This time of year, flags fly in abundance and are celebrated and saluted in many settings.
Every rodeo begins with a flag ceremony in conjunction with the traditional grand entry, with the stars and stripes flown from horseback in the arena. Men doff their hats, hold them over their hearts, and—for those so inclined—sing along with the Star Spangled Banner.
It’s different for those of us who practice(d) the bareback bronc riding trade. Here’s a poem I wrote about the experience from behind the bucking chutes.
LONG MAY IT WAVE
The Star Spangled Banner inspires all manner
Of feelings in folks when it plays—
Every bareback bronc veteran feels a rush of adrenaline
Long after his rodeo days.
The Anthem’s first sound brings the Chute Boss around
Yellin’ “Pull ’em down boys! Let’s rodeo!”
And you straddle the chute, ease down onto the brute,
Grab your riggin’ and stretch latigo.
Then the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air
Grow distant; seem to fade into dim.
Rosin squeaks in your handhold. The horse shivers as if cold.
And, for eight seconds, there’s just you and him.