“We’re here ladies,” our driver spoke with the hoarse voice any man would develop after many years of consuming cigarettes and driving in smoky urban roads.
“Thanks a lot, Mack,” glowed Kat as she threw her golden hair across her shoulder blade.
I crawled out of my seat, relieved to finally smell natural air again after being impacted by the appalling fragrance of the cab. I smoothed my skirt, attempting to thrust it into some satisfying position despite the fact it was practically wrinkled from the top down.
“Hey lady, aren’t you gonna at least give me a tip?” grunted the hunched driver inside the yellow vehicle waiting to receive his change.
“Yes, I’m sorry. I nearly forgot,” Katherine blushed.
Pacing to the grandstands where an anxious crowd awaited, Kat decided to make a stop at the snack booth. A large bag of butter oozing popcorn and an ice-cold coca cola was all that was on her mind.
I shook my head as Kat returned to me. I had been standing beneath the shade of the stands, for the past few minutes, the rays of the moon beaming upon my work-stricken face.
“Ruth Hollister, I can’t even begin to tell you how beautiful you look,” Katherine declared with her sweet smile.
“Oh hush.” I laughed while she spilled a handful of compliments upon my ears.
“Honestly, Ruth, I think you’re even prettier than Rita Hayworth or even that silly picture of Lana Turner in Mr. Brown’s office,” replied Kat.
“You’re too kind Katherine, but I’m no glamour girl,” I stated bluntly.
“Really, Ruth. It’s the plain truth, I swear by it!”
“Tell you what Kat, before we break out into another argument, why don’t I take you and that junk food of yours and find a place to sit?” I suggested.
Katherine nodded in earnest as she and I walked upon the stairs leading to the stands. We found seats within seconds, but it didn’t occur to me until we sat down that we were seated by the railing of the rodeo arena. Oh boy! Are we going to be in for some real entertainment? Front and center.
The very smell of the atmosphere ignited excitement as the smell of livestock manure wafted across the fair-grounds, attracting hundreds of fans in St. Louis. How angry Lucy will be with me when I tell her Katherine took me to the rodeo, I thought.
The other morning while I was fixing breakfast, Lucy sat at the dining table with a piece of paper on the countertop. Initially, I didn’t register what it was until I gave Lucy her regular stack of pancakes buried in butter and maple syrup.
“Lucy, honey, what’s that paper you’re looking at?” I asked. Lucy looked at me with water-filled eyes and a pouty face.
“Mommy…Bridgett said that she is going to the rodeo this weekend and said that they have pretty horses and free candy! Oh, Mommy, all my friends are going to be there, can we please go?”
Who is Bridgett? I didn’t know. I just assumed Bridgett was probably another one of those snooty kids that happened to be my daughter’s friend.
I couldn’t keep up with all the buddies that girl had. One day it would be Kitty and the next Carol. Unfortunately, I fell for my daughter’s dramatic act and bought not only two tickets, but six. Why? It just so happened she invited a plethora of friends to the cowboy event even before I gave her my consent. Naturally, I couldn’t disappoint those other kids, but neither could I disappoint Lucy seeing that she stayed in her room whenever she came home from her classes to avoid any accusations I might have thrown at her.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the first night of St. Louis’s very own rodeo!” blazoned the announcer as the waves of his deep voice beat against the mic waking me from my memories. As he continued to crow through the sound system, the crowd went ballistic! Katherine joined the crowd, as everyone threw their refreshments and popcorn into the air and cheered enthusiastically.
“First will be those daring men, those rugged horsemen of the west, and those knights in shiny armor: the bronc riders!” the announcer told the audience as they sat at the edge of their seats waiting for the magic to begin.
I examined the arena watching the entertainment preparing to be unleashed. At the floor’s other end, there was a series of box-like contraptions called chutes where the horses were contained. Throughout the event, a timer would be set at eight seconds. When it went off, the rider still had to be seated upon his horse who would be flying through the air. Four judges were scoring the ride based on the jockey’s timing and power of his mount.
While the announcer continued to speak, my eyes shot towards the action taking place at chute number three. A cowboy raced back and forth on the dusty ground with a saddle braced in his arms while a dark chestnut awaited his rider to mount him. The horse was big-eyed, his gigantic head swinging from side to side as the rugged, beaten saddle was thrown over his bony back. He was so skinny that every rib in his body bulged at his skin, and his brown eyes bounced to and fro as he anxiously examined his surroundings.
Then coming from the top of the chute, the young cowboy swung his leg across the top of the frightened brown horse. The cowboy set his jaw and gritted his teeth, which made his chin appear broader to the crowd. With a sharp nod, his fellow cowboys on the outside of the chute were signaled to open the gate. As they released his horse with him atop into the arena, an enthusiastic crowd cooed in great wonder.
The dark chestnut bucked and bucked, snorted, reared, leaped in the air, and did practically anything that could dismount the rider on his back. A dodge to the right, hind legs squirming in all directions, hooves pounding into the earth’s soil that shook the ground beneath me. I watched the scene in awe of the cowboy who had miraculously maintained his seat atop the wild creature. Then, there came a roar from the announcer as he barked, “Eight seconds, folks. Eight seconds, he made it through!”
I forgot what the eight seconds meant. All I could remember was for the past few moments; my entire attention was on the cowboy and the dark chestnut from chute number three.
“Watch out folks in the front row, she’s coming in hot!” shouted somebody in the ocean of people. I didn’t know what was going on but I all the sudden witnessed a brown flash fly inches in front of me and a large object swinging into the air. What happened? Before I knew it, I felt a great big punch in my stomach. Veering my head from side to side in response to the pain, I saw it. It was the cowboy riding the dark chestnut sitting in my lap with his spurs jabbing into my calf! Embarrassed and angry, I shoved him off as he gave me a sheepish grin. He seemed polite, but no matter what the man was like, he was going back to the chutes without a smile from me. With a laughing crowd and a moon-struck horseman, I buried my face in my hands trying to hide from my humiliation.
This 1940s rodeo postcard belongs to crowsnestpostcards-com
I own none of the rights to this photo.