Friday night lights at the Rodeo
As we draw our chutes the stomach butterflies really buzz.
This is it, we are about to step out into the rodeo arena and try to milk a wild cow. Leave your stool at home and forget about the pail, this is no docile Tillamook dairy cow, but a wild-range heifer that has little milk and wants nothing to do with people.
On a typical night at the Columbia County Fair and Rodeo six teams of three people will compete in the event. Our team heads to the chute we have drawn to get our first look at our adversary.
Tonight she is a gentle-looking red heifer.
We carefully place our rope halter around her head and nose, and then I slip into the chute next to her. My teammates take their place in the arena.
One last look at the audience - it's packed tonight. Each and every one of them are here for a good time, and they are about to get one.
At the buzzer the chute gate is thrown wide and the cow and I enter the arena in utter chaos. Ours bucks and snorts as if her dad was one of the Brahmas in the later bull-riding events. So much for the gentle look, this cow is crazy.
She throws her head and the halter slips from her nose and is now only wrapped around her neck. I can no longer turn her head; the little control I thought I had is gone. I'm now completely at her mercy. I try to hang on until we reach the line where my team can help. I see the mugger move in. Then another team's cow completely blind sides me, knocking me over. The rope slips from my hands. Thankfully my team keeps a hold as I run to rejoin the melee.
At this point most teams have lost their cows. People and loose cows are running everywhere. My whole team is on the rope for about three more jumps and then I'm knocked to the ground and being dragged behind the cow. Our mugger, Lucus Berns, tries to get ahold of her head, only to join me under the cow.
She applies so much force that my belt buckle is ripped from my belt, breaking the ears from the back.
The milker, Brian Daniels, grabs the tail of the rope as the cow goes down, rolling over all of us. Stepping on us as she struggles to regain her feet, she plants one in the middle of Lucus' back and takes off again.
For some reason we refuse to quit and she drags all of us to the end of the arena where again she rolls over us and smashes us into the steel panels that line the arena.
The crowd is getting a show, three guys being pummeled by a lone cow.
By this time we are the only team left with a hold on their cow. In the midst of all the cows and people running by we finally stop her and get a squirt of milk in our plastic bottle.
Brian takes off to the judge's circle to stop the clock and claim first place for the night.
The arena looks like a yard sale: hats, gloves and even shoes litter the arena.
As we find our hats and head back we begin to feel the bruises and scrapes.
The next morning will be fueled by ibuprofen, just so we can do it all over again Saturday night.