The cowboy way

Lassoes, pistols and 'dillos prove sporty in Texas

Like Kid Rock says, "I wanna be a cowboy, baby."

OK, that's not quiet true. Personally, I'm a victim of a high school that mistook itself for the backdrop of "Gunsmoke," so I developed a distaste for everything cowboy at an early age. That distaste became even stronger after I worked at a Texas-themed restaurant to put myself through college. You'll start to hate Texas just a bit when you have to wear an over-sized foam cowboy hat and scream like a fool just to celebrate someone's birthday.


Alicia Meyer/Special to the Journal-World

Seth Jones attempts to lasso a mechanical calf while in Texas.

But when a business trip called me to the Lone Star State, I decided to put my cowboy dread behind me and make like the locals. After all, I figured I might look good in a cowboy hat, and the only time I wouldn't feel stupid wearing one would be while riding one of those mechanical bulls.

Well, it turned out that not every bar in Texas has a mechanical bull. Every Texan can tell you exactly where to find one. If you're in the Dallas area, you have to pay a $75 taxi ride to Fort Worth. While I really wanted to ride one, I wasn't prepared to drop that kinda cash just on the taxi fare.

But the cowboy inside me was able to break out when I stopped by Eddie Dean's in Dallas. While they didn't have a mechanical bull, they had everything else to test my prowess as a cowboy.

Bump and grind

Upon entering the bar, I did like any self-respecting Texan and got myself a Lone Star Beer. I'm told that the official beer of Texas is a toss-up between Lone Star and Shiner Bock. But Lone Star tastes enough like the low-quality brew that I'm used to back home, so I stuck with it.

I was able to ease myself into the veritable Cowboy Olympics by starting off with a spectator sport � one that required serious athletic prowess as well as extreme concentration.

The sport was armadillo racing.

These armadillos had their own area fenced off, and with names like "Speedbump" and "H. Ross Burrow," I figured these burrowing mammals were the fastest in the west.

"Speedbump" was available to the media prior to the race. I figured some money might be made if I picked the winner, so I set down my reporter's notebook and worked on getting "Speedbump" psyched up for the race. "You're a champion," I told the armadillo. "This is your race."

No one would take the $50 bet I wanted to place on "Speedbump," probably because they heard the inspiring pep talk I gave. Lucky for me, because I had no idea that armadillo racing involved humans. This totally destroyed "Speedbump's" chances.

The race started off with human handlers holding down their armadillo until a gun fired. After that, the person restraining their beast did whatever they could to get it to take off running. At first they'd clap and scream. By the last race, the handlers were practically kicking their armadillos to the finish line. But this is still probably a better armadillo lifestyle than living up to one of their nicknames, and becoming roadkill.

"Speedbump" had a lousy handler, and its start off the gun was awful. The race was decided and lost for "Speedbump" at that moment. Dejected, I moved on.

The armadillo race caused me to put down a couple Lone Stars early, so I had the confidence needed to step up to the calf-roping challenge.

This was a rather simple machine, but after watching others try it, I decided it must be much harder than it looked. It involved sitting on top of a fake horse with a lasso twirling and ready. A button was pushed, and out from under the horse shot a mechanical calf attached to tracks. The goal was to lasso the calf before it got to the end of the tracks.

I saw people accidentally wrap the lasso around their own heads. I saw them sail the lasso off into the crowd. I even saw the person operating the calf-launching button get lassoed. I figured that, given the success of the people before me, my lasso would end up wherever I didn't want it to go. But the calf shot out from under me, and with one toss, I somehow roped me a calf. Figuring that calf-roping must not be a challenge for me, I moved on.

Pistol whipped

The final event of the evening was the quick draw test. A cap-firing revolver was strapped on to your hip. Two local cowboys gave a quick rundown of how to cock and fire as quickly as possible. Nicknames were assigned to every competitor. Unfortunately, rather than some tougher-than-nails name, I was labeled "Too Slim Seth." No matter. I dominated at the calf-roping, I knew I'd show these cowboys who was the bad hombre and break the .39-second record. The tone sounded, then I drew and fired as quickly as possible.

It should be noted that I think multiple Lone Star Beers slow down your reflexes. My time was .76-seconds, good enough for next to last. The cowboys figured I had needed a practice round, so they let me reload and try again. Sadly, no bonus points were awarded for consistency, because I shot in .76-seconds the second try. The cowboys laughed, told me not to worry, that they'd average my time. "Too Slim Seth" was now "Too Slow Seth."

Being practically the slowest draw in the bar made me feel a bit meek. And then I realized that I probably did look stupid in the cowboy hat. So I got the heck out of Dodge. Uh, I mean, Eddie Dean's.


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