“Sharon, I can’t just walk away. You know that.”
“If it was any other bull Lyle, I wouldn’t feel this way.”
The rodeo announcer’s voice boomed from the speakers. “The final ride of the evening will be coming out of chute number three. This is a match between two great rodeo professionals: Lyle Sistro, a cowboy that’s won it all and Old School, one of the best rodeo bulls of all time.
“The first time they met, Sistro rode him. Two years ago Old School put Sistro in the hospital for six months, to have his face rebuilt. Who’s going to win the rematch?”
When the shouting abated, the announcer continued. “This is the last buckout of Lyle Sistro’s professional career. He’s going to retire folks, so give him a big hand after the ride.”
Sharon put her hand on Lyle’s arm tugging firmly to pull him away. “Lyle, if you had drawn First Love or Ants In Your Pants, even Confusion, I would be okay with it. But not this bull. He’s killed two men. Let’s go home, sweetheart. You don’t have anything to prove.”
Lyle squeezed her hand, turned and climbed up on Chute 3. Straddling the enclosure he looked down on the huge, midnight-black bull, seeing its thick, tips sawed-off, manure smeared horns. Old School stood quietly, twitching an ear, waiting. He was 2,000 pounds of the smartest bucking bull in existence. Only a handful had stayed on him for 8 seconds. No one had ridden him twice.
Concentrating, Lyle thought about the last buckout, playing it in his mind for the umpteenth time. Old School wheeled left out of the chute, climbing the sky. Descending, spearing the ground with stiff front legs, the ground jarring concussion painfully compressed Lyle’s spine, loosening his leg clamp. The dead stop snatched his hand from high overhead, almost into his chaps. But he’d stayed qualified, not touching the bull, himself or his equipment with his free hand.
Old School’s rear hooves hit the ground and the bull’s massive head whipped back into Lyle’s face. End of memory. This time he would be ready.
Easing down upon the critter, Lyle’s cow-belled rope was passed underneath the animal and back up to him. He put his rosin-gloved hand through the slit in the flat braid, curled his fingers, and smacked them down tight in a death-grip hold. Changing his mind, he pried his fingers up and inserted only his pinky in the slit. If he became unhitched, there was less chance of being hung-up and tossed around like a tethered rag doll.
With his free hand he adjusted his protective vest, pulled his Stetson down tight and inserted a rubber mouth piece. Inwardly, he trembled. Rodeo had been good to him. But no one can turn the time-clock back. Maybe I’m a durn fool for doing this – Sharon doesn’t need an invalid husband. I can still climb off and tell ‘em “No go.”
“Okay folks, I think that cowboy is about ready. Keep your eyes on Chute Number 3.”
Lyle threw a prayer up to God for protection and then jerked his chin down in a quick nod. The gate-handler threw it open.
“Ride ‘em cowboy!” the announcer hollered. The crowd roared. Old School erupted from the gate bawling angrily, determined to rid himself of the weight on his back.
Straight up in the air he climbed. For a moment it appeared Old School would fall backwards and crush his rider. With a corkscrew twist he reversed poles and turned head down, toward a rider shucking ground jarring collision. The two athletes were equally matched. But 8 seconds can be eternity.
At the peak of the arc Lyle opened his glove-hand and stepped off, letting the bull’s twisting hips throw him to one side. He landed on his feet, mushrooming up a cloud of dust. Removing his hat he knelt on one knee, pointing his Stetson at the bucking bull.
“Folks, that was a class act. Two great professionals saying goodbye in their own way. Show how much you appreciate ‘em.” Thunderous applause and yells erupted from the fans.
As Lyle picked up his bell-rope Sharon came running and threw her arms around him. Tears stained her cheeks.
“Cowboy, you could’a told me you were going to step off and kept me from worrying myself sick.”
“You? I wish I had told myself.”
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