This story is a load of bull |

This story is a load of bull

Terri Schlichenmeyer

The year’s almost over and there you are, trying hard to use up the rest of your vacation before you lose it. The cafeteria plan has some cash left, too, so you’re making appointments with the dentist and the daycare so you don’t waste any of that, either.

As much as you complain about work, you’re glad you have a steady paycheck and a job with bennies.

Now imagine working all over the country, sometimes for free. Imagine working at a job where the risks are paralysis, bruises, torn ligaments, cuts, broken bones, or even death. Oh, and you have to pay for the privilege of being able to do this job. In “Blacktop Cowboys” by Ty Phillips, you’ll read about some men who live their lives doing jobs just like that.

When you watch a rodeo in person or on ESPN, you know how exciting it can be. It’s human (at 200 pounds, give or take) versus bull (at 2,000 pounds, give or take). Or it’s a race between horses around barrels. In the 2004 rodeo season, author Ty Phillips followed several steer wrestlers. Those are the guys who jump off their horses and pull horned steers to the ground, sometimes literally single-handedly.

From California to Memphis, New Mexico to Montana, Phillips traveled in a trailer with Luke Branquinho, his buddy Travis Cadwell, and other cowboys as they followed the rodeo circuit from cowtown to Uptown. Luke, as rodeo fans now know, eventually did well in the 2004 season. Travis won big in the past and he was looking to make it to the top again, but it was a rough year for him and he repeatedly threatened to retire – yet again.

All during the winter rodeo season and into the summer, Luke and Travis and the other cowboys they competed against met up at rodeos of all sizes. The pay likewise varied. Sometimes, a cowboy might take home a few hundred dollars for his effort.

The best one made nearly $200,000.

Not bad for a few hours’ worth of work, huh?

If Roy Rogers chastely holding Dale Evans’ hand comes to mind when you think about cowboys, think again. “Blacktop Cowboys” is like a frat party on horseback, complete with practical jokes, pilfered beer, and pretty girls in boots.

That’s the frivolous part.

On the serious side, author Ty Phillips writes about the broken hearts, busted dreams, and broken bones that come with leaning to the side of a saddle, leaping off on to the back of a steer, grabbing its horns and throwing it to the ground in 3.9 seconds in the hopes that nobody can do it faster. In those parts of his book, Phillips’ narrative will make you nervous, wondering who will win: the cattle or the cowboys.

If you’re a rodeo fan, a buckle bunny, or just someone who once dreamed about spending the day on the back of a horse, then pick up “Blacktop Cowboys.” It’s a book you’re going to love, and that’s no bull.

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