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The Great Wild Mare Race

As he enjoyed – soon as the coughing stopped – his first smoke of the day, Mac thought that all in all he was lucky that he wasn’t broke up worse than he was or even dead. He had been in some serious wrecks over the years, most of them coming before he and his running buddy Windy Barton got old enough to have a little sense. Cowboying is not the world’s most genteel profession so they had both acquired the normal amount of broken bones, rope burns and mesquite thorn punctures in their everyday activities but looking back it was their recreation time that did a lot of the damage. Like the time that they got enough beer in them at a rodeo in Pecos to make entering the wild mare race seem like a good idea. The way it worked, they turned eight wild mares out of the bucking chutes at the same time and two man teams were to catch a mare, get a surcingle on her and have one team member ride her across the finish line at the other end of the arena. They planned it out that Mac would rope the mare and Windy would help him get her stopped so Mac could go up the rope and ear her down. As soon as Mac got a hold of her, Windy would drop the rope, put the surcingle on and ride her across the finish line with Mac hazing her in the right direction. It started out alright, the mares came busting out and Mac caught a little dun mare right behind her ears and had her almost stopped by the time Windy could get hold of the rope. They both set back on the rope and had her dead stopped when another mare came charging from the other side of the arena and hit their rope running full speed. The collision jerked both of them and their mare down into a pile with the mare mostly on top. Mac recovered first and jumped on the mares’ head just as she got to her feet and shouted for Windy to “Get your rigging on her” but since he had most of the mares left ear cinched between his jaw teeth it came out more like “Et yu iggin n hu.” It didn’t really matter; Windy had lost the surcingle in the wreck and just swung up on the mare and hollered, “Let her go, I’ll ride her with a mane hold.” Mac turned the mare loose and jumped at her with a shout to run her toward the finish line. It was looking good, their mare was making tracks toward the finish line while only one other rider was mounted and his mare was sulked up and not going anywhere; Windy was reared back on his mane hold looking like a real bare back bronc rider when a coil of the lariat rope the mare was still wearing pulled up tight on Macs’ right leg. The mare hit the end of the rope just as she downed her head to do some serious bucking and things happened fast for a while; Mac flew fifteen feet through the air to land flat of his back with one leg, he was sure, a whole lot longer than the other, the mare turned a half flip to land on her back with her tail stretched out straight in front of her and Windy flew through the air plumb graceful like before landing on his nose to roll head over heels three times and come to rest sitting up with his hand still full of mane hair. That little deal kind of put them off rodeo for a while but as Windy said, “It could have been worse, we could have had jobs and had to miss work while we healed up.”

Excerpt from A Gathering at Oak Creek