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‘Cowboy Up’ by Shane Brown


My heart started racing when I strapped the rope around the chest of the brahma heifer’s chest.

I strapped it tight and pulled the part where a hand could hold it tighter straight to the middle of the top of its back. I gotta make sure that Maddux’s hand can’t slip or misdirect him.

Now my heart is beating faster as my son climbs over the rodeo arena’s chute and sits on the 400-pound calf. He’s decked out in a cowboy hat, a bull rider protection vest, chaps, and cowboy boots as he only weighs close to 70 pounds. He looks the image and even flashes a cowboy smile.

Maddux is nervous as hell but you can’t tell from outside of the fence lined with friends, family and other little cowboys and girls standing on a fence rooting on each ride. I can tell. I’m holding the gate while talking to him. I’m giving him advice but I’m not a bull rider. He doesn’t say much. He’s focused on the strap which holds his hand and he just shakes his hat up and down with a nod. I just tell him about how to fall if he does and to be tough.

He’s riding the biggest calf, the one he picked out. I would have picked a different one, but I tell only Billy Ray that. Billy Ray is standing over the chute and Maddux, saying that he will be fine. He slaps Maddux on the back and tells him to get ready. My eyes focus on Maddux’s face as I watch and listen to him count down till he yells “Let go!”

3, 2, 1…

I swing the gate open and the bottle calf, that we have raised since she was born, is bucking out of the chute. Her name is Moo-Moo and she is larger than most calves we have had. She bucks, twists and darts swiftly. Moo-Moo kicks up the dirt as the little girls cheer and squeal from the fence. Maddux swings his open hand in the air while tucked tight over his other hand.

He wants to be a cowboy, and in that moment he is a cowboy.

I watch him and her blow past me and the gate. I hold my breath and smile a crooked grin. Moo-Moo is running down the side of the arena, trying her best to throw him off. He holds on tight, but finally she wins… and he falls.

His cowboy hat rolls off his head as he does on the ground. He lies there for a moment before his Uncle Ray and I tell him to get up. He’s hurting, but he gets up.

He walks to the gate with us. I pat his shoulder amid the whistles and cheers. I’m proud of him. I know he is in a little bit of pain, but he looks up as I shut the gate and just like that, he jumps back on the chute to a friend or cousin going next. Cowboy up!

Maddux is tougher than me at the age of ten. He teaches me things at his age. Or am I just learning how to be somebody else by being his dad?

I always thought about different rides to take, but it wasn’t ever from the chance of being stepped on and hurt in eight seconds. I’ll take his ride to learn how to be brave and braver. I’ll teach him, hopefully, and I’ll know he’ll teach me.

I don’t know if I’ll have all the cowboy gear I need to help him figure this out. But, I’ll be here to talk to him in the chute and open up his gate.

Shane Brown

Shane Brown is a HottyToddy.com contributor and the son of noted author Larry Brown. Shane is an Oxford native with Yocona and Tula roots. Shane is a graduate of Mississippi State University. He has two children — Maddux, age 9, and Rilee, age 7 — and makes his home at “A Place Called Tula.” He can be reached at msushanebrown@yahoo.com.

Copyright Shane Brown, 2015.

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