned items and that October, I was falling of a different kind of animal. My first few rides were horrible, which surprised me because on the bucking barrel and machine I did pretty well, but flesh, bone and horn are something different. The movement of an animal is much more unpredictable than that of an innanimate object that's serving the place of an animal. On my first two rides I ever did I barely made it out of the chute before I hit the ground with my rump.
The bullrider was there to encourage me, though.
On my second ride the gate opened, the steer ran up against one of the walls, ran out and dumped me in about 2 seconds. Coming back the bullrider told me "No that was good. You rode him out." And he commented that in the chute (he was my spotter) I was a dream. "You didn't fool around. You didn't waste any time. You slid down on him, got your arm up and nodded. That's what you need to do. Slide and ride."
The following spring I added steer wrestling to my events, and calf roping the following fall.
Calf roping is my best event so far, with steer wrestling second and steer riding third. I haven't made a ride yet, but I'm getting better and better with each time.
On one of my rides last fall I felt the rope start to slip out of my hands. Something that had happened once before and I fell off. I tightened my grip, pulled myself in and stayed on for two or three more bucks. And this past spring I faced a steer who was climbing all over the chute and bucking inside of it. He was one tough mother, but I didn't let him get inside my head. Slid and Rid and thought about that time before when the bullrider told me "You rode him out."
The bullrider ain't around to watch me do stuff like that anymore. He went down his own trial to follow his cowboy dreams about a year ago. But I still think of him often and I smile to myself.
The cowboy who first told me to "Come to the rodeo" is still around. And he's a real good pal of mine, too. Somebody who I'm close to and whose opinions, thoughts and friendship I still value. You could say I trust him with my life.
Well, there ya go. It's the long and short of CowboyRam's entry into rodeo. Which by the way you're probably wondering just how I got the nickname CowboyRam. Well, that's another story for another page.YankeeCowboy