Rodeo Ridealong

Canon Powers sits on a haystack in a truck bed pulled by an ancient Ford pickup on the bumpy road to the show. He looks at his peers - all brimming with curiosity and anticipation, gripping handfuls of hay beneath them. Most are new to the ridealong. Some have been and fallen. Some past victors remain. Two are too old. Canon is unfazed by the group. He pictures the animals in his head. Bull, Horse, calf, mutton. He feels their different coats against his fingertips. He rubs his thighs, his tiny calfskin chaps.

Canon is the calm center of the bustling cart, he’s determined, immersed in thought - about the event, about the future. He ties a honda in his head. Overhand knot. Press the base. Pull the tail through. Tighten. Pass your noose through your honda and your lariat is gold. He repeats the steps in his head. The children pull clumps of hay.

This is his second rodeo of the year. There will be a third come fall. By December, he’ll be mutt busting, and then, he’ll ride. His parents have grown accustomed to finding him sitting upright in bed when they open his door each morning. He looks at them as they would business associates - those who contain permissions to getting things moving.

His patience disturbs mom. She mistakes his fortitude for joylessness. Dad is off-put by his son’s abundant self control. He’s watched cousins lasso their youth as they flail and whine. When free to roam Canon simply makes his way to the stockyard and stable where he silently converses with the livestock. They’ll come to know his intentions and provide a clear path.

Many parents greet the children at the gates before they make their entrance. Tonight Canon calmly requested that his, just wait, and watch for me. His small voice, although infrequently utilized, is unwavering. When he speaks eye contact is only broken upon acknowledgment that his point’s been heard.

One of the new boys in the hay cries out in a fit. Canon closes his eyes and imagines the crowd. He crouches low on his steed and imagines the barrel race. He pictures the animal’s perfect stride beneath him, the speed through the gate and the swift turns. He pictures his knots again, the steer, the chase, the tackle. He flexes his tiny arms, barely able to contain the knowing.

Canon is three years old. He sees the night unfold in his mind. This is the last time he’s restricted to the ridealong and roundup that follows. Upon arrival at the rodeo he will remember his age - a thorn in his gut. Upon release from the gate, he and forty other screaming toddlers will run after three loose sheep. Canon will take down the first within thirty seconds, a full minute and a half before the third is tackled by a girl twice his size. He’ll be given a tiny trophy, and look on as the four-to-eights gather their helmets and mount their mutts.

Little does Canon know the prophetic nature of his visions. Life will continue to unfold exactly as he sees it. Come December he will Mutt-bust and stay atop the woolly thing longer than any peer. He will ride well from the start. He will tame wild stallions without effort or struggle. He will break rules and records. He will say what he means. He will die young, and in love, and the world will hear it.