Summary: Joe had survived death before. Would he do it again? He had no choice! No bull would throw him and live to tell about it.
Word Count: 8722
When Joe opened his eyes, all he seemed to see was bulls! Everywhere there were bulls; bulls running at him, horns down ready to pierce his body. He tried to roll away but he seemed to be held down. He couldn’t move! Then the pain hit! Oh, boy what have I done now?
It was Tuesday; the day was gray outside and spring was definitely slow in coming. It seemed to Joe that he had been inside forever, snow storm after snow storm keeping them all from being able to go outside and do anything. They had a line stretched from the kitchen door to the barn…this was the only safe passage to the barn and back. The livestock was on their own for now because the snow in the valleys was just too deep to access them. Hopefully, there would be a break soon.
Joe got up and got dressed, didn’t even put socks on because he figured there was no need. He opened his door and went downstairs to join his brother Hoss and his father at the breakfast table. The food smelled good, especially the fresh brewed coffee.
“Morning, all,” Joe said, as he approached the table.
Ben looked up and smiled at his son. “Morning, Joe! Did you sleep well?”
“Great,” said Little Joe, “just a little bit housebound and need to be free. I wish this weather would break. It’s May, for Pete’s sake and the temperature hasn’t risen above freezing yet. I’m bored!”
Hoss, laughed. “Joe, you’re a piece of work. You don’t want to work when it’s hot, and then when winter is here and you can be lazy you’re bored! Hopefully, someday you’ll find a happy medium. As for me, I am glad that I can be somewhat lazy! We’ll have plenty to do soon enough when the snow turns to water and we have to prevent floods from killing the stock.
Ben looked up from his coffee cup. “Well, boys I have a surprise for you! Instead of staying inside today, we are catching the 3 o’clock stage and going to Reno for the weekend. Its farther south than us and they are clear of snow at this time, so we are going to go and enjoy some good weather for at least a few days. Pack your bags, dress warm, and be ready to go no later than 11 this morning.
Hoss and Joe just looked at each other. This was new! Their father never took off in snow to go anywhere and yet they were definitely leaving for Reno.
Joe was packed with only a few items, but he was dressed to the teeth for the cold. He had on his long johns, two pair of socks, his heaviest jeans, two shirts and his heaviest jacket. He only hoped his ears wouldn’t fall off from the freezing weather as they drove along in the sleigh toward town. Hoss looked like a lumber jack when he came down. He too hoped he wouldn’t freeze but somehow it all seemed worth it to be able to get away for a while.
Charlie, the top hand, had the sleigh all ready for them, and was waiting outside as they left the house. Ben was in a really good mood and seemed really ready to go. He climbed up front and asked Hoss to drive. Joe sat directly behind Hoss, hoping his brother would block some of the wind from whipping around him. It worked somewhat. Ben talked all the way into town, laughing at his own jokes and telling the boys that they would be pleasantly surprised at what went on in Reno this year.
Both boys tried to get their father to tell them more but he danced around the subject so well it was almost funny. Oh, well, they would find out soon enough.
The stage was waiting on them when they got to Virginia City. Ben, Joe and Hoss threw their bags on top, sauntered into the stagecoach, and tried to be as comfortable as possible in the crowded cabin. There were only two other passengers and neither looked eager to talk. So both boys settled themselves in, sorta disappointed that they didn’t even have a pretty girl to flirt with.
The stage slipped a lot along the icy paths, and often when Ben looked out the window, he held his breath when he could see over the side of the road at the steep sides that they passed along. He only hoped the driver would be able to drive safely enough for them to get to Reno…he didn’t want this spur of the moment trip to end in disaster.
They stopped several times, and by the time they pulled into Reno, it was well into evening. The sky was turning dark and it really felt warmer there. After disembarking from the stage, the guys dragged their bags over to the hotel in Reno and got settled in their rooms. This really was a treat, as Ben let each have his own room and Joe didn’t have to listen to Hoss snore all night.
The next morning, after a rather good breakfast (nothing compared to Hop Sing’s), the men walked outside the hotel and were pleased to find that the air was pleasant and the smell of spring was around. No snow on the roads, no cold blast of frigid air and no heavy snow clouds daunting the day. Instead, the air was filled with excitement and Joe and Hoss could not understand why. But Ben told the boys to follow him and he started to walk toward the stables.
After saddling up some fairly nice horses, the three took off out of town to where only Ben knew! But after about a 20 minute ride, there were shouts and hops and hollers being heard and people were all running about; children were chasing other children and families were walking about, seeming to have just the best of times. Upon second look the guys realized that they were approaching a corral that was lined with seats.
