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by Ken Rudine

On a road trip we set aside three days to visit San Antonio. Many times we have stayed at the old Granada Motel, which is located catty corner from the Transit Tower. It is that tall building with the green roof in the center of downtown. Once after checking in to our room we found that one of the beds had only 3 legs. The desk said they would send someone to fix it right away. In just a few minutes a man showed up with 3 combination white and yellow page phone books. No problem.

Getting up after our first night I headed to the free breakfast room for food. Sitting in the doorway of the room next to ours was a man dressed as a cowboy. Returning with a tray with our coffee and rolls, I nodded to the man and he returned the gesture. In my room with some wonder, I mentioned the encounter to my wife.

Ready to leave the room for a while, I noticed the cowboy with his hat on, was still in his doorway. In our car I commented maybe he favors the wide-open spaces and finds a motel room too confining.

When we returned late in the day I noticed the cowboy was still in the same position in the doorway. I decided to meet this fellow. I stepped up to him and as I approached he stood and we shook hands. I said, I am Ken and he said I’m Ronnie. (I thought let me get my hat on to feel comfortable talking with you.) I fumbled with my felt but choose my straw because the day was warm.

Meanwhile Ronnie was trying to get another chair from his room. I quickly brought a chair from my room. As we sat outside Ronnie said he was in town for some stints placed in his groin. I noticed him chain smoking and drinking beer and thinking that was not good a day before any kind of surgery. It was not my business to criticize.

Ronnie told me he was a bull rider and that now he was 64 and he just wanted to feel better. His doctor had him in for tests and he showed me his “hospital bracelets”. He said he was raised in cattle country. He was 13 when he first started riding bucking horses and bulls. I said it takes big balls to do that – right? Mine were about the size of peanuts then – Ronnie said with a grin. He asked me to tell him about me – and I did. During that I noticed I was the only person who visited with Ronnie.

By now I had figured out why he sat in his doorway – because smoking in the room would cost $150 surcharge. As we parted to begin my second night at the motel Ronnie and I shook hands like two old friends who had whittled away the hours of stress the day before surgery.

We exchanged a few more thoughts about the luck of the draw and I reached in my pocket gave him my miniature tape measure. My good luck piece was now his to carry him through his ordeal. We shook hands again and exchanged addresses. He said he had a cell phone but for him it was only a timepiece – no one calls.

Next morning I passed Ronnie’s door to fill our breakfast tray and Ronnie was not around. I assumed surgery was going according to plan only to find out later the doctor had to cancel for an emergency.

Later this day I saw Ronnie’s door open. He was lying awake on his bed. I stepped in and asked what happened and was told the next morning would be the day. As we visited Ronnie showed me his belt buckle with turquoise stones he won at Roosevelt Lake. We compared it with my TEXAN buckle and agreed we each had the best.

We left the next morning as scheduled without seeing Ronnie one last time.

In a couple of weeks Ronnie sent me a note telling me how well he was and that his sister had helped him get home. He said that I served the purpose of family during his time of surgery. I felt that as he “welled-up” during our last handshake before reporting to the hospital at 6am the next day.

Bull Rider Ronnie Maness
Bull Rider Ronnie Maness
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, Oct. 2013

Bull riders sign up to ride and then draw for the bull they will ride. The goal is to ride for 8 seconds till they blow the whistle. You could be having you one hell of a ride but if the bull quits or dies you can end up disqualified by no fault of your own.

Other than what Ronnie told me about bull riding I only know what I have learned by listening to George Strait sing along with Mike Daily’s Ace in the Hole Band sound. Take “Amarillo by Morning” for example. This is the story of a bull rider who only owns what he has on, but he is going to take a day to travel from San Antonio to Amarillo to buck at the County Fair. He describes how he lost his saddle in Houston, broke a leg in Santa Fe and lost his wife and a girl friend along the way.

In “Lone Star Blues” Strait describes a bull rider trying to lose - lose the Blues. He had participated in bucking events all across Texas and even failed to win while working at Brown & Root back in his hometown of “Cut and Shoot”.

