Rope Tricks

by Diane Brady

Cactus Carl, the oldest cowboy at 84 years old, walks into the ring, his gait slow but determined, and with the help of Paul Spencer, the rodeo clown, mounts the first of two prized horses; carefully, with great focus, he stands tall and places one white boot on each bare back, for the horses are shoulder-to-shoulder, harnessed together. The old cowboy is especially dapper today in his white 10-gallon hat, matching red western shirt and pants, the white belt and large silver buckle tied around his narrow waist. Cactus Carl extends an arm, grabbing the rope from the clown, and then adjusts his stance before warming up with Around the World, the large hoop encircling him and this two prized rodeo horses; he lifts his arm upward with effort to tighten the hoop until only he is inside the rope circle. Adoring fans whistle and holler, clap and cheer, some shaking cow bells and shouting for another trick; Cactus Carl gives them Through the Door, first standing with both feet on one horse, then spinning the hoop vertically and finally stepping through until both feet are on the second horse. The crowd is loud, ecstatic, mesmerized by his skill, which prompts the old cowboy to perform his most difficult trick – Jump for Joy; a quick nod to the rodeo clown signals the count, while Cactus Carl, now standing with a foot on each bare back, begins to jump, the hoop passing around him and under him – one, two, three... eight, nine, ten... twenty. Finally, the oldest cowboy dismounts and walks slowly to the edge of the ring, his hand held high, waving the 10-gallon hat, face glistening with sweat, breath heavy, the crowd smiling and clapping; Cactus Carl removes a faded blue bandana from his shirt pocket and wipes his brow; “Great show tonight,” says Paul Spencer, the nursing home attendant, as he moves the two sturdy chairs back to the dinner table; “You are one smokin’ ol’ cowboy.”

6S

Diane Brady, author of Best Regards to Albert, lives in the land of cowboys - young and old - in Denver, Colorado.