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Bull Riding: The Young and Brave

He would sleep in the pike position when he dreamed of the bulls. He had been young and brave and ignorant of pain when he climbed onto their turbulent backs. Years later, it would come to him that he had been stupid to challenge the mixed breed Angus and Brahma that had pounded him into the arena’s dark dirt. But by then “Widowmaker” and “Bad to the Bone” had long since been turned into boots and belts while he was still alive and sentenced to sleep with his hands in the air, like a diver frozen at the apex of his arc.

He did not know why he found it more comfortable to sleep with his hands raised to the ceiling. A doctor claimed his shoulders had been separated then separated again until they now slid in and out of their socket like worn eight balls at a Gooding pool tournament. For years he had slept on his left side, hoarding sleep until the pain woke him in the silent early morning where he would lie listening to his wife soft, soprano snores.

There were good nights when he would fall asleep with his arms crossed upon his chest and there were others when he held his hands rigidly at his sides. In time his sleeping began to frighten his wife who said he mimicked the dead. He could not know whether she was telling the truth for he had no recollection of talking or ever moving once he closed his eyes. One thing did change. It was after he began to lift his hands toward the heavens, that he started to dream.

He dreamed of bulls. crossbred Charolais, brindle Brahmas and red Herefords crowned with hooked horns. He heard their bellows and the banging metal gates and studied his rosined rope and worn gloves. He watched himself slide onto the broad, muscled spine and saw himself bucked free, his dislocated arms windmilling in the hot air, unable to break his fall. He remembered the silent prayer to god that the bull would buck free and not plant a massive hoof on his face, chest or privacy. And then he breathed the faintly remembered arena’s thick dust and smelled the good, strong manure of his youth.

It was about then that his wife would elbow him in his ribs. “You’re rodeoing again!” she woke him. Then, as she always did, she added,”You always loved those silver buckles and goddamned bulls more than you ever loved me.” When he attempted to deny it in those half seconds between the arena and their bed, she knew he was lying and turned her back to him.

Though he tried to make it right by calling her the good names, “Pussy Cat” and “Honey Pie” that once sold her on his emotions, she moved out of their king sized oak bed into her sewing room with the lace curtains and flowered bed cover. She gave him a chance to choose between her and the bulls, but he had no choice in the matter and that night after she left and he could hear her snoring down the hall, he raised his hands and fell soundly asleep.

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