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The Rodeo Man

Cliff wasn't just a cowboy, no, he was more than that.
He wore sharp creased wranglers and a 10X Stetson hat.
From pearl snap western shirts to polished Justin boots,
that hit the ground running towards a rodeo roping chute.

He stood tall at six foot four, with a big rodeo dream,
The PRCA, NFR, his name recognized on the rodeo scene.
He fine honed his skill to throw rank Mexican steers,
then headed down the highway into the arena's cheers.

From California to Montana, Boise, Denver and Eugene,
if they offered big prize money, there he would be seen.
Red Lodge to Houston, Albuquerque, Omaha, Abilene.
Bouncing across the west, the ball in a pinball machine.

At Salinas he drew lucky 8 from Cotton Rosser's stock,
an easy steer to bulldog fast, he'd make that arena rock.
A silver buckle, a paycheck, then down the road he'd go,
to another grand entry, another steer, another rodeo show.

He won the California title, assured an NFR spot.
One of the world's top steer wrestlers, now he had his shot:
"If he drew a good steer, if his horse wasn't late,
if his hazer wasn't too early, if the barrier didn't break,
if he didn't miss the nose, if that steer ran straight,
if he didn't do a hoolihan, or make a dismount mistake."

No, Cliff wasn't just a cowboy, he lived for the rodeo life.
He was married more to dust and flags than to any wife.
He'd catch and hold my eye, till I knew that what I saw,
an open heart that pleaded to understand his rodeo flaw.

Sadly now I must let you go somewhere far from where we are.
Perhaps to ride high in heaven's gold arena on a silver star.
I know you must have entered fast through the pearly gates,
Running hard on Ole Stubby, making sure you'd not be late.

2011, Paulette Armstrong Nye
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.


Paulette told us:

This poem is a tribute to Cliff Armstrong who passed away a few years back. We were so young, so in love and his dream was the NFR. He made it to three NFRs. This was his story, and I am glad to think that others who live this life, or like me, reminisce about the old life, will enjoy reading it.

Bulls 14/1

Was just sitting, chilling, after a long hard day,
turned on the TV and caught the instant replay.
A somersaulting cowboy flying through the air,
he was slammed down hard; you could almost hear him swear.
But wait, just a minute now, what's that on his head?
That's not a Stetson, or Resistol, no, instead
a stickered up helmet like motocross would wear.
Looked less like rodeo, more like NASCAR I declare.

The arena stands were packed, seats all full.
This crowd was primed to watch man against bull.
Fifteen top riders pumped to win tonight.
Fifteen top bulls ready to make the fight.

The announcer's voice incited fans to feel stoked,
eyes glued to a chute where a deadly bull's horn poked.
When that bull exploded, they flew up from their seat,
screaming and cheering for the hulk of beast to beat.
Out came Poison, two tons of spinning, whirling prose,
poor cowboy held a bloody face and broken nose.
The fans were stunned, the bulls easily were winning.
The best of the bull riders were quickly thinning.

Next to ride was Alves, a cowboy from Brazil.
Chaps, helmet, wranglers, coal black hair and eyes of steel,
lowered down on Honey, dead set to stick the ride.
Screaming fans were wild, let him stop the losing tide.
Alves rode with a flawless style. Calm, tight and slick.
Old Honey was clever; spun hard, used every trick.
The battle hard fought, eight seconds never longer.
The fire to win in Alves was a flame stronger.

Fifteen top bull riders had made the fight.
Only one had proven himself that night.
Fourteen failed riders beaten by a bull.
One cowboy soaking up applause till full.

The arena slowly empties, chutes taken down,
cowboys file out snagging rides to another town.
Once again they'll cowboy up, driven by their thirst,
to make the ride, score real high, all the way to first.
Well worn traditions from the old rodeo way,
buffed up with fancy stuff a modern west display.
Yet it still boils down to pitting man against beast,
drawing crowds who thrive on this western stylized feast.

2012, Paulette Armstrong Nye
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's permission.


Paulette told us:

Watching the evolution from bull riding strictly at the rodeo level, to the flash and dash of the PBR has been an awkward acceptance. I find I prefer the old rodeo version, but I must concede the bulls are of an overall better bucking quality, and allow for a more even draw. That being said, the thrill, the daring and the bravado are still evident each time a bull rider lowers himself on these magnificent bulls. We should be grateful for the continuation of a truly "Old West" sport that is being kept alive as modernization encroaches on the lifestyles and mystique of our western heritage.



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