BY JAY CALHOUN
He started out as James. Was called so from birth. It was us turned him into Jambo once he started working the livestock on our crew. He was bout sixteen. Funny kid. Smart— always askin why we do this way, or why’nt we do it that.
His mother, who said James was too ‘intelligent’ for rodeo, was kind of a sarcastic woman. Called us a bunch of ‘wild-ass barn-apes’.
But Jambo he was, to everybody around. I guess he did get a little wilder than he would-of if he’da stayed home and read books, but he fit in real good with us. And he sure brought the sauce to the rodeo circuit.
No matter how bad things got for a rider, count on Jambo to bring a joke or a crazy look. Or just a hand-up out of the dirt. Never was much a one for drawn-out argumentations when he was pushed, had fast hands and a wicked left-hook. But always brought plenty of sunshine around….and Lord have mercy, the gals. Always seemed to have the prettiest one…or two.
Handsome, funny, he grew up quick. Started winning buckles and prize money…seemed like he was fearless. He drew the roughest beasts and held-on real good. He seemed wilder than they was. Jambo moved up the professional ratings at a real good pace.
Til that day the big hoppin Charolais bull hooked him through the hip and tossed him into a corner of the feedlot.
The horn went in the side of his right butt-cheek and tore up his lower pipes and organs. The surgeons sewed all that back up….it was the ruination to his pelvis bone that did him the permanent change. Least that’s what he claimed. He always walked funny after that.
And he took a more measured view of life. He was bout thirty, but he become like one of those old Greek philosophers, in the marketplace. Would give out advice like it was some cosmic truth.
He couldn’t ride or bulldog no more, so he organized a rodeo events company and hired all us ‘veteran’ hands to work for him. Started to get grey-haired, opinionated and more given to conversation. Never did lose his tendency for fun, though.
He’d bring some new hire in front of all of us and say, “Now Red,” or whatever the new guy’s name was, “Now Red, I’m countin on you to do a good job out there, just don’t get above your raisin’s.” Man, how we’d laugh at that man’s face…Or Jambo’d get mad cause one of us had mucked something up and he’d turn to who-all was standing around and say, “Next time I’m tempted to send a dumb SOB, I’ll go myself!”
You just wanted to hear his philosophy on things. We probly coulda learnt more from him but he acted like it hurt him to sit still. Anyway, he kept us too busy to loaf around talking.
It’d been two years since his last operation. We never dared to ask him why he keeps going up to Austin to see Dr. Jackson. That was the surgeon who repaired him after the bull tore him up.
Suspected some of his tubes didn’t get fixed good as new like he claimed. He sure didn’t go sniffin around the ladies like he once did do.
It was when we hauled up north to put-on one of those little county-fair rodeo’s that we got our surprise. We’re looking out for where-all Jambo got away to and somebody calls he’s out in the parking lot talking to some beautiful gal just stepped out of a BMW.
Jambo brings her around behind the chutes and introduces her with that crazy smile he used to always have around the girls.
“Want y’all to meet Sonya, promised to show her all the sights and ‘smells’ of the Rodeo. Give her plenty respect, now….she’s gonna be my bride.”
Then he locks onto her with a big old kiss. And she was into it!
We were shocked. He hadn’t said one thing about a woman since that bull gored him. We just figured he was maybe more damaged down there than he’s letting on. Here he is ‘scorting the prettiest green-eyed black woman we ever seen.
Wasn’t more than bout an hour later one of the cowboys went off his bronc sideways, spinnin like a rag-doll and went all blinky when he hit the fence. I was riding pick-up in the roughstock competition so I got to him first. I was yelling, “911!…Get the EMT’s in here,” when
I seen Jambo’s gal climb over the fence and come pelting across the arena. You could hear the klaxons blowing, ambulance tryin to nudge through the crowd.
She just slid-in there next to me in the dirt and I says, “Give him some room Miz Sonya, he’s knocked out.” Then she says, “Well I guess I can see that,” she says, “yougive him some room…go tell those EMT’s to bring their spine-board and a collar….and an airway…STAT!”
She started-in pumping on his chest while I was trying to get my creaky knees unbent so’s I could get up. I was taking too long. Anyway, Jambo come limping in by then, she yells at him, “James Neeley, you get that crash-wagon in here right now! This is your damn show.”
I heard him say, “Yes Ma’am, Doctor Jackson.”
“Cowboys!” She says, lookin up at me with those big eyes-flashing fire, “Why would a sane person want to climb up on a wild animal is what I want to know.”