What I paint and why… well, why not?

Off Track

I spent a couple of years working on the racetrack. I started in the summer of 1988 at Ak-Sar-Ben, then back again after graduating from UNO in 1990.  For two  years I went from Omaha to Remington Park in Oklahoma City to the Woodlands in Kansas City, back to Remington Park and finally Omaha again.

My short career took off one night when I met a guy in a bar.  His orange jacket informed me he was a bull rider and bull fighter in big white letters on the back.  I asked if he knew the one bull rider I knew. He said no. I decided he wasn’t much of a bull rider or bull fighter.  He said he worked on the racetrack. I told him dad had race horses. He said they were looking for someone to watch their hot walker in the mornings. I was waiting tables in the evenings, so I said I’d do it.  I went to the stable gate the next morning and was hired.  A few weeks later a groom was quitting and I got that job, but I had to quit my waitress job.  It really broke my heart (no) and I also told my friend Melissa, who also waited tables, there was a job for her too if she wanted.  She wanted. Off we went.

At this point I want to accept no responsibility for how Melissa’s life has turned out. She seems happy enough, but if she’d dreamed of being a ballet dancer or a rocket scientist, and ended up where she is today, it had nothing to do with me. I swear. She’s married to a racehorse trainer.

I have virtually nothing to do with racehorses. My experiences taught me many things, one is to appreciate the very good paying job I have now, with insurance, paid holidays, and paid vacations.  These are things you don’t have on the track. A typical day on the track looked like this:

5:30 Check who was going to the track (working or galloping) and who was walking.  Then pull wraps on any horses done up overnight Tack whoever had to go out first, or put the walkers out to start on stalls.  Track, clean stalls, do up horses and feed at 11:00 or so.

4:00 Pick stalls, fill water buckets, afternoon feeding.

You had a partner. There were no races on Monday or Tuesday, so you had one afternoon off and your partner had the other one.  You’d pick your partner’s stalls and feed on their afternoon off.  Horses don’t vanish over the weekend and reappear on Monday morning, this was a 7 day a week job, and that doesn’t include racing.

Races started about 5 p.m. during the week and 2 on weekends (depending on the track schedule).  If a horse needed to be iced two hours before a race and it was in the first race, post was 30 minutes prior so you had to start icing at 11:30 to be at the paddock at 1:30.  If your partner had a horse running, you’d have to clean the stall and have bath buckets and water buckets ready. If the horse won, you’d meet them at the test barn with the buckets, help cool out the horse and get the buckets back to the barn.  There were days the races would get done about nine o’clock, so you’d have worked a big fat day. No such thing as overtime on the racetrack.  It’s a job you love to do, or you don’t do it. There are no perks other than ending your day smelling like a horse, which was why I was doing it. That was a bonus for me!


ANAC conference

Our annual state art conference is coming up soon. The board is hosting this year, which is a little more like herding cats than normal. Everyone is trying to make sure everything is getting done. It would be beneficial to write all of this down so it would be available for future clubs. I had surgery three weeks ago and have three more weeks off. Maybe I should put something together? That would be nice of me, except I have no idea what all needs to be done. I know a lot of it, but not all. I suppose the best thing to do is get started, and let people yell at me later. It works for everything else I do.

Bragging rights

I take a lot of rodeo pictures.  I think a few of them might make decent paintings, if I could just find someone to paint them for me (ha).  Some of the rough stock riders are doing very well, and I suspect they might actually be sort of maybe famous.  I’m hoping so, anyway.  I will have the largest collection of photographs of them riding.  I’m sure it will do nothing for my career as a carcass backfat grader, but it’s nice to know that I might have been close enough to someone future famous to have gotten their picture.  It will be nice to walk around and tell people that the guys I talk about (and boring them to tears) are big time! At which point it won’t do me any good because I won’t get close enough to yell at them… but in the meantime, I have the largest collection of not-famous-yet cowboys of anyone I know. cowboys

