The sponsor of our high school rodeo club arrived in the staff room one late spring morning looking extremely dejected. He slumped in a chair and when someone asked him what was wrong, he said, “The rodeo is this weekend and not one single girl has signed up to ride a wild cow.”
My brain was definitely not engaged when I piped up and said, “Don’t worry, put me down to ride a wild cow.” What on earth possessed me to say that, I will never know, but I did (do?) have a well-developed tendency to speak before thinking. The only thing I’d ridden at that point in my life was a very gentle old horse a few times on my cousins’ farm.
I didn’t think much more about that staff room exchange until I heard the noon hour announcements: “Come one, come all to the the high school rodeo this Saturday. Mrs. Wigmore is going to ride a wild cow!” All eyes in my English 9 class turned to me and the looks on the kids’ faces ranged from horror to amusement to outright disbelief and I’m sure the most horror-stricken face in that classroom was my own.
I thought about getting out of it but could think of no way that could happen without me losing face or disappointing that rodeo club sponsor. I knew without a doubt that he would make my life miserable if I backed out. So, that Saturday morning of the high school rodeo saw me posing outside our house wearing my cowboy gear, ready for my debut appearance of rodeo rider extraordinaire. I had on my precious cowboy boots, I had the appropriate hat and I was wearing one of Walter’s pearl-buttoned cowboy shirts. I looked the part and I was ready, sort of.
I don’t remember very much about my performance, just little snapshots in my mind. I remember seeing the area around the arena quite crowded with spectators, probably most of them being my own students. I remember being behind the chute and being helped onto my cow, I remember being instructed on how to hold on and what to expect. Then I heard the bell and the chute opened and off my cow and I went, off being the operative word!
I have no idea how long I lasted on the back of that cow but for sure it was only a very few seconds before I bit the dust. I do remember feeling her bucking and twisting under me and how uncomfortable it was, my bum bouncing on her bony back. My husband had given me a pad to wear inside my jeans but that did nothing to alleviate the pain of those bounces on my tailbone. I knew my cowboy hat went flying just before I did.
The outcome of that ridiculous debacle was that I chipped a bone in my pelvis and ended up spending the night in the hospital. As a side note, our hospital was full and the only bed for me was on the maternity ward. You can imagine the rumours that tore around the school when that fact was revealed.
I was okay and only spent the one night in the hospital and for the next couple of weeks I had to use crutches. I think the very best part of that experience was listening to Walter on the phone with my mother: “Oh no, Helen, rodeos aren’t dangerous. Judy was the only one who was hurt.”