The men tied up their horses and followed Ben as he went over to a booth set up just outside the corral and bought 3 tickets for the events and all three entered the corral gate and found seats in the middle that were really good.
All of a sudden, a bull shot out of a pen, with a rider on his back. The bull jumped, bucked, twirled around, and bucked some more. The rider, however, stayed with him pretty good, and after about a minute, he was thrown off. Two clowns then entered the ring and distracted the bull while the rider dusted himself off and rushed for the safety of the side ring fence. The bull was rounded up, and taken out of the ring, snorting and mad as a hatter. How dare that guy try to ride him like some lame horse! He was a bull, for heaven’s sake, and no stupid horse. He had some bad attitude!
Just then, another bull with rider shot out of another pen; however, this bull was successful of ridding his back of his rider in about 20 seconds. The bull had horns on him like Joe had never seen before! And he tried to use them on the rider repeatedly, even after the ride. But the clowns were very effective in doing their job and distracted the bull before any blood was shed.
Joe and Hoss were riveted to the whole event. Ben just sat and smiled, knowing that his sons were enjoying what he had known they would. Both boys never even talked! They just sat and watched, whistled and hollered right along with the rest of the crowd.
Another bull was now in the ring and the rider was holding on for dear life. The bull seemed possessed and demonic in the way he moved. He truly hated this whole bull riding idea and especially this dirtbag on his back. He rid himself of him quickly and then ran straight for one of the clowns who were wearing a barrel. The bull bucked the barrel and the clown rolled on the ground but soon righted himself and ran for cover with the rider.
It took four hands to round up that bull; he was a terror and they had to be so careful that he didn’t hit any of the horses they were riding, with his horns. But they knew what they were doing and soon the bull was put away and the field was cleared for the next event.
At this time, eight young boys came into the ring. They each had a young calf tethered on a rope and extra rope in their hands. They were introduced and each waved their hats at the crowd, and a roar came from the stands. Then the announcer told the audience that these young men were going to tie the calves’ legs, and the first one to successfully stop, rope and tie the legs down would be the winner. Each boy stepped off the center of the ring and the first boy entered freeing his young calf. The calf seemed to know what the kid was going to do as he ran away from him to the far side of the ring. However, the small boy ran to the calf and lassoed him, threw the calf to the ground and wound the front and hind legs together quickly. The announcer yelled 32.4 seconds. Next!
The process was completed eight times and the fastest boy did the deed in 20.8 seconds and his parents were so proud of him that they came out on the field and clapped and clapped for him. The kid was a wee bit embarrassed, but when awarded the prize, he soon was proud enough to raise it high above his head and wave his hat in victory.
Joe and Hoss thought this was great. Everyone seemed to be getting into the act.
Next five very small boys came into the ring riding sheep! They teetered and tottered on the sheep and finally fell off….the sheep kept right on going. But the winner was so proud to have made it to the middle of the field. The crowd loved it and clapped and clapped for the child as he held up his prize. It took quite a bit of time to round up the sheep as they wandered everywhere…stupid sheep.
When the entire program was over, it was well into evening and everyone was drifting toward their rides and their homes.
Joe and Hoss went down and were talking to some of the cowboys who had ridden the bulls….Joe had a thousand questions! They showed him how they mounted the bulls and how they tied the rope around their hands and how the other hands helped each other to get out of the stall safely. He asked the clowns how they were so brave around the bulls and they said that they weren’t — it just paid well. Joe laughed. He was enthralled with the whole aspect of bull riding. His mind was racing… How could he use this knowledge in Virginia City? He started making plans even before they said their goodbye’s and reached the horses to go back to the hotel.
The next day was Sunday, and after church, Ben and Hoss went to the saloon and had a few good cold beers, talked to the local folks and just wasted the day on what they wanted to do. Joe, on the other hand, went back out to the corral to see if any of the cowboys were still there…but it was quiet. Joe was rather disappointed; this bull riding thing just was getting more interesting as the hours passed. He definitely knew that he would have to introduce this whole idea to his friends back home.
The trip back was completely different than the one that they had encompassed on the way to Reno. This time Joe never shut up! He rambled on and on about the art of bull riding, and Ben and Hoss were tickled at how he seemed to have enjoyed the whole trip. Joe wasn’t bored any more!!!!!
Upon reaching Virginia City, the men were met with mud. The weather there had broken and the snow had melted and now the mud was an inch thick in places. It really was a mess to get around in and none of them truly enjoyed the whole thing of slopping to the stables, cleaning off their boots, then preparing their horses and slopping their way home. The roads were almost impassable! They really had to be careful. One wrong move and a horse could slip, lose his rider and possibly break a leg. The rider could really get hurt also, especially if the horse stepped on him trying to maintain its balance. So the trip was slow and arduous.
