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The Cowboy Way

When City-Boys Trailed Cowboys
December 28, 2021
Why We Cowboy
January 11, 2022

I don’t much care for crowds. In fact, I mostly go out of my way to avoid them for the potentially volatile, generally anonymous and typically rude occasions that they too-often can be. But I make one exception: Rodeo. Rodeo fans seem to largely be imbued with a smattering of Cowboy Values which inclines them toward a more congenial courtesy. When I wrote “Experience is Priceless” I was drawn to thinking about how an old man might take his decades of experience and, returning to a youthful pursuit, apply that wisdom and know-how to achievement in a rusty old skill. At the same time, I had been struggling with a poem about rodeo. Then I came across David Graham's painting, "Bull Rider". This poem is the result of the junction of those two ponderings and Mr. Graham's artwork.

The Cowboy Way

The old timer who climbed on Destiny's Devil
Was slight, no longer packin' much freight
Stiff and bent, he hadn't straddled any bull
Since his ribs got broke back in seventy-eight

Long ago, when in his thirties,
Caleb had twice been to the NFR
He'd a passle of buckles and saddles
To show for his bein' a rodeo star

But that was back in Oklahoma
Before Tornado had tossed him high
And hooked him comin' down
Hard crushing his ribs and a thigh

Now, gloved-hand wrapped in the rope,
With two thousand pounds of rank
Tremblin' familiar 'tween his legs
Caleb was ready to take it to the bank

The announcer called his name
On Destiny’s Devil in the Murdoch chute
But Caleb never heard the call
He was busy prayin' for the loot

His granddaughter needed that operation
This ride carried a fair-sized purse
Without the money she might be paralyzed
Or something unthinkably worse

No one had told him this was crazy
Not one of those good friends would
They gathered 'round in support
Because each one of them understood

Encouragement from the stands
Was a loud, rumblin', steady roar
Old and new fans knew his age
And the extra risk that was in store

No one before had ever dared try
Ridin' rough stock at seventy five
Maybe they lacked the motivation of
Tryin' to keep a granddaughter alive

But there it was, he had it to do
Tuckin' his chin and pullin his straw tight
Caleb nodded to the gate man
And Destiny's Devil took flight

Experience stepped up to guide him
Free hand reachin' for the sky
Back straight, mind in the middle
It was time to do or die

That young bull was mighty rank
Cutting no slack for his rider’s age
He did his very best to score high
As if tryin’ to help by his rampage

Caleb thought he heard the horn blow
So figurin' his eight seconds done
He kicked loose to the right
When Destiny to the left had spun

As if he'd just jumped off the porch
He stuck his landing and ran for the fence
The bullfighters dancin' with Destiny
Just doin’ their job for Caleb's defense

Caleb scored a respectable seventy-five
A score curiously consistent with his age
But his wasn't the winning ride
Not today on this young man's stage

He knew he'd tried his hardest
Caleb had given it his very best shot
And even though it wasn't a win
It was better to have tried than not

He was stopped by a barrel racer
As he was gimping towards his truck
She said all the rodeo winners today
Had deeply admired his pluck

Between his courage and his cause
When this here rodeo was all done
They'd help his sufferin' granddaughter
By donatin' all the money they'd won

Surely Caleb's goal was more than met
Though not in the way he'd hoped for
He got more money than he'd sought
Hearin' his prayer, God opened a better door

But what in tarnation made them all
Give up their hard-earned pay?
Well, the explanation's no surprise
It's purty much just the Cowboy Way

by Rik Goodell

© 2022. All rights reserved

I am grateful to David Graham for, once again, allowing me to post his art alongside mine. If you do a search here on my website for "The Fencin' Crew", you'll see another of his fine pieces. To see more of his work, go to his website: https://www.davidgrahamart.com/

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