Thursday, June 15, 2023

Some cowboy.

Not long ago, we lost a good friend of mine. Jim Fain is gone, but won’t soon be forgotten. Jim was a photographer of many talents, but specialized in rodeo action. I’ve got more than a few photos signed by Fain. Hundreds, thousands, of rodeo cowboys over the past sixty years can say the same thing.

The photo above is not typical of his work but, as he always did, Jim captured the essence of a story.

The year was 1973. It was Labor Day weekend, “Cowboy Days” in Evanston, Wyoming. Back then the arena had no lights so the rodeo was held Saturday and Sunday afternoon. The weather turned bad on Saturday—a deluge so heavy the rodeo committee pulled the plug and re-scheduled for Sunday morning. Then it rained some more. And snowed.

Mud, water, ice, and muck covered the arena come morning, but the show must go on. I was up in the first event, the bareback riding. In the cold, with icy fingers, and on the back of a frosty, dripping wet horse I did a sorry job of setting my bareback rigging. When the horse turned back into a spin, my rigging went over the side and so did I. Then the horse landed on me, stomping me deeper into the mire. I have other Fain photos that show it all.

Jim snapped the shutter on this picture as I waded back to the bucking chutes. I was soaked, muddy, and cold. My face and eyes were gritty. My hat was mashed. So was I. All in all, I was a mess. The few fans in the stands thought it funny. At the time, it didn’t seem funny to me.

A misadventure, recorded for all time through Jim Fain’s camera lens. The sad thing is, this photo is my favorite from the album documenting my rodeo career. Some cowboy, huh?


Thursday, June 1, 2023

My Favorite Book, Part 29

We citizens of the United States sometimes forget that we do not own the West. Most everything that counts as cowboy came to us from south of the border, courtesy of Spanish and Mexican vaqueros. And their influence, always adapted for regional use, did not stop at the Canadian border. Cowboys are big in Canada.

I was reminded of that fact with this novel, Breaking Smith’s Quarter Horse. The book was recommended by my friend Doris Daley from Alberta. She is as fine a poet, reciter, and writer as you’re likely to find anywhere.

Written by Paul St. Pierre, the details of cowboy life in Breaking Smith’s Quarter Horse will be recognized by anybody who loves and lives the West, but with a unique north-of-our-border flavor that captures the quirks and customs of a time and place where the West was wild, the winters cold, and a sense of humor a necessary tool in coping—the sense of humor (or ‘humour’ as they spell it in Canada) perhaps most important of all. As you smile through page after page, and occasionally laugh out loud, you’ll wonder if the Indian cowboy—a horse whisperer of sorts—will ever find time in his not-so-busy schedule to see to the breaking of Smith’s quarter horse.

I thank Doris Daley for the recommendation. You will too.