I love a rainy night

Friday night I was in Maryville, MO for a rodeo.  Grand River had the rodeo stock. I’ve been to several of “their” rodeos this summer, and I get used to the stock.  There are horses I know will buck out straight across the arena, some that stay up by the chutes, some that kind of run off instead of buck, etc.  Bulls will spin, bulls will kick, bulls will go after a rider on the ground, and bulls will walk off when they’re done.  They are all animals with minds of their own, but they are still animals.  You can think you know what they will do, and about that time you’ll be wrong.  Friday was no exception.  There was pouring rain and there was spitting rain, and I was out with a trash bag over my head taking pictures of whoever I knew that rode.  Fortunately they had two sets of bucking bulls (that happens when they have a lot of contestants) and the first group of riders was the guys I know.  Matt drew Barracuda.  He’s a one horned bull that wanders off when the rider hits the ground.  Barracuda has been around for awhile, and knows when his job is done.  Matt is leading the Interstate Rodeo Association and United Rodeo Association in bull riding.  He’s been riding for quite some time and knows the bulls about as well as anyone, including the fighters, who work the same rodeos all year.  It was one of those nights, maybe something in the air (like a gazillion sheets of rain?) or maybe Barracuda had about enough of Matt for the year, I don’t know.  When Matt stepped off and walked away, the bull started walking out, then dropped his head and hit Matt from behind, sending him flying.  I haven’t talked to Matt and I am sure he is sore, but it was very cool, I did get pictures of it, and I have to say, he may have stayed on 8 seconds but that bull let Matt know which one of them was still the boss.  I just found out you can click on the images and they will appear larger, so check that out!


A dog’s life

I spent the evening with the dogs. Five retrievers, to be exact. Two are puppy mill rescues, one is a stud, Annie is the dark one and Kimball is four months old, I believe, and probably coolest dog ever. They are good fetchers. The two rescues and their boyfriend would chase a ball, bring it to me, and drop it about a dog’s length away where I couldn’t reach it. I told Kimball to get the ball! and she did. Every time, she brought the ball from waaaaayy over there, to me. I hadn’t noticed until I was done playing with them, that Kimball never left my side. She’s a good tennis ball return dog, but for the duration of the older dogs playing, she settled for bringing me the balls I couldn’t (or didn’t try very hard to) reach.

The two rescues are females that have slowly been getting used to being around people. They would come to me, and then sometimes act like they were surprised to find me petting them so they’d scoot away. I thought they were adapting well. I haven’t had the chance to photograph moving dogs like that, and it is a challenge. Mostly the trees were not where I wanted them to be, which I have no control over. Once again, when I start shooting something new, there is a learning curve. I learned virtually nothing today, aside from what beautiful, well-behaved and easily trainable dogs these are. I was impressed!1sm-5837

Cowboy Christmas

It’s that time of year again. The end of June and into July (maybe even all of July) is Cowboy Christmas. There are a bunch of rodeos with a lot of money to be won, and that can boost a contestant’s standings in their association rankings. It’s a big deal if you’re in the PRCA because it helps propel you to the National Finals Rodeo in Vegas at the end of the year. I read this online, so if I’m getting some information incorrect, it’s because I should be able to believe everything I read on the internet. I could have asked someone, but it turns out they are all rodeoing, and no one wants to talk about anything other than where they’re going, how they are going to get there, who is going to do what when etc. I’m not saying no one is talking to me, but by the time I do get done talking about whatever I’m talking to them about, when I think about asking about cowboy Christmas, it’s too late. I do ask a lot of questions. It’s because I don’t know anything. Right now is a very bad time to request information since it’s July 3rd and most guys are probably at their second rodeo of the day right now, and have two tomorrow, and one on Saturday. I imagine it’s mentally taxing, as well as a drain on the wallet. So I’m stuck googling for answers (most of the answers dealt with song albums or actual Christmas gifts with a cowboy theme). I’ll end this with a nice rodeo picture if I can decide which one I want to use. Wait, all rodeo pictures are nice. I’m being redundant.


Rodeo is a sport. It takes a combination of skill, practice, training, and talent to be good at an event. I was thinking about pro sports like basketball, baseball, soccer, where you have games going on every weekend. Little league, school teams, summer leagues, all playing to play. Kids get to participate whether they are any good or not. Could you imagine that happening in bull riding? Oh, I admit I’ve seen the one-jump-and-off riders, but you don’t have every kid lined up to tie themselves to a bucking bronc or bull in an effort to participate. “Ok, Timmy, let’s get you up on old killer here. It’ll be fine, when you’re done you get a participation trophy and a body cast.” There are very few people who bother to attempt roughstock rodeo events. Those that try, and practice, work to improve, and succeed, impress me. I will admit it’s for purely selfish reasons. The longer they stay on, the more pictures I get. Ride on!

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