Before I begin, let me first say I do understand that in this day and age diversity rules, and that everything is taken personally by everyone.
Uniformity is out of style and it seems that even to those wearing uniforms we must allow some vestige of the all-important "LOOK AT ME" or their lives will be lived in vain. To use a term from great grandma's day, we all feel free to let our hair down in public and wear — if not our hearts — at least our opinions on our sleeves. In point of fact most of us wear them printed across our chests on our tee shirts and it is a wonder to me that more people are not knocked senseless on the spot for what some of those shirts say.
I am old enough to remember when people were shocked by the "Black Power" fists raised on the football fields during the pre-game times.
And then, of course, that ran its course. These things do wear out. When no one is shocked anymore, everyone sort of forgets about it and the game, ultimately, runs its course.
Let's face it, most of the fun of sticking out your tongue at adults when you are 5 or so is the look of horror on the faces of the, well, let's call them the "stickees," and all the attention that you get when it happens. In my day that attention was well earned because your comeuppance was immediate, public, and painful.
But even that doesn't hold true today.
We are aware of the tenderness of little psyches and we try not to allow them to be bruised. As I recall it wasn't my psyche that was bruised when I tried that but we will let that fade into the past as well.
But, looking at what it is that I do I realized that I do not write about 'teams' as much as I write about individuals. I write about horses, not herds, I write about remarkable people who have lived and earned respect over a period of many years, not months or even the relatively short shelf life of a recent college graduate turned big time athlete.
The thing about horses, well, about any large animal, is that if you get a big head about your abilities you will get your attitude adjusted in short order.
It is hard to be self-aware when the key to ultimate athleticism is training to the level where muscle memory is automatic so that your mind can concentrate on the inevitable minutiae of your immediate success or failure.
LOOK AT ME doesn't work on course with fences as high as your horse. LOOK AT ME doesn't work when you are riding a counter canter or doing a pirouette. About the only time that LOOK AT ME works in the horse world is in the lead line classes when your mom has tied crisp bows as big as your hard hat to your teeny-tiny little girl braids — but then you are so darn cute on that pony anyway that you would win the world if indeed there was a world class lead line event.
In the rough stock events at the rodeos there is no room for LOOK AT ME either. Even though you have medics and bull fighters, clowns and gatemen right there, you are never more alone than when you nod your head for that gate to open. Bucking horses don't always wait for the gate to open. They can flip over backward right there in that little space and their rider is caught between a horse and a very hard place indeed.
And not a very agreeable horse either.
Why, particularly in bull riding, the "opposing team" that you are sitting on could well weigh as much itself as one entire team fielded at an NFL game. That bull not only has no rules, he wouldn't care about them if someone read them to him. He simply does what he is going to do and you are all alone for eight lifelong seconds there with him — if you are very lucky and very skilled.
If some little thing goes wrong in all of the manifold multiples of things that can go wrong then you will be on the ground and that bull may well come hunting for you to finish what he considers his job.
No, there is no place for LOOK AT ME in rodeo.
I have never seen a rider of anything who demeans this country that lets them ride. They understand that they are blessed with the freedom of this choice…to ride and risk not only success or failure but quite actually life or death.
It seems that when the stakes are higher gratitude comes more easily to people.
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