A Short Story by David Satterlee
One day, a rodeo cowboy, a real dirt eater, came to Dayton, Iowa. Now, you expect to see cowboys in Texas, but most people wouldn’t think that you would see one in Iowa, especially in Dayton, which is first-rate, but kind of small. But, Dayton loves its horses and wranglers. Always has, still does, because that’s just the way Dayton is. These days, lots of cowboys come to Dayton, but our story is about one particular cowboy and, lacking any better information, we’ll call him Bill.
Local history has it that, back in the hot old days before air conditioning and slushies, families would gather down by the banks of Skillet Creek and have a picnic and a nap on the cool grass under the shade of the old oak trees. Back around 1937, three young friends, all local boys, learned to twirl cowboy ropes and would go down to the park and entertain anyone who was there. I’m guessing they picked up a few pennies and the occasional ham sandwich for their trouble.
The show started to get serious when it was moved to Porter’s pasture in 1942. The boys passed a hat and collected nineteen dollars and seventeen cents, which became the prize money for a “real rodeo.” Well, it just kept growing from there. The Dayton Labor Day Rodeo is a first-rate Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event and draws top wranglers, riders, and ropers from all over. They have “Kids” night, “Bring a Date” night, and even raise thousands of dollars for breast cancer research on “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” night. Don’t worry, I’m getting to Bill.
Now, Bill was rough and tough and man-enough and had already broken more records and more bones within ten seconds than most of us have marbles in a bag. Bill always told his fans that he’d never been hurt riding a bull… it was the landing and getting stomped that hurt. His prize buckle was shiny and his spurs were sharp. The bulls knew they wanted him off in a hurry. They really wanted to dump Bill and his sharp spurs and his shinny belt buckle into the dirt. Don’t worry, I’m getting to the crow.
Now, this crow was a first-rate Iowa crow and for years had been outsmarting scarecrows and every other contraption farmers would put out in their gardens and fields. He knew when to gobble up sprouts after a spring rain and he knew just when to get off road kill for a truck coming down the highway. But, this crow especially loved the fresh, juicy bugs from the backs of cattle. But, that wasn’t enough. He wanted some recognition for being so smart. Don’t worry, I’m getting to the shiny belt buckle.
The crow, being a first-rate Iowa crow, and Bill, being a first-rate cowboy with a shiny buckle, got to talking one day. The crow said, “I’ll bet you your shiny belt buckle that I can ride any bull longer than you.” To which Bill responded, “Can’t neither.” To which the crow replied, “Can too.” This went on longer than any of us care to imagine or than I care to tell, so let’s just say that the contest was set for the next day. Don’t worry, I’m getting on toward the end here.
The next day, Bill strapped himself to his assigned bull and rode it for a full 10 seconds and stayed on 3.4 seconds more just for spite, because that’s the way Bill is. Immediately after, the crow swooped down, made a quick pass at the bull, came back, landed, and rode it around the ring for a full 42.1 seconds while the bull got put back in a pen. True to his word, Bill took off his buckle and, in open admission that he had been wrong, laid it on a fencepost. The crow swept down, snatched it up, and carried it off to the closest pasture where he stood admiring himself in its shiny surface, because that’s just how the crow was.
What Bill didn’t know was that the crow had spent the morning down at the corral. First, the crow just sat on a nearby fencepost, cawing every once in a while. Then he spent a few minutes just flying around in lazy circles. He would just touch his feet to the backs of the bulls as he flew past. When nothing bad happened to them, the bulls stopped paying any attention and just didn’t care anymore, because that’s just the way bulls are. In not too long at all, most of the bulls were ignoring the crow when it landed on their backs. The first-rate bulls even figured out that it felt good when the crow ate all the fresh, juicy bugs off their itchy spots.
Seeing where the crow went, Bill fetched his .410 shotgun off the rack in the cab of his shiny Dodge pickup truck. He walked over to the distracted crow, got him with the first shot, retrieved his buckle, and roasted the crow for supper just for spite, because that’s just how Bill is.
And, the moral of the story is that cowboys that want to wear a shiny rodeo buckle have got to be willing to eat dirt… and eat crow.