They were very glad to enter the yard of the Ponderosa and be able to take their horses inside the nice dry barn and clean off the mud. They also were covered with mud, as the horses hooves would plop up the mud as they stepped. It had been a nightmare. Joe’s thoughts of bull riding had taken a back seat, and he decided that until he had the chance to get everything done that needed done to get the ranch right, he didn’t dare bring up the subject. His father had given him an opportunity to see a new idea, and to show his gratitude, he wanted to help him as best he could. He worked hard for the next few weeks. But at night, when he laid in his bed, he thought about the huge bulls and the brave cowboys, and he just felt that he had to accomplish this in his lifetime.
Summer dawned about the middle of July; it all of a sudden showed up and heat right along with it. The boys were all sweaty trying to do their work –fixing broken fences and bring in the stock for branding and the chores that demanded many long hard hours of work. But the dances also began in Virginia City and the chances to get away from the ranch became better. After a long hot day, they would ride into Virginia City have some beers or go to a dance with a beautiful girl and try to enjoy life a little. Joe had not mentioned the bull riding issue for a long time and Ben actually thought that his son had let it slide from his mind and he didn’t have to be concerned as much.
However, Joe took all the information and all his plans with him each time he went to town and told all his friends about this phenomenal idea. He actually decided that he would go to Reno for his week vacation to work with the cowboys to learn the ropes (so to say) about being a bull rider.
He took his vacation the first week of July. He went straight to Reno and went to the corral that would be abuzz with cowboys. When he had left in May, they had told him that training was done in July so that the next season would find several good bull riders that would be available for a good show. He could hear the hoops and hollers about a half a mile away from the ring on that beautiful clear day. Oh, his heart was soaring and he was so excited to be finally able to get a chance to learn about this sport.
The first cowboy he met was Buster. He greeted Joe warmly and was very glad that he had returned to work with the bulls. But he told Joe that he would have to build up…he couldn’t just get on a bull right away and be able to take the ride that would make him a bull rider. Each day that week was a new experience. The first day they spent the entire time working with the rope that would have to be wound around his hand just so. The rawhide rope was rugged and Joe had to go into town and buy a good pair of gloves to withstand any more of that exercise. The second day the men showed Joe a wooden bull that was covered with leather and the men would work strings to make the bull buck!
Joe was thrown off several times until he finally learned to move with bull and twist with the movements sharp as they were.
The week was flying by and Joe kept wondering when he would get a chance to get up on a bull. Finally, on Thursday morning, the men agreed to give Joe a chance to try his luck. They did not baby him, though they gave him a very big bull and spent a lot of time telling him the way that the bull was. The animal had a rather bad history of throwing his riders and they wanted Joe to succeed but they did not want him to have any misconceptions as to how dangerous this bull riding gig was. Joe approached the stall, climbed the steps to the top and looked down on the massive beast that was trying desperately to get out of the stall and away from these crazy people. He eased himself onto the bull’s back and took a deep breath…this was it! His chance to finally try his hand at bull riding had arrived. The others helped him with the rope, gave him last minute instructions, and before Joe knew it, the stall gate was thrown open and Joe was flying on the back of a huge white bull named “Broken Bones”. The bull twisted left, right, jumped up high into the air and Joe could feel himself being lifted completely off the back of the bull and saw the dirt racing to meet him face to face. He hit the dirt hard, knocking the breath out of him, but he knew that he had to move out of the ring quickly in order to prevent the bull from goring or stomping him. He rolled, and felt several men lift him up and help him off the field. He watched the bull continue to buck as the clowns guided him back to the safety stall. Joe felt a tingle go up his spine. He then realized that he had almost encountered death…however, he had survived. Would he do it again? He had no choice! No bull would throw him and live to tell about it. Joe’s stubborn streak would kill him yet.
The next morning Joe felt every muscle in his body as he arose from his bed. He had bruises in places that he had never had bruises before but he knew that he had to ride a bull again or he would lose his nerve and he wanted desperately to accomplish this feat so he could introduce it to Virginia City…….SOON!
The men were surprised to see him; they thought for sure that he would just say, “well I tried and am going home”. But they didn’t really know Joe. He was not a quitter — never had been, never would be. That’s what made Joe, Joe.
He told the guys that he wanted the same bull….the smart aleck that thought he had won! The men laughed; they knew that the bulls often won! But Joe would learn …probably the hard way.
