Wednesday, February 23, 2022

My first rodeo.

I don’t remember my first rodeo. Or my second rodeo. While I have memories of many, many rodeos over many, many years those memories are somewhat muddled and there are no numbers assigned.

Most likely, my first rodeo was a hometown Pioneer Day affair during which little kids like me were screwed down onto the backs of Hereford or black bally calves, with two hands in a death grip on a loose rope, then turned out into the arena for a few (very few) frantic seconds of jolting and jarring and jerking before landing in the dirt with a better than even chance of getting a mouthful of the stuff.

The first rodeo I have record of was a Little Buckaroo Rodeo in Orem, Utah, on Friday, May 31, 1963. On the printed program, right after “Specialty Act—Trampoline” came Section III of Pony Bareback Riding, and there I am, in black and white, with my age listed as 10. Next to my name, in my dad’s handwriting, is my score: “0.” I learned nothing from the experience. For several more years I kept getting on bareback horses that didn’t want me on them—through high school, amateur, college, and pro rodeos.

 When circumstances require, I can honestly say (for what it’s worth), “This ain’t my first rodeo.”

I am now of an age that my last rodeo, like my first, is so long ago that any memory of it has leaked out of my porous brain. There may be a connection.

P.S. My latest novel, All My Sins Remembered, is now available in hardcover from Amazon and other online booksellers. Your local bookstore can order it, and it should be in libraries soon.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

At the movies.

One of my favorite movies, and certainly one of my favorite Westerns, is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

I am fully aware that it bends and twists history until reality is unidentifiable, and faithfulness to actual events is lacking. Still, it does have some basis in fact. And, let’s face it, it’s not as if even the most studied scholars and historians agree about the exploits and adventures, the villainy and vices, the lives and deaths of Robert LeRoy Parker and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh.

What do I like about the movie? For one thing, it’s funny, and humor is one thing that’s sadly lacking in Old West film and fiction. The picture above portrays the climax of one of the movie’s most hilarious moments, Butch and Sundance’s escape from a persistent posse by leaping from a cliff to a river below following a furiously funny debate. Then there’s the fact that the actors, Paul Newman and Robert Redford, are masters of the craft and their partnership here, as well as in The Sting, is inspired given the on-screen chemistry between them. And it’s well written and well-directed. Finally, much of the movie was shot in and around my home state of Utah, showcasing the wild beauty of our varied landscape.

I don’t know how many times I’ve watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I last loaded up the DVD a few months ago. And it won’t be too many months before I see it again.


Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Old poem.

You can’t live without ageing. One day it dawns on you that you are no longer young. Then, someday, it occurs to you that you are old.

We all know it’s coming. Still, we are often surprised and sometimes shocked at the realization. Despite the passing years and the accompanying changes we can’t ignore, there are many, many other things inside us unchanged since our salad days. And that, I believe, is behind the bewilderment of finding yourself old.

The bewilderment of finding yourself old is the inspiration behind “Through a Glass Darkly,” a new poem built around a bunkhouse cowboy’s wonderment at what has become of him.

And what comes next for all of us. Live well.

Through a Glass Darkly

Chipped and cracked, fogged
by seasons and dimmed by years,
the face in the glass confounds;
furrows deepen, wrinkles ridge.

He turns away, hand wavering
unassured, touches tousled
sougan and sits, head in hands,
eyes shut but unsettled.

Stands again to stare into the glass
at creases and canyons and crags
and coulees cut by wind
and sun and snow and smoke.

He reads the lines that tell
of blisters and burning hair
and the bloody blades
of a hundred branding fires.

Wan forehead marked by hard line
over tangled brow bristles shading
whiskers whitened on wizened
chin and cheeks burnt brown.

How the hell has it come to this?
he will wonder, till one day he looks
in the mirror and there’s no one there
to look back.