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Buck’s Story

I was stabbed in the back by the one person I trusted the most.

My dad was always my hero. People said he was the real Marlboro man, in both looks and actions. He could ride any horse, rope any cow, repair any machine and make anyone laugh. No party was dull if Dad was there. I wanted to be just like him. I could rope, ride and repair but I could never remember the punch lines of his jokes.

My sisters, one older and one younger than me, both rode horses and were decent ranch hands, but I was Dad’s right-hand man. As a toddler, I was so desperate to convince Dad to take me along I even held my breath until I passed out. Mom says I wore my last diaper on the day Dad told me, “You can come with me once you quit shitting your pants.”

By the time I was ten, I could run out to the pasture with a piece of baling twine and tie it around my horse’s bottom jaw, grab his mane and swing myself up onto his broad back, herding all the horses back up to the corral. Once there, we’d catch those we planned to ride, vaccinate, trim hooves or do whatever else we needed. I knew that made Dad happy even if he never said much about how much I helped him out.

 

School was painful for me, except for physical education classes. My older sister, Paula, loved school as much as I hated it. She’d say, “Let me help you, Buck.” Even with her help, I failed second grade, which meant an extra year of humiliation by Miss Wallace, a classroom tyrant who called me stupid and hit me with a ruler on my shoulders and head. I repeated grade five as well but my athletic ability and High School Rodeo kept me in class until graduation.

Those extra two years in elementary school ended up giving me a big advantage when I made the finals in three High School Rodeo events. I rode bulls, and bucking horses both with a saddle (saddle bronc) and without (bareback). Saddle bronc was my specialty. I won Novice Saddle Bronc at the Youth National Finals Rodeo in Fort Worth, Texas; the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR); the Alberta High School and National High School rodeos; and took home the novice saddle bronc bronze from the Calgary Stampede when I was nineteen.

Dad wasn’t much for compliments, but he was sure proud of me for that. I gave him a photo of my championship ride in Fort Worth and signed it, “To Dad. Thanks for all the love and support.”  He hung it up in a prominent place in the bunkhouse and it’s been there ever since.

I went pro the next year and travelled the rodeo circuit throughout western Canada and the U.S., but I never had another year like my novice year. I placed in the top ten and qualified for the Canadian Finals Rodeo for the next seven years straight, but never won another championship title.

I always tried to be good to the horses and keep them calm in the bucking chutes so nobody got banged around too much. I liked to watch my horse in the pens before the show so I could figure out how sensitive they were to pressure. If they were sensitive and moved away quickly when another horse tossed their head their way, they may want me to give them quite a bit of freedom on the lead rope. Other broncs wanted a tighter lead. If I gripped too tight, they could pull me off balance. If I started off too loose, I had no way to tighten the pressure.

That was just one of the things I got good at figuring out.

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