Several other men were around that were honing their skills, and Joe watched them as he awaited his turn. One man rode a bull that was pitch black — big, and mean as a snake. That bull kicked the stall, threatening to break the gate down before the man was ready. But before he could, the gate was opened and he literally flew into the center of the ring. The bull twirled around like a whip; he bucked so hard that the poor man on his back was thrown over the back end of the bulls’ rear and landed on his head. He lay totally still; the bull lowered its head and rammed his horns into the man’s side and threw him into the air like a rubber doll. The man landed with a thud. Everyone entered the ring, rounding up the bull and going to the man’s aid. But it was useless. The man had a broken neck and broken back and was in a better place. He had died almost instantly and had been spared the piercing pain that the two horns would have caused on the man’s body. Joe shuddered as he had to admit this was a rough sport…but, he still had a flame burning in his belly and would not let one incident blow it out. After all, he had seen men die while bronco busting and knew that each craft had its price.
Joe’s name was called about an hour later. He walked over to the pen to see his bull. The bull snorted at him, and Joe snorted back. The battle was on!! Joe climbed onto the bull’s back, wound the rope as tight as he could and signaled for the doors to be open. This time, Joe had a fair idea what this bull would do; therefore, he was more prepared for his turns, jumps and bucks. He rode the bull for 45 seconds before he released his hand and slid off the bull’s back and trotted into the safety area. The bull bucked and snorted. Joe watched him and then saw the bull turn toward him and begin to run; the animal ran hard and smashed horns into the wood that divided him from Joe. Joe knew now it was personal. Whew! Was he ready for this! It took two men to help free the bull and get him back to where he belonged. He went peacefully; Joe figured he had made his point. So to speak.
Joe decided to call it a day. His body ached and he just didn’t want to take a risk at hurting himself more. So, he went to his hotel room and took a nice long nap. It felt like luxury getting to sleep in the middle of the day…and when he woke up, he had a good meal, good beer, and good friends to talk to. This was a vacation to remember. Sadly, his time was up and he reluctantly turned for home, but not before promising the men that he would most assuredly be back to learn more; he was well aware that he had a lot to learn from them, and until he was ready, he would just have to hold up his plans. After all, he didn’t want to be the first bull rider killed in Virginia City introducing a new sport!
He rode home slowly, stayed in one of the line shacks for a night. He was so involved in his thinking about bull riding that he didn’t want to act crazy when he went home. That night, it rained and the rain on the roof was soothing. Joe went to sleep quickly and awoke completely refreshed the next morning. He saddled Cochise and the two of them started for home!
Ben had been a little concerned as to Joe’s lateness but just was glad to see him in one whole piece when he did show up. Joe said “Hello”, to his family and went to take a nice hot bath. He hadn’t had the chance until now, and felt like he had to become normal now that the week was over. Anyway, Hoss had reminded him that there was a dance that night and he certainly didn’t want to miss that. But, he couldn’t smell of bull. The girls would shun him like a bull. No, No he couldn’t have that.
Work was extensive for the next few months and getting ready for winter again was always a lot of work. The men hardly had a chance to visit. Each would come dragging in at all hours, having either just moved 300 cows to the North pasture, or delivered a dozen new horses to the army. The ranch itself need attention and drains always needed cleaned out. It was a never-ending process, and Joe and Hoss were not able to even dream about time off.
When the first snow arrived, it was a doozy — four feet and more on the way! The temperature would fall to 5 or 6 below zero and ice formed on top of the heavy snow. The only thing to look forward to was the holidays that loomed in front of them; hopefully they would be ready financially.
Christmas came in like a lion. It snowed so hard that the guys couldn’t even chance going to church. They had to cancel their Christmas party; as no one was brave enough to travel the roads. So things were very quiet and the guys just stayed close to the fire and read or played games.
Spring arrived early; it was the first of April and the sun was warm and inviting. The men decided to once again go to Reno in May for the bull riding events. Joe was so happy about this that he could hardly contain himself. He hoped the time would pass quickly.
The rains came hard and furious; mud was thick and hard to travel around in. Chores were extra hard to finish and often the men came home dragging again, only wanting to take a warm bath and go to bed. The rain continued to fall and no one knew when it would ever stop. The guys had to go out and move the cattle to even higher ground so they would not drown. This was tricky and Hoss ended up getting tossed into the mud and was sent home as the others were afraid he would slide off his mount and get stepped on.
Ben had not gone on this work detail; he felt that he would either get hurt or put someone else in danger, so he opted to stay home. But he worried just the same! When Hoss came home covered in mud, he jumped to his feet and asked his son if he was hurt. Hoss said, “Just my dignity.” He went quickly to bathe, and when he emerged from the bath house, he was clean and neat looking.
