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A short story by Emma Carpenter.

A Conversation With Shredder - Page 1 of 2

One year at Clearwater, Kansas the rodeo committee wanted to have a special event called “bull poker.” In case you haven’t heard of it, bull poker is where four contestants, usually young guys needing enough gas money to get back home, set around a card table in the middle of the arena while a fighting bull is turned loose. The bull charges the table, and the last guy dumb enough (the rodeo posters that advertise this event usually say "brave enough") to still be sitting in his chair instead of running for his life is the winner.

Short story book cover featuring a black and white bull

Besides the money, he often wins a couple of black eyes, an occasional broken bone, and a couple of boot prints up the back of his shirt if his fellow contestants get a good look at the bull before he does.

Bull Poker is usually a real crowd pleaser. The card table almost always flies through the air, probably with a newly punched horn-hole in the middle of it, followed shortly by at least a couple of the contestants, a folding chair or two, and sometimes even a deck of scattering cards. For obvious reasons the cards aren’t really necessary, but when they’re scattered in 52 directions they can add a nice flair as they flutter in the air above a group of terrified cowboys holding onto their chairs with their hats pulled down and their eyes closed.

The only problem with us having bull poker during the rodeo that year was, at the time, Carpenter Rodeo didn’t have a bull that would attack a card table. Or, at least, I didn’t think we did. I was shocked when my father-in-law Norman told the rodeo committee we’d be happy to have the event. I dreaded the whole thing for weeks because I was sure we didn’t have a bull that would play along, and it was going to be embarrassing to put on the dullest bull poker game ever seen in a rodeo arena.

The night of the rodeo I was standing just inside the return gate while everyone else was getting set up for bull poker. The announcer was warming up the crowd, some guys from the local rodeo committee were carrying a card table and four folding chairs into the arena, and Norman was in a pen of bulls behind me sorting one of them out. While I was waiting there, Tiny came walking up.

“Did you bring your video camera?” he asked.

“I brought it,” I told him. “But I don’t think there’s going to be much to film.”

“Oh, go get it,” Tiny said, feeling optimistic. “I’ll take the gate. You oughta film this. You never know, it might be good."

As we were talking Norman had sorted a young, black and white bull we called Shredder out of the pens and was moving him up the loading alley beside us. Shredder was named after a villain in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons, but we didn’t tell too many people that because naming a bucking bull after a kid’s cartoon just doesn’t sound too, well, bully.

“Fine,” I said, giving the gate to Tiny and climbing over the fence to get the camera. As I walked off I called back jokingly, “But in the meantime why don’t you talk to Shredder? Maybe you can talk him in to all this.”

When I got back with the camera things were ready to go. Norman had loaded Shredder into one of the bucking chutes, then he had the card table and chairs that had been set up in the middle of the arena moved over to the corner, just a few feet in front of the return gate. As any bronc and bull can tell you, the return gate is where the roughstock exit the arena and go back behind the chutes to rejoin their buddies.

When everything was set Norman nodded at the four contestants to take their seats. The crowd screamed like crazy when the chute gate opened and Shredder exploded into the arena, head down and snorting, pawing and taking short little charges in all directions.

Shredder was young and he was a showy hothead, but that’s where it usually ended. When he bucked in the bull riding he never looked for too much trouble. If he happened to buck a guy off right in front of him he’d take a run at him as he went by, then usually lope to the return gate to be let back behind the chutes. I thought his entrance into the arena was really nice and flashy, but I was certain it was all going to end right there.

Continued on page 2......

 


A Conversation With Shredder - Page 1

A Conversation With Shredder - Page 2



 

About The Author

Emma Carpenter and her husband Bill are the owners of the CowboyWay.com website. Emma is the administrator of the website, and when not writing articles for other areas of CowboyWay she enjoys writing the occasional short story.

For many years Bill and Emma maintained a small cow/calf herd while also doing day work for area ranchers in the Kansas Flint Hills. The Carpenters are retired from Carpenter Rodeo Company, a family owned rodeo company that put on rodeos in Kansas and Oklahoma for over 40 years. They still own a small cow/calf herd.

 



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