The first sale I worked at South Coffeyville was a cold January day in 1995. That’s the day I met Jim and Barbara Bond. Jim Tom was not riding that day because he was still in school. The old barn had an alley with wooden pens and gates where the smaller calves went after they sold. It was a narrow alley and barely tall enough to walk down, so it had to be worked on foot. Barb worked that alley. By herself. She would open a gate across the alley, go get the calves, shut them in, open the next gate called on her way back, go get the calves, shut them in…repeat, repeat, repeat. On foot. Sometimes it got pretty hectic and she would have to run. She got them all penned. I was amazed. Even when it got a little fast over there, no one paid any attention and no one seemed to think that she couldn’t handle it. She could.

That day was the start of a great friendship. The kind that lasts. As time went on we would trade horses with each other and others, from grade just good enoughs to some fine rodeo and ranch mounts. I once traded Kelly a sleeper that goes on the pickup – you know, the kind we had that was just a bed; you took the truck’s back glass out and crawled in – for a horse. Jim Tom and Bob Franklin shod my horses. We kept each other from getting killed on colts in the salebarn alley. Jim Tom and Jim were my first serious roping teachers. We played polo with brooms on horseback in Barb’s yard and hid Easter eggs for the kids. One Easter I spent with the Bonds I bought a little sorrel paint gelding I called Feed Bill.

When I started work at the salebarn, I was a long way from good cow horses, day work and ranch rodeos. I had been raised at the bucking chute end of the rodeo arena. My horses were broke enough to open gates and get cattle in the pens, but it was not their forte. I had an Easy Jet grandson that won me some money running barrels, but like a lot of those horses, every once in awhile his brain would turn over.

For those of you that worked at Southtown a long time back in the day, you will remember there was a little plank bridge over the slurry ditch between the pen back pens and the outside pens; nearly straight across from Jupe’s vet shack. It wasn’t exactly stable. I had been over it dozens of times on this horse, but that day he decided it was scary. He ran off. Plumb. Would not have mattered what bit I had on him, because he couldn’t feel a thing.

In the middle of the pen back pens was the alley from the unloading dock. There were was a gate that opened each way to close off the alley east and west, so the cattle could go from south to north. Twenty foot gates made completely of two-inch i.d. pipe. Heavy gates. I guess Jim saw what was happening. I was still a few gates away when he slung that gate in front of me. He was much too smart to throw the latch because that might kill me and much too smart to stand behind the gate. He stepped into the alley. I’m sure he thought that horse would see the gate thrown and that would at least slow him down a little even if it didn’t stop him. It didn’t. We had a sudden jolt. It didn’t knock the horse completely down, but he did hit his knees. I heard Jim calmly say “whoa.” The horse got himself stood up – and stood there. I looked at Jim and I think he was waiting to see how I’d take all that. We started laughing. Looking back, there’s no telling who or what I might have mowed down if Jim hadn’t done that. Or what might have happened to me if we hit the solid pipe fence. That was the last time I had a runaway on that horse at the salebarn.

I was in the first women’s ranch rodeo I ever saw at Medicine Lodge. By then I had my wonderful Salty mare – who was a good cow horse. Not long before that I stood up with Jim Tom and Kelly when they got married. Kelly had a dandy cow horse stud she called Handy. Kelly could rope and so could Nicki Traul. The two of them played with Barb and me. I don’t even remember what all happened, but that’s when Jim and Jim Tom started teaching me to rope for real. Jim Tom always said Jim’s tutorial for calf roping was “catch him with that long one, tie him down with that short one.” Well, I do remember one thing that happened. Kelly and I got drunk visiting with friends in the gear makers tent and when Jim Tom found us he was really cranky about it.

Jim Tom had a really good red roan calf horse. Hancock bred. When Jake went to college on a rodeo scholarship, Jim Tom let him take that horse. Jim told me he tried to talk Jim Tom out of it, but the horse went anyway. One day at the salebarn Jim told me the rodeo team calf ropers were not getting along with the roan horse. Whatever they had done to him, he was now bucking anyone off who stood up to rope. Jim said he thought I could get his head back right. I’m taking that as a compliment. Anyway, I took the roan horse. They let me ride him for going on three years. Here’s what I learned about that horse: You could ask him to do literally anything and he would kill himself trying to do it – but – you weren’t going to punch him around and “make” him do it and God help you if you decided to use force. Here’s an example: One day I was sitting in the alley talking to Eddie Malloy and some fracus happened at the end of the alley that I thought I needed to straighten out. So, I wheeled that roan horse around and gut punched him. He bucked. He let me pull him up after about three good licks. Eddie said, “I wouldn’t have thought he’d do that for nothing.” I said he was just letting me know that I can’t gut punch and jerk around on him like a puke with no feel. I can lay a spur on him and even roll it a little to ask for more and he’ll give me all he’s got, but he is NOT going to stand for me gapping my legs out like a kid and gut punching the air out of him.

I rode Roanie at the salebarn and prowling pastures for months before I tentatively tried to stand up and rope at the dummy. He let me. I heeled a few foot rots behind Jack Lowery, and then never worried about roping again. I rode him on the 25th anniversary of our family’s wagon train and was the outrider for the parade marshal at the Springdale rodeo. The Harper and Morgan pickup men were right in front of me with the flags and they tried to buy Roanie during the whole parade route and on the ride back to the fairgrounds when it was over.

One day Jim came and asked if I thought he would be ok to rope in the arena now. I said I hadn’t roped out of the box, but I was sure he would be fine if you treated him right. I also remembered Jim Tom telling me when he was roping off him that the roan horse didn’t like to stand wedged in the corner with his hocks touching the boards. He said there was a spot he liked to stand and he would score there forever if you didn’t peck around on him. Jim apologetically told me they might sell the roan horse. I figured after nearly three years of using that fine horse free, I’d been lucky. He became a fine breakaway horse for a gal who didn’t peck on him.

We used to jackpot all the time at Yocham’s arena. One night when I pulled in, Jim Tom was in a lawn chair and Colton had a tie string through his belt loop and he was tied to the arena fence. “What’s the deal with Colton?” I asked. “He’s throwing a fit,” Jim Tom said. “When he decides to quit throwing a fit, he can get turned loose.” That’s the Colton snapshot I have in my mind.

So many more stories and I may write them, but the point is, I had a longer relationship with these people than any except my own family. And just as close. I will miss them so much, but as my brother said, “We’ve got to stand up under it, Sis. There’s nothing to do but keep going.”

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