Joe didn’t come in until dusk. He was extremely tired and also needing a bath. He wasted no time getting into the tub and soaking his aching muscles. He ended up falling asleep, and not until his father came in and threw a towel in his face did Joe realize that they had been calling him. His father informed him that if Hop Sing left and went back to China, he would be doing the cooking from now on.
Quickly, Joe dressed and was at the table before Hop Sing had the last dish out. Lucky him! However, Joe was not so interested in eating as he was in hitting his bed. He excused himself early, and no one heard from him again until morning.
The next day, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the sky was blue. No threatening rain clouds could be seen and Joe hoped that this was the end of the rain and all its mess. Now if it stayed this way for a few days, the ground would dry up and perhaps they could finally leave the ranch for Reno. However, Joe decided that he wouldn’t say anything just yet.
Two days passed, and at breakfast, Ben was giving out work assignments. The day loomed long and hard again. But no sign of Ben giving into a trip.
Joe was chomping at the bit; finally he blurted out, “Are we going to get to go to Reno again this year?” Ben, put down his coffee cup and looked over to Joe. “Why, do you really want to do that again this year?”
Both Hoss and Joe chimed in and said “Sure!” “That was just the best!”
Ben smiled and said, “Very well, we will go this weekend, if all the chores are done and jobs completed so that the ranch can run safely without us for a few days. Be ready to leave Friday morning early.”
Ben had never in his life seen a breakfast eaten, finished and two men out of the house so fast. They were really wanted to go; Ben sat back and smiled at himself. However, he couldn’t help but be a little worried about Joe. He hoped he wasn’t getting too involved in this bull riding thing! He feared he would get seriously injured and do more damage than good. But his son was a man now. He had to face this and let him live his life, whatever that life would encounter.
Friday finally came; the two boys had worked very hard. Fences were mended, cattle were rounded up and branded, and when they came home from their weekend, they would be heading out for the cattle drive. Neither looked forward to this but it was a part of life. They would think about that later.
Again they made the trip to Reno, but this time there were two beautiful girls on the stage and this helped make the trip interesting for both boys. Everyone was flirting, and asking questions about what they did, and where they were from. The girls were on their way to Texas so both Joe and Hoss bid them goodbye when they got to Reno, and for Joe, his heart started racing as soon as he hit the ground.
When they went out to the corral the next day, everyone was disappointed. No one was there. Apparently the bull riding contest had been the previous weekend and they had missed it. Joe was so broken hearted. He went straight back to the hotel ahead of the others and was already asleep when they arrived. Ben felt bad. He hadn’t checked ahead of time and didn’t realize that the show was seasonal. He asked around in the salon and even to the sheriff if he knew when they would return…but no one seemed to know.
Joe just got back on the stage the next day, and all three returned home. Hardly one word was spoken. Ben tried to strike up conversation but it just was impossible. No one seemed to want to talk. They just rode in silence. This made the trip three times longer.
When they got to town, Joe said that he would be home later. He walked toward the saloon. Hoss and Ben went on home knowing that it would be no fun just standing around not speaking to anyone.
Joe sauntered into the bar, head down, spirits down, and ran smack into a big guy who was on his way out. He hit the man so hard it knocked him to the ground and he was dazed. The man made his apologies and offered his hand to Joe. Pulling him to his feet, he yelled. Joe! Joe Cartwright! How you been, little buddy?” Joe looked up at the guy somewhat surprised and smiled. There in front of him stood his bull riding friend Buster. Buster put his arm around Joe and they re-entered the bar laughing and talking.
Buster told Joe that they had decided to move around a little with the bull riding thing. Some of the guys had to come from so far and they asked if they could make somewhat of a circuit and let others who had never seen bull riding know it was out there and fun to watch and get involved with. Joe was flabbergasted; he told Buster that he and his bother and father had gone to Reno only to find them gone and this had really made him mad. He wanted to get some more training and watch more action…learning more so he could try to do better at the craft.
Buster was pleased that he had found Joe, and he had no idea what a help Joe and his family could be at getting this set up in Virginia City. After a few drinks, and much talking, Joe asked Buster where he was staying. Buster said he had a room at the International Hotel; Joe told him that this was no good. He told him that he wanted him to come out to the Ponderosa to stay there. It would be better all the way around; they could talk and get ideas, and plan their strategy for introducing bull riding to the folks of Virginia City. Buster complied and soon the two were on their way out of town, still talking, laughing, and enjoying each others company.
