Like many sports fans this past week I’ve been glued to the tube watching the Cheyenne-rodeo of golf tournaments. After March madness we move onto the masters. And just as rodeo competitors know and revere various significant rodeos by their location names… Houston, Denver, Cheyenne, Salinas, all golfers, be it fan or competitor, recognize and revere the name “Augusta”. Augusta is the pro-golfers’ daddy.
I love Augusta. Yes, the golf tournament is probably my favorite to watch, but I’m talking about my own “Augusta” competition. When your first sport is rodeo, like mine is, when you hear the name “Augusta” you probably think of the little rodeo they have out there in the middle of Montana. The rustic town of Augusta, Montana has a distinguished looking, yet primitive, turned-around, ass-backwards rodeo arena, that suits the flavor of its location. I imagine if I walked up there now it’d be crumbled, but in my day, and if it still stands today, one would have to question, “What were they thinking when they built all this?”
About 300 x 120 feet of black, Montana soil is lined with weathered rail road ties, warped 2 x 4s, hog wire, and shit-house boards. If you piss more than a pint, your feet get stuck, otherwise it is dry and hard Montana clay.
The Augusta rodeo has been a back-n-forth amateur/pro level, 4th of July thing; held in what must be the beer can capital of the world. When I was there, one little, old beer hut provided the suds, and if the millions of cans that paved the street that rodeo week were any indication of its business, I’d have to say they were booming.
My doctor, Dr. West (the doctor who recommended my knee surgeon, Dr. Kerland) was from Augusta and a big supporter of his home town rodeo. Every year Dr. West would donate an all-around saddle.
The one time I went to Augusta, I flew into it with my friend Harley May who was my pilot back in the day. Harley was a retired bull-dogger, saddle bronc rider, World’s champion all around cowboy, and ex-president of the PRCA, but currently a part-time team roper. For some reason he loved me. Every once in a while if he saw a rodeo that he could participate in he’d enter, and when he found out we were going to Augusta he put us down in the team roping. I didn’t know Augusta even had team roping. It was one of the few rodeos over the 4th that did.
We had to land the plane in a pasture. From there, we walked down a hill, and low-and-behold, there was the rodeo. I noticed they had these slick-looking, little long horns that weighed about 350 pounds in the back pen. They looked slick and fresh and like they’d never seen a human before. Slack was starting and I was up roping calves and bull dogging. Suddenly, Harley comes around and says, “Hey-a, yure gun’a head fir me in the team rope’n.”
I looked at him. I thought he was joking, because I knew nobody but me could heel them fresh, little longhorns. Harley saw the humor in my eyes and explained his reasoning. He knew he couldn’t head them little bastards either, but he was confident I could jump out and stick one. If he could snag a leg we’d probably win the roping with a leg.
I jumped on my buddy, Rod’s (Lyman) hazing horse and backed in the long, narrow, header’s box. The score was nothing, so I nodded and stuck my steer right across the line. Harley was right there ready. He came in, and to our surprise roped two feet. We were about 7 flat to win the rodeo and all the beer we could drink. I love Augusta.
Though my primitive, meekly Augusta rodeo may not be to the world of rodeo what the Augusta golf tournament is to the world of golf, it is to me, “Augusta”. It’s definitely not the masters, and they didn’t give me a green jacket, and I didn’t get to pick the next year’s banquet dinner, but I got to do what I love and I won. It’s a town that hosts a rodeo, so it’s on my Christmas list. In my rear view mirror it’s “Augusta”.