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?