The Bull Rider
Part 33 in the Ranch Days series
By Maz McCoy
Bobby Cavender leaned on the corral fence and eyed the bull. When he’d asked his brother what its name was Jeff had smiled and replied, “Invincible.” Bobby didn’t believe it. This bull could be ridden. The creature was magnificent; all solid muscle and bad attitude. It was now or never. He stepped between the fence railings into the corral and the bull stopped to eye him.
“What the heck are you doing in there?” Bill asked.
“I’m gonna ride him.”
“Like to see you saddle him first,” Bill chuckled as he leaned on the fence and watched the boss’s brother eyeing the bull.
“Reckon you could have the boys get him in a pen for me?”
“Never more so, Bill.” Bobby didn’t take his eyes off the bull; learning his moves. The bull didn’t take his eyes off Bobby.
“Does Jeff know you’re doing this?”
“I don’t know, Bobby, it’s…”
“Dangerous? Stupid? Foolhardy? You think I haven’t heard that before?” Bobby returned to the fence, and then climbed through. He faced the man. “It’s what I do. So you gonna help me or not?”
“Jeff’ll kill me.”
“And the bull’ll probably kill me so we’d be even.”
“I’ve been told that a time or two.”
“What’s going on down there?” Jeff asked as he walked out of the bunkhouse onto the porch. He leaned against the post, taking the weight off his right side. The scar tissue was healing but not fast enough for the ranch foreman and he hated to admit it but it still hurt. He turned his hat around in his hand before settling it on his head.
“Bobby’s gonna ride the bull,” Henry stated as he sat down on the bench and lit a cigarette.
Jeff spun to face him, grimacing as he did so. “He’s WHAT?”
“Jeff don’t…” But the foreman was already heading down the steps. “Watch your stitches!”
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Jeff demanded as he strode towards the corral.
“Oh, howdy, big brother.” Bobby smiled good-naturedly as he walked along the fence. “Come to wish me good luck?”
“No, I have not!” Jeff glared at him as he tried to keep pace with the younger man. Bobby picked up his rope and began coiling it as he headed towards the pen where Invincible snorted and kicked. “Dammit, Bobby, slow down!”
Jeff’s brother turned and his smile disappeared when he saw Jeff grimace. “You okay?”
“No, I am not!” He gripped the corral fence and fought a wave of pain. Bobby waited until his brother looked up at him, his annoyance clear. “What the heck do you think you’re doing?”
“I’m gonna ride the bull.”
“No, you’re not.”
“You gonna try and stop me?” An eyebrow rose.
Bobby smiled. “How?”
“By firing anyone that helps you.”
Bobby’s smile disappeared. “That would be plain mean.”
“We’ve already had this conversation. It’s something I need to do.”
“Not on one of my bulls!”
“Fine, then I’ll grab my stuff and leave!” Bobby bent down and climbed through the fence. “I’ll find a bull I’m allowed to ride.” He headed to the bunkhouse.
“Bobby! Dammit come back here!”
Jeff’s brother turned. “Why?” No reply. They eyed each other waiting for one to back down. “Why, Jeff?” More staring.
“All right, you can ride the damn bull!”
Bobby smiled. “I knew you’d see it my way. I’ll show you what a real bull rider can do.”
“Easy boys,” Bill cautioned from his horse as he and Nathan guided the bull into the pen. Once there Jed closed the gate and Heyes moved a barrier which eased Invincible into the chute. Bobby sat atop the fence watching and waiting.
“Don’t forget to time me, Jed.”
“I won’t,” the boy assured him waving Bobby’s pocket watch.
Once the bull’s movements were restricted Bobby threw his rope over the animal’s back. Heyes caught hold and passed it under the bull’s belly and back to Bobby. The bull rider climbed onto the fence beside the bull and pulled the rope tight, Invincible snorted his disgust and shifted. Bobby adjusted his leather gloves. He lowered himself onto the bull’s back and it bucked, then stepped sideways slamming Bobby’s leg into the fence. He tightened his grip on the rope, wrapped it around his hand to secure it. Invincible shook his body trying to dislodge the man. Bobby took a few moments to settle himself then looked up at Nathan who had hold of the rope controlling the gate.
“Anytime you’re ready, Bobby.”
Bobby took a deep, calming breath, focussed on the bull, gripped tight and nodded. Nathan pulled the gate open and Invincible was away. He bucked, Bobby gripped tighter, Invincible sidestepped, Bobby adjusted his balance, the bull kicked and….
The man landed with a THUD on his back in the dirt. Nathan and Bill acting as hazers steered Invincible away.
Footsteps approach at speed then a blond head appeared in Bobby’s field of view and blue eyes stared down at him. “You all right, Bobby?” Jed asked.
A mop of dark hair appeared beside Jed. “He okay?”
“I think so.”
“You okay to get up, Bobby?” Heyes asked.
“Yeah.” Winded, Bobby made no move to do so. “How’d I do?”
An even more familiar face appeared. Jeff grinned. “You all right, little brother?”
“You know, if that’s the way real bull riders do it, I gotta tell you, it ain’t a whole lot different from what us regular folk do.” Jeff was clearly enjoying the moment.
Bobby eased himself into a sitting position with a lot of groaning. He rested his arms on his bent knees. “Why don’t you get him back in the pen for me,” he suggested.