Buster was a rugged guy. He didn’t bathe often! He smelled of bull a lot of the time and Joe knew this would not impress his father, so he asked Buster if he minded taking a bath before climbing in bed. Buster actually thought that was a marvelous idea and looked forward to it as they traveled. Upon entering the yard, Buster was wide with wonder. “Joe, I never knew you came from a place like this. This is huge. How many acres does your father own?”
Joe scratched his head; he wasn’t exactly sure — some property had been sold and some bought and he didn’t keep up with the correct acreage. “To tell you the truth,” he said, “you will have to talk to my father! He keeps all the figures in his head. I just work on the horses and cows and anything else he needs for me to do. I think the proper term for me is a ‘Go fer’!”
At this, Buster cracked up! “Joe, you’re something, you know it? You’re so humble, yet you are so gifted and talented and have no ‘airs” about you….I like you, little guy!”
Joe gave him a sidewise glance and said, “Watch it. People don’t live long that call me ‘little guy’.”
Again Buster laughed, and jokingly punched Joe in the arm.
When Ben met the refreshed Buster, he was so glad that Joe had found such a well-rounded guy. This man could tell stories that made your hair stand up and he could sing with the best of them. Hoss liked him also; he seemed like a very honest, trustworthy friend and soon he had incorporated himself into the Cartwright household. Hop Sing had to keep after him, though, not to track mud into the house, and to wash up before meals. But Buster was getting better. Joe helped in this way, as best he could.
Buster either accompanied Joe on his chores or met him in the afternoon so they could go bull hunting. This was almost laughable to the two of them. All the bulls on the Ponderosa were not that big and definitely not the ferocious animals that had been used in the bull riding ring. However, they took a few of the somewhat big ones they found on property and set up a practice ring. They figured this way they could practice on these and when the real ones were found, they would be a little more prepared. After a few weeks of this practice, both decided that they had to get more serious and find some good bulls because it was getting late and the men from the bull riding group would be coming to town to see what was set up….ready to put on a show for Virginia City.
Both Joe and Buster both took two days and went to some of the surrounding ranches to see if they could find some better stock. Mr. Smithen, who lived about 40 miles east of the Ponderosa, had a good sized black bull and thought it was a great idea for the bull to be used; of course, he wanted his share of the money made. Buster had done this several times and he worked out all the details. They went to another farm not too many miles away from there and talked to the farmer who said yes, he indeed did have a good bull and that the bull had been used before in the bull riding in Reno. So both Joe and Buster were excited to see this bull. The farmer led them into the barn and they walked past many stalls and at the end stall, solid wood all around, the men climbed up to look down on the bull. Joe, looked at Buster, and Buster winked back to Joe, and they said to the farmer indeed we want to use this bull. As Joe was about to get down, the bull looked up; a tingle went down Joe’s back. There was good old “Broken Bones”. Apparently he could smell Joe because he snorted and kicked the wood behind him hard enough that Joe was shaken off the ladder and landed on his rear. Buster laughed! “He’s telling you he’s ready to rock and roll.” Joe just groaned.
In the two days, they were able to round up 12 bulls — All respectable in their own way and all with good riding potential. Now it was time to go and set up the event date and notify the riders where to come and when. Joe was so excited. He hoped that he could show off some of his new talent to his family and friends.
When they got back to the ranch, Ben had several projects that Joe had to finish. So Buster went in and did all the details in setting up for the event. This way both things got finished and there were no ruffled feathers. Joe wanted Ben to not be against his getting his chance to ride.
Finally, it was the big day. All the bulls had been brought into town. A special corral had been built. All the bull riders had pitched in as they came into town to build it…it was very strong and had all the safety precautions needed for a safe show. There were three chutes built that would hold the bulls prior to their ride. There was a good strong safety gate that the men could go behind to get away from an angry bull and enough seating for at least 100 people. All was ready.
The day of the bull riding events, the cowboys and bulls were paraded through the street in Virginia City to the new corral just outside the town. The bulls were in carts and tied down very well so that they could not harm anyone. The potential for that was significant, so they were very careful not to allow anything to ruin this great day. The town showed out in royal style. The children were all so excited and everyone was in high spirits. All 12 bulls showed up; each was decorated with ribbons and had their tails braided.
Once they reached the corral, they took each bull out of its cart and led it to the special ring they had built for them before and after their rides. The cowboys, some with family in tow, went into action and started to get ready to perform. Chaps were put on, hats were changed, and new ropes were brought out and hung from the men’s shoulders. The women were dressed in their finest and the children ran around and were all in such high spirits often the parents had to chastise them because they feared them upsetting the bulls and making them especially difficult to ride. Soon everyone was seated. Bulls were assigned to the riders. Numbers were pinned on the men and the scorekeepers were ready to time the rides and pick the winner.
