"Three Three Three!"
by Calendar Hacksaw
It was June 20th and another Fathers' Day. My mother-in-law came by for supper, which meant my three undisciplined dogs had to spend a few lonely hours out back with all the house doors closed, lest one or more of 'em wind up in "Grandma's" face earlier than I was willing to accommodate. I'd rolled in here at mid-afternoon following two days in Twin Oaks enjoying that terrific spectator sport known as Team Penning, where I rubbed elbows with the famous and not-so-famous, staying up until all hours of the night just waiting for the next day's events to begin. The attraction of "Pennin'" gets to you pretty quick; you learn the moves and start to analyze every aspect of each cow, horse and cowboy so's you can start makin' predictions and layin' wagers about who's gonna win and who's gonna end up eatin' it. I must confess, in very short order ol' Calendar got danged good at eatin' it.
Well, Grandma settled in real nice on the couch and was makin' polite conversation with Persephone, so I decided to head out back to move the lawn sprinkler. This involved cracking open the sliding door to the exact width of the fattest part of my head so's I could slip out without lettin' one of them deranged mutts slip past me.
But bein' as I was tired from pennin' and partyin' and all, the quickest hound managed to slip between my legs and into the living room, where he immediately set his sights and nose on locating the "stranger."
In my haste to cut him off before he made much progress, the black spaniel also succeeded in making forcible entry, as did the old terrier, whereupon all three simultaneously left the floor and were momentarily suspended in mid-air fixing their aim on the horrified lips of our 77-year old matriarch.
With uncharacteristic speed, I became airborne myself, and somehow managed to stop the passage of time for the few seconds it took to shout commands to Persephone and Betty.
"Percy, take the slot! Betty, you're on the wing, and I'll drive!" With a fair amount of teamwork, and some aligning of the stars, we managed to herd 'em all back outside with a very respectable time of 39.56. But needless to say, I lost my hat and $5 in the process.
Team Penning's about a lot more than just teamwork or cattle or equestrian skills. It's about attitude. It's about trust. It's about knowing your strengths and recognizing your weaknesses. You don't throw blame lightly in Team Penning, if at all. For the uninitiated, like me, there would be an overwhelming tendency to blame the cows, blame my partners, blame my horse, blame my luck, blame the stars, blame the Queen and Princess, and even blame myself. I soon came to realize that such an attitude just wouldn't work with Team Penning. This is a sport where anything and everything can go right or wrong, with a million points in between. Throwing blame serves no good purpose; it only highlights a disqualifying character flaw and causes the herd to laugh. Thank goodness.
Teamwork goes far beyond what occurs inside the arena. What a tremendous effort it takes to put on such an event: the complexities of the organizational structure, the myriad roles satisfied by volunteers, the intricate timing, the social skills required to play host to literally hundreds of virtual outsiders who come into the Basin expecting an event of the highest caliber and have every expectation of going away with that expectation met.
Watching the likes of Lawrence Snow and Wayne Moody in action was literally awe-inspiring. And there must have been dozens more just like them; folks who could work from dawn 'til well past sundown for days in a row and still have the energy to attend a tailgate party or dinner dance, exuding the same level of confidence and charm as they exhibited during the day. From "herd calmers" to "gateboys" to "flaggers," cooks, bartenders, and that ever-so-welcome water truck driver, no one missed an opportunity to show the outside world what a class act the folks are who took it upon themselves to orchestrate Caliente Team Penning again this year.
I imagine elsewhere in this issue of the Fence Post or the next there'll be a few tips of the hat from the event organizers to all the troops who helped make Team Penning a success. My little note of gratitude and admiration might pale by comparison, but believe me it's written from the heart. As old and jaded and twisted and ruined as ol' Calendar might be, Team Penning and the associated events were life-shaping experiences, and I was humbled by them. I'll try to live the remainder of my life by some of the lessons it taught me, in more ways than one.
'Cuz I'm convinced that what we need is a whole lot more Snows and Moodys, and a helluva lot fewer Hacksaws.
Calendar Hacksaw hangs out at http://www.calendarhacksaw.com, and he'd sure like to have a one-on-one with the portable latrine attendant about his or her concept of where 'toilet paper' fits into mankind's Hierarchy of Needs.