“You gonna try again?” Jed stared at Bobby in disbelief as he handed him his hat.
“I don’t give up that easily.”
“Maybe you should,” Jeff suggested.
“No way.” Bobby placed his hat on his head. “We’re just gettin’ acquainted.”
Deep breaths. Hands gripped the rope. The men stood ready. The bull snorted and kicked at the ground. An adjustment to the hat. Eyes on the man at the gate. A nod.
“Okay, let him loose!”
The gate flew open and Invincible was free. Kick, snort, buck left, buck right, hang on tight!
The sound of feet running towards him. A blond head appeared. “You okay, Bobby?”
“Wanna know the time?”
“You wanna go again?”
Bobby pulled the rope tight, and then swung a leg over the back of the bull. Invincible rocked to one side then slammed his body into the fence.
“OW!” Bobby couldn’t move his left leg out of the way fast enough. He settled himself on the animal’s back, adjusting his seat. He pulled his hat low, shielding his eyes from the sun’s glare. His leg throbbed with pain but he put that from his mind as he focused on the task ahead.
“Ready when you are, Nathan!”
The gate swung open
Invincible shot towards the far fence. Swung his body right, then left then kicked all four feet off the ground and landed with a bone-shaking thud. The bull bucked, twisted, swung left then…THUD! A cloud of dust rose. The men on horseback ushered the bull away.
“Bobby?” Jeff called from beyond the corral fence.
“Not much” A groan. “Time?”
“Five seconds,” Jed yelled.
“You want to go again?”
Jeff stood beside Bobby in the corral as he stretched his arms above his head to ease his bruised back muscles. “You know you don’t have to do this. You’ve proved your point.”
Bobby looked at his brother. “No, Jeff, I haven’t.”
“You tryin’ to get yourself killed?”
“He’s thrown you three times already. What next, he stomps on your head?”
“I’ve been thrown a lot more than that.”
“I don’t doubt it! How else could you have got so stupid!”
Bobby adjusted his hat. “You might wanna step back ol’ man, I got a bull to ride.”
As Jeff ducked through the fence, Bobby climbed back onto the chute.
“He’s as stubborn as you are,” Heyes whispered to Jed.
“Funny, I was thinkin’ the same thing,” the blond boy muttered before they moved to their, now well-established, positions.
Bobby settled himself on Invincible’s back. Checked his grip. Adjusted his hat. Breathed deep.
“Anytime you’re ready, Nathan.”
The nod. The gate swung wide, Invincible broke free, Bobby clung on and clung on and clung on. His body whipped this way and that. A free arm waved in the air. The clock ticked.
“Dammit!” The bull rider turned onto all fours. Nathan rode over and leaned an arm on the saddle horn, peering down at Bobby.
Nathan turned his horse back to the chute.
“How many times is that?” Marty asked as he stopped beside Jeff.
“I’m losing count.” Jeff rested his chin on the fence and watched with concern as his brother brushed the dirt off his pants. He wiped a hand across his mouth smearing blood from a cut on his chin caused by a well-aimed hoof. Around them the hands had gathered to watch the spectacle.
“I gotta hand it to him, he don’t give up easily.”
“Well, he should.”
“He’s got his pride, Jeff, just like you.”
“He’s gonna get hurt.”
“I reckon he knows that.”
Bobby climbed back onto the fence. The rope was placed around the bull and the man climbed onto his back. He tightened the rope around his gloved hand. All eyes were on him. Bobby took a moment to steady himself. The men fell silent. The only sound came for the very ill-tempered bull. Invincible, at least, seemed to have had enough of the man on his back. Bobby gave a nod. Nathan pulled the gate open and Invincible charged out. He moved left, feigned right. Bobby dug his heels in and hung on. Invincible kicked high with his back legs, then dropped his head low almost unseating the man but still Bobby clung on. The bull crashed into the fence crushing Bobby’s left leg against it before spinning around and kicking once more. Left, right, right again.
“EIGHT SECONDS!” Jed yelled and the men began to cheer.
Bobby released his grip and flew through the air landing in a heap beside the fence. He was smiling but limping as he scrambled to his feet. He took off his hat and launched it skywards with a WHOOP! just as Invincible turned…
Nathan hurled a lasso over the bull’s horns as Bill attempted to place his own mount between Invincible and the bull rider, but the bull was too quick and with one flick of its head Invincible tossed Bobby into the fence. Bill got a rope over the horns and as Nathan and Bill pulled the beast away Bobby lay motionless in the dirt.
Jeff and Marty scrambled between the fence poles and were soon at Bobby’s side. He lay face down, covered in dirt and dust. The back of his shirt was torn revealing a bloody scrap of a horn. Jeff rested a hand gently on his brother’s shoulder. “Bobby?” Nothing. “Bobby?” His worst nightmare was coming true.
A groan. Bobby’s legs moved, then his right arm.
Jeff breathed a sigh of relief. Bobby gave another groan. “What happened?”
“The bull had enough, decided to toss you outta the corral,” Marty informed him.
Bobby groaned again and pulled himself onto all fours. He spat a mouthful of blood into the dirt then turning his head sideways looked up at his brother.
Jeff shook his head in relief. “I thought you were dead.”
Bobby smiled through a bloody grin. “Told you I could do it, Big Brother.”
Jeff smiled. “Yeah, you crazy idiot, you did.”
End of Part 33