George Strait also sings “I ain’t here for a long time” - the attitude a bull rider must have. When a bull rider passes on, his head stone might say, “He left nothing behind”. Riding bulls is very much like an addiction. “I’m here for a good time”.

As a bull rider Ronnie was injured too. A bull stepped on his right shoulder and broke his collarbone and a couple of ribs. “But, with a typical bull rider attitude – “I don’t think that bull meant to hurt me”, Ronnie said.

© Ken Rudine
July 24, 2014 Column


A motel is room next to room next to room - to infinity - each filled with strangers. This time I decided to get to know the stranger, my neighbor, now, my friend. - Ken Rudine

The Bull Rider's Reply to Ken

Dear Ken,

I just want you both to know that meeting people like you don't come around every day. I will never forget you folks. When you asked me if I needed anything, that was really awesome! As for me, every thing went good. They cut and fixed me on Thursday and I got out of the hospital about noon Saturday.

It's "The Luck of the Draw." You "draw" a good doctor and you get fixed. You "draw" a bad one and you get butchered. I personally think [mine] was one of the best.

The good luck piece you gave me is so special to me. When I woke up after surgery and was a little bit figuring out what was going on, the nurse asks me if I needed anything and I told her to look in my bag for a little silver thing. She found it and asks me what it was and why I wanted it. I told her it was my good luck piece from a total stranger. She put it on the little table with my phone and glasses never said any more until later when she looked at it and I told her the story. She thought that was great. So do I.

So anyway I'm home and all is good. The pictures you sent me are just me, although I wish I would have realized that I didn't have my shirt on. Very few people have ever seen me without a long sleeve shirt on. In the hospital I asked my sister to bring me a pair of her old sweat pants, since we are about the same size. They were more better than my Wranglers! First pair I ever had on. So here I am, the rough cowboy walking around with sweats and sissy shoes cause my foot is swelled up. It was embarrassing to me. But I still had my hat on and my rag around my neck.

Well Ken, you said you wanted to write about me so if you want a book I can probably give you more than you want. I was really impressed with you the night we talked in Mesa. You didn't just want to know everything that night, you just kind of said a few things and the conversation just started flowing like water. I knew that night this is a man that wants to learn something that interests him. For me that night was something special to me, because I am not an outgoing person. You are a >>> STRAIGHT ARROW >>>

About my operation, people ask me how they do it. How the hell do I know? I'm asleep and somebody, probably my good doctor fixes the problem. Some people just irritate the hell out of me. And what few friends do come by nobody has offered to come over to do anything. I had to pay a guy to come over and split wood for me.

So Ken all my life wasn't just riding bulls. Although I wish I would have had more money and more coaching to keep going. But that didn't happen. But I had a good time. I still have a good time. Even getting older and with my medical problems I still have a good time.

Well Ken, my head is getting straight again and I will finish this letter and get in the mail. I think you and Dan are great persons. Both letters touched my heart. Thank you. When I got your mail, I just started writing. I was still on pain pills. I haven't read what I wrote but I don't need to. I know both of you have had more extensive surgery than I have but its just taking so dam [sic] long.

"Get tough or die!"

Young Arizona
Bullrider by d.knape
Dedicated to Ronnie Maness, bullrider.

Aint got nothin'
but this here,
shirt on my back
some Lone Star beers,
might think I'm crazy
it's the way I'm geared,
if I weren't ridin' bulls
well, it'd be weird

Bullrider's only
got one act,
gotta ride that bull
in 8 seconds flat,
twisted and turned
then I get smacked
got busted bones
damn ribs are cracked

Don't matter though
'taint never dull,
long as I'm atop
that Bramer bull,
it's a crazy life
for all I know,
but it aint bad
I'm in the Rodeo

Words of advice
heck I don't heed,
it's a one way road
to hell indeed,
i caint complain
cuz honestly,
this circuit's all
there is for me

So come tomorrow
another show,
I'll be hurtin' bad
still gotta go,
it's in my blood
i'll have you know,
and i'll be damned if life
ain't a rodeo!

© d.knape
July 28, 2014
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