'Steering' One's Way Through Small-Town Life


You can take the boy out of the city, but you can't take the city out of the boy. Just when I thought I had this small-town lifestyle all figured out, along comes a healthy dose of reminders that I still have some way to go.

It all started one recent Roundup deadline day when the editor asked me to write a cutline for a team-roping photo in which two cowboys apparently had this cow right where they wanted him.

One had a rope around the cow's neck and the other was twirling his rope mightily and moving in to do something or other with it.

My daddy always told me I could overcome a world of ignorance by doing my homework, so that's what I set out to do.

My first task: discover what these two cowboys were doing to the cow. Here's what I found out. In team roping, one cowboy is considered the header and one the heeler. You can tell which is which because the header wears a black hat and the heeler a white hat.

Then there is the cow. Only in team roping, it's not a cow it's a steer (which, according to my dictionary, is a male bovine castrated before sexual maturity).

Anyway, the header ropes the cow by the head (Get it?), while the heeler ropes its back legs. When the cow, thus incapacitated, "goes down," the header and heeler "look at each other" and their time is recorded.

My next task was to identify everybody in the photo. Fortunately, Julie Haught, who is our advertising manager, offered to have some rodeo friends identify the cowboys.

But when I asked her to also get the name of the cow, her response was something like this:

"It's a steer, not a cow, and they don't have names. If we gave cows names, everybody would know we were dudes."

When I replied, "But we are dudes," she answered, "No, just some of us are."

With the names of the cowboys in hand, I looked up Roundup reporter Charlene Hunt's article on the team roping event so I could learn enough cowboy lingo to put all my newfound knowledge together in a cowboy-savvy cutline.

The most significant stuff I learned in the article is that the prizes include headstalls and Wonpads, both foreign to me, (although I subsequently discovered the latter are very expensive horse blankets); that on Sunday the format would change to a four and under roping drawpot; and that the winners would "dally up as they vie for a new horse trailer."

When one dallys up, one wraps one's rope around one's saddle horn, Hunt informed me. How one dallys up for a horse trailer, however, is beyond one's comprehension.

Here, then, is my cutline:

"Roberto Romo and Donnie Wayne Randall rope a nameless steer. Moments later they looked at each other and their time was recorded. Romo and Randall later wrapped their ropes around their saddle horns for some reason related to a horse trailer."

Last time I looked, Haught and Hunt were still doubled up in laughter. Maybe, I thought, I should pursue my small-town life education outside the narrow world of rodeo.

I turned to another Roundup article that I thought would provide insights into modern small town life. By Pine-Strawberry correspondent Myndi Brogdon, it told the story of a 35-year-old who lost control of his motorcycle on Highway 87 near Buckhead Mesa. When they found the man, who had flown "into the air for about 30 feet" into a pile of rocks possibly breaking his left clavicle and for sure suffering serious abrasions on his legs, he was sitting on his "bright red helmet," smoking a cigarette.

Now I don't know about you, but if I had just gone through what this guy had, I would either be laying on the ground in stunned disbelief or up on my knees issuing prayers of gratitude. At the very least I'd be thanking my lucky stars.

Instead, this guy is sitting on his "bright red helmet," smoking a cigarette?

I have reached the conclusion I may never understand the inner workings of the small-town mind. I will, however, persevere by continuing to do my research and ask the pertinent questions.

1. If the header gets to wear a black hat, the heeler a white hat and the motorcyclist a bright red helmet, why doesn't the steer get to wear a headpiece? Aha, maybe that's where the headstall thingy comes in.

2. Could the accident have been prevented had the cyclist been dallied to his bike?

3. Is there a difference between "dallying" and "dillying"?

4. Did the motorcycle have a name?

5. Was the motorcyclist smoking Marlboros?

6. Who said small-town life is simple?

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