Friday, September 7, 2012

Ain't Mutton But A Good Time

The addition of mutton bustin' as a competition at our local rodeo was mixed with opportunity for us as parents this year.  The opportunity to create some new childhood trauma memories for our boys.

When I told Hubs of the offering he didn't hesitate.  He wanted them to participate.  I filled out the requisite forms and held my breath awaiting confirmation that they were both accepted under the deadline and the participant number cutoff that was advertised.

They were in.  OMYGOD.  What now??

I'm the only half of our marriage who isn't a scaredy-cat when it comes to livestock (though Hubs insists his issues are limited to LARGE livestock).  Still, closest he came to cowboyism was the late summer of his youth spent bucking hay bales for local farmers.  Cowshit (or otherwise) likely never gushed upon the soles of his high tops.  Also given his work schedule, I knew it would be me who would hand-hold our minis through this process that I really knew nothing about.

Someone at work mentioned that there were RULES.  ??? I thought the only rule was hang on and don't let go.  Apparently there are a plethora of rules associated with the particular level of rodeo-association-ish entities that spilled over to all participants, workers, or volunteers stepping foot inside the arena.  Rules about clothes.

Thank God for the internet.

Not that it helped my situation, but it did clarify a few things.  Like I was gonna have to suck it up and drop some dough at the cowboy clothes store if I wanted my kids to not risk a disqualification.  Knowing it was probably going to be their only shot, I not only cringed at having to shell out the cash for clothes they wouldn't wear the rest of the year, but at the possibility that if they DID perform well, they could possibly lose out to a technicality.  I wasn't taking any chances.

I also failed to inform the kids of the actual prize, which included a belt buckle.  First of all, Esten refuses to wear denim.  Secondly, his motivation is CASH.  He dreamed up a dollar amount (there really was some money involved but I'm sure not the amount he was thinking of) and set his mind to winning it.  So much so that when he overheard someone talking about a belt buckle for the winner he asked me:

"Whattheheck is a bell buckle??  Like something you hold when you're ringing a bell?"

There was a maddening lack of information about the event for participants to reference.  I chalked it up to being the first year they were doing it, but continued to look and ask around.  One of my friends' kids was in the selection as well, so she and I traded info until we got the lowdown.

The kids were stoked.  I had talked about what to expect and we got into technique.  I did what any parent/coach would do leading their children into a sport they'd never seen:  I showed them YouTube videos.

Don't judge.  It's a most handy tool for instructional purposes.  I used it to diagnose and fix appliances recently.  Our brother-in-law used it, in interval trips, to walk his way through gutting a deer.

We practiced on stuffed animals.  I feared the outcome if we practiced on any live ones.  They may back out.  We couldn't have that.

We showed up on time for the number assignment.  #49 and #50, in a row...big brother first.  Their nervousness waned as they surveyed the sheep in the pen, until they spied one with horns.

Who has to ride the one with the horns?  They asked.  "Whoever's luckiest I guess", I replied.  They consulted with other mini-riders.  They were miniature versions of real-live cowboys.  I waited with fingers crossed that we could just get through this without one or both of them hating me and needing to spend time in either the ER or the school counselor's office.  I showed them different parts and places across the grounds.

"That fence, over there, when it was wooden, used to be Grandpa's favorite place to watch the rodeo.  He sat on the top rail, and sometimes he'd jump down to help a princess on her horse.  That was after he was too old to open the chutes over there..."

We quietly breathed in the cloudy combination of dust and animal crap as the tractor made its way around grooming the arena.  Esten looked especially reflective.

"I bet Grandpa's watching us right now and I bet he's super proud of us, Clayton."

"I KNOW that, Esten.  I got a new angel kiss last night.  That means he told me Good Luck."

They lined up between numbers 48 and 51 and waited patiently.  I asked them whether they would be good listeners for the men giving them instructions so that I could go into the stands and take their pictures.  They insisted they were fine. 

Really, Mom, I'm a professional. I even got this sweet bandanna to prove it.
You can go now.

In the first group of four, they climbed up by the stalls and looked nervously around and down at their fluffy white rides.  A coordinator approached Esten and asked where his mom was - when Esten pointed in my direction the guy wanted to know if they had someone there to help them, or if he needed to get someone.

I pointed at my protruding belly.  "It's not gonna be me, that's for sure."

Clayton got a misty look of unsureness across his face about that time, and then their helpers jumped into the chutes from the other side, scaring both the boys and the sheep.  Clayton's was trying to jump out.

I wonder if use of these helmets on a sheep is in violation of X-Games rules.

Our friend's son was first to go, and boy did he go.  His sheep ran half way to Mexico before he jumped off, I'm guessing out of boredom and the assumption that it may be getting past his bedtime.  An awesome ride.

Then Esten.  His sheep stayed so close to the fence line and he fell so fast I didn't even have time or the angle to get a picture.  Crap.  Then again in my head all I could think was please be able to walk all the way past your brother's field of vision before you have a meltdown or he will back out for sure.  But you know Esten, even when he's nervous his contagious smile sticks to his adorable face.

"I think I either changed my mind about this, or I need to go poop.  I'm not sure."

When Clayton came out and subsequently hit the ground he immediately began to cry.  I knew he wasn't hurt, but he was freaked out.  I ran down to scoop him up and dust him off.  Back in our seats by our family and friends of cheerleaders who came out to watch, both boys were over it.  They wanted to go home.  I insisted we stay and cheer on the rest of the competitors.  I had just settled them down a bit when, after an almost identical run to Esten's, the announcer commented "awwwww...I think that calls for a re ride, what do you think, judges?"  Esten LOST it.

"WWWHHHHHAAAAATT?  That kid's gonna get another ride.  That's not fair."

And it wasn't.  But unfortunately for Esten I'm not a Toddlers in Tiaras kind of mom.  I'm not the mom who runs down to the judges and raises hell and says "then give my kid another chance too".  No....I'm the mom who instead strokes her son's hair and says "sometimes things happen that aren't fair, and people don't treat everyone the same, and you just have to be okay with it anyway".

In the end, six kidlets who did not belong to me qualified for the Sunday competition.  As we buckled our dusty selves into the car, between the sniveling in the back seat I asked, "So what would make you feel better and quit your crying?  Ice cream?"  They answered in unison without a pause:

"Dollar store."

And so I dragged them, dirt and all, to seek out the treasures that would soothe them.  A bath and a book later, they drifted off to sleep.

In the morning, my phone was blowing up with calls and texts, something about my son and the newspaper.  I pulled up the online edition.  Holy crap.  There was Clayton, holding on for dear life on the front page.  He tiptoed sleepily out of his room.  I offered to stop for cocoa on the way to school if he got dressed and woke his brother up and said, "Because guess who got famous today?"

(Photo: Steve Hanks, Lewiston Morning Tribune)

Then I showed him the picture.  He beamed.  I checked the news station's website.  Esten was in their video prepared by the sports reporter.  One of each.  Even Steven.  I know my kids, and I know that it no longer mattered to them whether they won or lost.  They got MEDIA COVERAGE!  They were going to be talked about at school that day.  It was better than winning in both their minds.  Clayton examined the picture one last time.

"That wasn't my sheep.  Mine was psycho.  In fact, that's what I named him.  Psycho.  That sheep looks nice."

So all was well again in our little home, and we were better able to focus on cheering on those boys (and girls) who did qualify for another run.

Because really, after all...what WOULD we do with a bell buckle?