Back in our college days when all the rodeo bums who lived at or
hung around the Rounder House were known by nicknames more than names, Marlowe
Carroll was Bird, or the Bird Man, a moniker earned by long, skinny legs.
More than anyone else I can think of, Bird was influential in my rodeo years. When I arrived at USU he ran the Rodeo Club and was the star of the Intercollegiate Rodeo Team, winning a bunch in both bareback and bull riding. He made sure I was involved in the club, and encouraged and supported and assisted my efforts as I earned a place on the team, eight seconds at a time. We spent a lot of time together, much of it involved in activities best unmentioned—but those days resulted in a lifetime’s worth of memories.
A series of brain aneurisms and strokes while still a young man ended Marlowe’s rodeo career and landed him in a wheelchair, his agile mind betrayed by a mostly unresponsive body. Still, he lived for decades and never lost his sense of humor or happy outlook on life.
Marlowe—Bird—left this life in late December, and made the whistle with the same grit and try that you see on his face in the photo of him aboard the infamous bucking bull Fuzzy 4.
(The other fuzzy photo shows the USU Rodeo Club in 1971. That’s Marlowe in the upper right; yours truly is there on the left.)
WOMB TO TOMB
Two hearts. One beats steady
and strong. The other races by.
Confinement presses knee
against rib, back to thigh.
Sounds, muffled and distant,
penetrate. Irresistible, the urge.
Pull. Squeeze. Slide. Every muscle
tense, you nod and emerge;
delivered into chaotic glare
assaulted by motion and sound.
Bull bellows. Brain blows.
Body, unbound, seeks ground.
Face down in arena dirt
consciousness goes astray
as flooding blood erodes neurons
and synapses wash away.
Tucked, then, into the coffin of
a body cold and unresponsive;
rolling through years gathering
dust as memories weave
tapestries of Rounders and rodeo,
broncs and bulls—of life before
a hemorrhagic stroke of bad luck
drew you out to ride no more.