By Cindy K Roberts
In the rodeo world, an established point system that scores a rider’s performance is used. For example, a judge awards points primarily for spurring action in bareback and saddle bronc riding. The rider loses points if his toes are not turned out with his spurs in contact with the horse; if spurring is not continuous throughout the ride; and if he is not balanced and in control. Points are gained or lost according to the rider’s rhythm and timing with the horse’s bucking. Now, in bull riding, points are scored by the rider maintaining body control and position regardless of what the bull is doing. Spurring is not required in bull riding, but definitely adds points to the score. When it comes to scoring the stock, high kicking action with hind legs fully extended makes for a better score. This all adds up to a better show and yes rodeo is a sport, it takes balls and one must be an athlete.
Interestingly, the established point system in the cowgirl world is similar. Points are gathered from the first pony ride to the very last barn dance, these special moments build up the very ego of a special woman who is connected with her horse or mule. The greater the experience the higher the points and the more accomplished the rider feels. Unforeseen events or screw-ups work against the point system and are hard on the ego. Screw-ups such as getting dumped; you could get dumped by your horse or you could very well get dumped by your boyfriend; we know that neither is good…very stressful to the cowgirl’s ego. Pride is weighed in heavily on this point system; a gal has bragging rights on the very event that is recorded as an accomplishment or milestone in her Western world. Life is competitive around the barn and ranches; scoring high is essential.
An example of how the cowgirl goes about collecting her points: to score points one must be subjected to a series of events that involves moving hay, catching loose stock, training mules and horses, fixing fences, gatherin’ strays, and doctoring livestock. . . just to name a few. Of course, while performing these necessary barn or ranch assignments the cowgirl will be subjected to a certain amount of sweat, pain, blisters, possible burns, bruises, swelling, sprains, fractures, breaks, tears, and at times . . . blood. As one may have guessed, blood will help you score higher as well as the sprains, fractures, and breaks; throwing a mule into this mix is clearly a bonus. Being subjected to mud puddles or taking in some dust rates lower on the score sheet. Cleaning tack as necessary as it is, also rates lower on the score sheet as well along with feeding the barn cats.
It seems that the more mileage one can get out of telling a story regarding one’s own scrape with nature or their last heroic triumph in breaking their last mule, adds a little spark to the tale itself. Including heightened details in your discussion on concussions, memory loss, and staggering to find your way back after being thrown on the trail is what sets fire to the cowgirl’s soul. You see, there’s something about a war story, in this case, a cowgirl’s adventure tale, that brings a flame to the listener’s ear. The more drama ensued in the story, the higher points were earned. No one wants to hear a lame story on how the cat food was bought on sale for the barn cats, pouring the remainder in airtight containers and taking inventory of the felines lined up for dinner. Shoveling manure is not rated high for storytelling either. Even though shoveling manure is necessary, it is listed in the average B rating in the points category, simply because it does not require a higher skill set to do the task. But . . . to hear the story on how mule cowgirl, Prairie Rose got caught up in the high and mighty Missouri River from her mule slipping into the treacherous waters with sinking sludge underneath him, she clinging to the saddle horn, then to ride out the muddy rapids to the other side; that true tale itself will take one’s breath away! Yes, that is one worth talking about! You can easily imagine the snakes and snapping turtles lurking through the waters, not to mention the turkey vultures hovering above!
The time you rode the northern slope one sunny February afternoon, your mule slipped on a patch of frozen ground; all of a sudden, went down, crashed on his side, pinned your leg to the ground, then ended up with a sprained ankle. Crawling on hands and knees to find a strong limb to support you, this all adds special effects to the story. Never mind that your mule stood there at the bottom of the hill waiting for your return, licking and chewing the whole time. You are going for the round of bonus points. This is your opportunity to add the part, you called your mule that promptly walked up and waited patiently as you struggled to get back on. The bigger the injury, the more sloped over in the saddle one should be when returning to camp or the barn. All these treacherous details are not spared in a good cowgirl adventure story. By the way, this is important stuff here: everyone leaves out the part about tetanus shots, antibiotics and ointment. There’s something about tetanus shots, ointment, and gauze bandaging that doesn’t really appeal to the readers or listeners of a cowgirl up story; if you want to remain popular, you just don’t mention it.
Getting lost on the trail is not considered a heroic experience for earning points, because you are supposed to have enough sense not to get lost in the first place. However, if one had to use a knife or pistol in order to survive while trying to find their way, then that places the event into a whole new category. Anytime you add bears, struggling with a big cat or your mule was standing guard for coyotes, the points are higher and that is something worth writing home about.
The everyday actual tasks that rank high on the cowgirl Richter scale: roping wild mini-donks to corral them for the farrier visit, herding up young mules for their vaccinations, sorting mules for the pack string and moving cows to the other pasture; these are factual accounts of a cowgirl’s day that is worth some salt in talking about. Giving yourself stitches, cauterizing a wound, or drinking out of a hoof print certainly ranks high up there for gaining cowgirl points and will entertain your listeners for a long while.
There are special and cherished moments that will never be forgotten; giving birth has a special meaning and raising children is recognized as all-time extra points to be given to the living cowgirl. Helping to deliver a newborn foal into the world, bottle feeding an orphan calf, doctoring a sick horse . . . these challenges cowgirls embrace in their own lives. Cowgirls take responsibility for their everyday chores at home and work; they take pride in their work and they wear it well. They live, eat, drink, and sleep the cowgirl lifestyle. They contribute to everyone around them, they share and help others. They breathe in the cowgirl essence into their very soul. Live life well and score high amigos.
~Cindy K. Roberts