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A short story by Emma Carpenter.

Oh, Chute

Rodeo chute help have a hard life. At least everybody seems to think so except the chute help.

The work is dirty, endless, dangerous, and outside in every possible kind of weather. It requires long hours of driving, endless worrying, and constant care and concern for livestock that never misses a chance to paw you, kick you, hook you, stomp you, or just plain run you over.

Book cover to short story: Oh, Chute

It almost always involves sudden changes in plans and poor facilities. Working evenings and weekends is a must, and no pay or low pay is to be expected.

For whatever reason, chute help love and are fiercely protective of what they do. In fact, they can turn downright mean if you even hint they're going to be "promoted" to another position.

I don't know what the average career span of rodeo chute help is but I'd guess it to be around 10 minutes or so. I realize a lot of people do it for years, but a whole lot more come in and get out at a run on their first day. They find out too quick that sitting backwards on the head of a 250 pound roping calf - rodeo's Bambi-eyed terminators - as it stampedes the wrong way down the alley is truly a "be careful what you wish for" experience. They suddenly start wishing for something different.

At one rodeo a bull rider came over to the stripping chute to help out. He had ridden bulls for years, but when the first bull stepped out of the stripping chute that night and the guy realized he was in the same pen without benefit of fence or magic shield, he turned and ran headlong into a telephone pole and knocked himself out.

Another time a young man that was a longtime friend of the family hopped onto the catwalk beside the stripping chute to help take the riggins off the broncs. One of the first broncs in reared up and pawed his forehead wide open, sending him and his father to the hospital in an ambulance. It was against policy for the ambulance to bring them back even though it was returning to the arena, so father and son took off walking and got lost at night in a strange town.

Below: A look at some of the livestock pens behind the bleachers and bucking chutes at Frontier Park, home to Cheyenne Frontier Days.

Livestock pens behind bucking chutes

You have to love the chute help because they love the livestock. They believe that being the one chosen to break up a bull fight is a privilege, and that climbing over fences for their lives is to be expected. Even though they signed up to handle livestock they'll still climb a twenty foot pole to hang a timer wire.

There also isn't a group of people on earth that is easier to please: If you take them out to eat at two in the morning they think the local convenience store in a one stop sign town is fine dining at a fashionable hour. Give a rodeo chute hand a sorting stick and a honey bun, and you've got a friend for life.


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About The Author

Emma Carpenter and her husband Bill are the owners of the 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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