Ben and Hoss came into town with Joe the night before and were in very high spirits as setting up this show. The one thing Ben didn’t realize, though, was that Joe had all intentions of participating in this “show” and that he would be riding his nemesis bull “Broken Bones” — the bull with the grudge.
The program started with a few speeches and the men all lined up in the center of the ring to be recognized. When Joe showed himself down there, Ben looked at Hoss and said, “What is he doing down there?” Hoss, who knew only too well, shrugged his shoulders. Ben motioned for Joe to come to him, however; Joe just waved at him and ran off the field with the other men.
About 20 minutes later, one of the chutes opened up and out ran a huge black bull with a big brute of a man on its back. The man, although big, was graceful in the way he moved with the bull. He managed to stay on for quite a while, but eventually the bull had its way and threw him off. The bull bucked the entire trip back to its pen.
Just then another big bull shot out of the chute, and a familiar figure that Ben recognized immediately as his son was riding on its back. Ben stood up as Joe rode the bull. The bull turned so many times and shook its body as it jumped into the air. But the rider stayed right with him. Ben sat down and just joined the crowd and watched his son. Joe stayed on the back of that bull for almost 45 seconds. The ride was phenomenal and he dismounted without incident. He was so proud of himself and he ran for the safety fence.
Broken Bone, the bull, was truly not happy. He refused to go into the pen!! He ran from everyone…looking for that man that had just bested him. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Joe. Joe was talking to Buster; they were laughing and were not aware that the bull was loose. Broken Bone broke into a run, aiming straight for Joe…he put is head down and was hell bent on ramming Joe with his huge horns. Just then, Buster saw the bull and he tried to pull Joe over so that the bull would not hit him. However, he was too late. The bull hit Joe square in the back. The pain was excruciating and Joe traveled forward and was jammed into the boards.
Buster grabbed the rope around the bull’s neck and twisted it hard around the board and this kept the bull from pulling out his horns too quickly. Joe had passed out and was completely limp. The bull was snorting and began to move his head. Buster let the rope lose because he feared the bull would do more damage to Joe, and then held Joe with his body while the bull dislodged himself and ran away. Hoss and Ben were standing now beside Joe and they eased him to the floor of the arena. Blood was everywhere. Ben was yelling for the doctor. Doc Martin grabbed Ben’s arm and said, “I’m right here, Ben.
All of a sudden, there was a gun blast. Broken Bull was lying on his side in the center of the ring; his owner put down the smoking gun and walked toward Ben. “I have never seen such hatred for a human that that bull had for your son. His life has ended and I pray your son will be okay.
Hoss, Buster, Ben and another cowboy carefully carried Joe to the doctor’s office. Joe didn’t respond to any stimulus; he remained unconscious. All Ben could see was blood and he was crying as he carried his young son across the street and to the doctor’s office. He was mad, also; he looked at Buster and said, “How could this happen? How in God’s name would a bull do this to an innocent bystander?”
Buster told Ben that this bull had not liked Joe from the start and that it seemed that he just had plans to destroy Joe. Joe felt like he could win, he felt it was like a game and had no idea that the bull really was so sadistic. “But now we know. Ben, I am so sorry! It should never have happened.”
Doc Martin went ahead of the men to ready the table and had things set up for Joe when they brought him in. The trail of blood was unbelievable and the trail of tears was just about as bad. Hoss helped put his brother on the table and yelled to him,”Don’t you dare die, Joe, or I’ll beat you up!!” Realizing how dumb that sounded, Hoss just looked down on his pale brother and whispered, “I love you, Joe! Fight, please fight to stay with us.”
Ben just put his hand on Hoss’ back, and led him out of the room. He told his son to go and get them some rooms for the night, and to move their stuff. It would help him keep busy as he could do nothing there.
Ben looked up at Paul, and said, “Mind if I stay here?”
Just then Joe opened his eyes. Both Ben and Paul leaned over him and in unison called his name. But Joe’s eyes never moved; he looked straight ahead as if he was looking at something else. He then closed his eyes and went limp again. Paul checked his pulse! It was so faint that Paul started barking out orders to Ben. “Give my tray, scissors, gauze, alcohol. Hurry, Ben; we have to stop the bleeding or he’ll bleed out.”
Ben ran around the room opening drawers, gathering supplies, and praying all the while.
It took over two hours for Doc Martin to get the holes in Joe closed.
