Push Button Control
hen my kids, Kim and Justin were little we got involved in a number of activities that celebrated Texas agriculture and cowboy history. Friends, we were indeed in the cowboy mode. I became a member of the Pasadena Rodeo Association’s Barbeque Committee, while the kids were active in youth rodeo and 4-H. These activities filled our spare time, opening many doors to entertaining opportunities. We improved our horsemanship by attending clinics and workshops. Several workshops were offered when Pasadena was holding their rodeo.
It was a cool day in 1988 when we pulled up to the fair grounds in Pasadena. Kim, eight, and Justin, six, were decked out in their finest western duds. The kids sure got a lot of compliments for their manners and dress. Kim was mighty flashy with a red hat, red jeans, starched white shirt, and red boots; while Justin’s dress was manlier, at least as manly as a six year old can get. He had his jeans, boots, spurs, chaps, hat, and his ever present superman t-shirt complete with the cape. Oh well, he never was sure whether he wanted to be a cowboy or superman. So, I guess he walked the line and was a little of each.
Our plans were to work the gate at the barbeque, attend some rodeo workshops, and finally to attend the rodeo. We had a great time working that gate greeting all of the folks as they arrived for the festivities. Just about the time our feet were crying for relief it was time to go indoors for the workshops.
Several of the top rodeo performers spoke about their events. Our favorite was a world champion barrel racer, Martha. She was wonderful working with the kids. She told us how much work it took to get good at this high-speed event. One thing she kept emphasizing was that you had to work with your horse until he could run around the pattern of barrels with very little human interference. Her description of this level of skill was to say that the horse was, “push button controlled.” You just had to push the right button and the horse did the work.
After the programs were over all of the attendees had a good old Texas barbeque dinner. We shared stories, and jokes with the contestants and other families. Though it had been a long day, it was time to top it off with a rodeo. Darkness was coming on swiftly and the wind had picked up snapping the flags to attention, as we strolled to the arena. The arena lights came on as the people were pouring into the stands. Once we were all situated it was time for that moment, when my eyes would water and I would tingle with pride as we all sang the national anthem. Our prayers then thanked the Lord for all of our blessings and prayed for the safety of the contestants. Finally, it was time to, ”Play Ball!” or rather “Ride’em Cowboys!”
Little ole’ Justin conked out for awhile as Kim and I hooted and hollered for our favorite riders. With all of that yelling our throats got dry, so we woke up Justin and wondered down to the concession stands. While getting our drinks, Martha walked by and saw us. She said the barrel racing would start soon and invited us down behind the shoots to show us around. Man oh man, that was great being able to show the kids all of those top lady riders and their horses.
Martha took us over to where her horse was tied. She introduced us to this fine strong animal, a tall bay horse of sixteen hands named, Lightning. This kind rodeo champ began to talk to Kim about her desires to be a barrel racer. As she spoke, she noticed sleepy eyed Justin and picked him up, placing him on top of her world champion horse. This seemed to wake him up and gave him a bird’s eye view of the goings on. Both Kim and I listened with fascination as Martha told us more about this sport.
We all watched as riders charged out into the arena upon their speedy quarter horses. Listening to the times that were announced, we apparently had ignored Justin just a little too much. Somehow this little boy of mine had untied Lightning. I looked around just in time to see him turn the horse somewhat. Just as I reached over to take hold of the reins, boom they were gone. Yes indeed that little urchin had somehow pushed the right button and that horse dove out into the arena like he was on fire. Justin pulled on the reins and clung to the saddle horn but there was no stopping this raging speed demon.
As they entered the arena, the announcer was saying, “Here comes a speedy gal from Stephenville.” That town’s name got stretched all out of shape as the announcer saw that this was no registered contestant. He said, “Who the heck is that!!!” Justin hung on for dear life as Lightning made the circle around the first barrel. He had his mouth wide open in a prolonged scream as tears and snot began to stream. They were traveling so fast that his tears blew back into his ears. Racing on, Justin's cape snapped in the wind and the front of his hat's brim was blown up against the crown in Gabe Hayes fashion. By the time they were sliding around the second barrel Justin had begun to compose himself. He was no longer screaming in terror, now he screamed in delight and was kicking that horse telling him to go faster.
The announcer got into the act and began to cheer for the little Superman as he headed for the third and final barrel. Coming into the homestretch, Justin and Lightning were cheered on by all of the rodeo fans and contestants with deafening shouting of, "Go Superboy!" Lightning ran past the timers and into the staging area where he hit the brakes and began to slide on his rear hooves. They were getting pretty close to the corral fence were we stood, so Lightning hit the, "emergency brakes." That means, he jammed his front hooves into the dirt for extra braking power. When a horse stops with his front feet he usually bounces roughly. The rough stop dislodged Justin and he went flying over Lightning’s head.
My son was launched into the air as if he were really flying. He stretched out like Superman with a huge grin on his face, while his cape flapped, with his hat brim blown back, and his spur rowels were even spinning in the wind. I ran then jumped to catch him as he flew overhead, but all I grabbed were his boots. Sailing over the corral fence he landed flat on the back of a huge Brahma bull. That poor bull had just been munching on some hay, minding his own business when Superboy landed on him. Scared half to death that bull leaped into the air, launching Justin back in our direction. Again, he stretched out as if he knew how to fly with his cape flapping and his hat brim blown back. I jumped trying to catch him, but again I was a little too late, all I caught were his socks.
Headed to the far side of the pen, it looked like he might hit a light pole. It sure seemed he could fly, but I knew he could not bust through that light pole. Thankfully, he finally lost his momentum and began to head toward the ground. Luckily he was headed for a soft landing in a huge pile of dirt, hay, and partly digested feed(also known as manure). Zoom, down he came and smoothly disappeared into that big pile with only his bare feet showing. I ran over and pulled him out of the muck by his wiggly little feet. Justin was safe and sound, he was just a little chocked up by the vegetative matter that had cushioned his landing.
Justin, my little Superboy was coughing and spitting out that nasty green stuff. Finally able to talk, he looked at me with his big ole eyes and said, "Daddy I really flew, just like Superman!" Grabbing him up, I put him on my shoulders so he could see the thousands of rodeo fans who were still cheering, "Yeah Superboy!" Setting him down we were dusting the filth from our clothes, when we heard the announcer. He was saying that Justin and Lightning had set a new “World’s Record”. Unfortunately, as an amateur and unregistered rider, Justin’s fastest ride would never be put into the books.
Everyone was glad Justin made the ride safely, though Martha was quit shaken. Kim was scared and angry, yet relieved when she stomped the ground with her little red boot and said she was not so sure about horses with, “Push Button Control!”