Ben was collapsed in a chair when Paul looked up and said; “I’ve done all I can do; now it’s up to God!”
Ben went over to Joe and took his hand, kissed his son’s forehead; the tears falling from his face dripped on to his son’s face. Ben wiped them up and said, “Stay with me, son; please stay with me!”
At this time, Paul walked over to Ben and stated, “He was lucky, Ben; the horns did not hit any vital organs. I had to remove his spleen — he can live without that — and I had to repair a small tear in his stomach but other than that, he was only bleeding from the puncture wounds themselves. Our biggest worry now is infection. We don’t really know how clean that bull was and the bacteria was introduced to his whole body. Sadly, I can only hope we can control it. He will sleep the rest of the night. Why not go and try to rest.”
Ben looked at Paul. “I couldn’t sleep! I’d rather be here with Joe. But you go to sleep and I’ll wake you if he wakes up, okay?”
It was a long night; Ben dosed off and on. But each time he opened his eyes, Joe was the same. Maybe even a bit paler.
Ben moved from the chair to the floor; on his knees, he took Joe’s hand in his. He said the “Lord’s prayer” and then a prayer of his own, hoping to get God’s attention. His prayer was so beautiful, so heartfelt, that God could not have missed it.
In this bed lies my youngest son. His name is Joseph and I have prayed for him many, many times in the past….If it is Your will, Lord, please help him in his struggle to stay alive and with us on earth. You know him; he probably has lived through all of his nine lives….he’s as agile as any cat I know. But he’s a good boy, God fearing, and a great soul that you have shared with me. Please hold him in Your arms, breathe upon him and in Your divine power, give him the strength to overcome this accident. I realize he was fool-hearted to be riding bulls, but God, he’s good at whatever he does. I know his life is full of opportunity, please let him live to accomplish them. In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and savior, AMEN.
With this, Ben broke down and sobbed.
Paul had been standing in the doorway and heard this prayer. He was so touched with Ben’s true love for his son. He approached Ben and put his arm around him and comforted him…as only a good friend can.
Ben stayed on his knees for a long time before he arose and sat again in the chair. Joe never moved; Paul kept a close eye on him. So far, there had not been any fever. This was unusual for Joe. It always seemed that he had a bad fever when he got sick, but so far his body was not wracked with this. He just hadn’t moved and was in a very deep sleep.
The sun rose and Hoss came into the clinic. He walked over to Joe and said, “How is he. Pa?”
Ben looked up and said, “Just the same!”
Two days! Two days, six hours and 47 minutes later, to be exact, Joe opened his eyes again. This time, he focused on his family. He looked at his father and said, “I’m sorry, Pa. I thought I had beaten him, but I guess I was wrong. I won’t be doing that for any time soon. I hurt so bad.”
“Shhh!” Ben said, “I know you hurt. I’m just so sorry that that bull hated you so. His owner killed him, you know? But your job now is to just get well. We can discuss other things later. Okay?”
Hoss was standing behind his father and he smiled down on Joe. “It’s a good thing you lived or I would have had to kill you.”
Joe tried to laugh but he grimaced in pain instead. “Don’t make me laugh<, Hoss.”
Hoss, smiled. “I’ll forgive you this time. But boy, brother, that sure was one good ride on a bull. He tried his best to beat you and the only way he could was when your back was to him. Guess he won’t get a chance to do that again.”
Buster sat with Joe the third night while Ben and Hoss got some sleep. Joe and he had a good talk, and Buster let Joe know that he had nothing but respect for Joe. But he understood when Joe told him that from now on, he would only be a spectator and not a rider. He couldn’t stand the thought of getting hurt again, just for the fun of it. It hurt too bad.
Joe couldn’t go home for two weeks. He had over 150 stitches in him, literally holding him together, and there was just no way for him to travel the roads until he was at least semi-healed. Ben and Hoss traveled each day to be with him but the ranch kept them away more that Joe would have liked.
He beat Paul in so many games of checkers that it was just no fun anymore. For a brilliant man, Paul just couldn’t get the rules straight…Joe’s rules, that is.
Finally, the day came that Ben and Hoss came to gather Joe. The whole town gathered outside the doctor’s office to wish him well. He was overwhelmed and pleased at the same time. The sheriff gave a small speech, and the town gave him a trophy. It had the picture of a bull, and rider. The bull was jumping in the air, the rider was waving his hat and the inscription at the bottom said, “To Joseph Cartwright, Virginia City’s first and last bull rider.”
Joe read it, and laughed. “Hey,” he said, “who said I wouldn’t try to get another bull riding contest started?”
Ben looked over, and said “I did!”