As I’ve mentioned before, I never wrote rodeo songs during my actual rodeo days. Looking back, that’s a bit of a head scratcher…but then again, maybe not. At the time, I was too busy trying to figure out where to go next and how to correct mistakes in my form, physical conditioning, and psyche to worry much about setting the experience to music.
Fifty-six years makes a difference. At fifteen years of age, I crawled down on my first bareback bronc in organized competition. This was in 1959, at the District High School Rodeo. The town of Ronan hosted the contest that year, featuring Bob Schall’s well known western Montana string of bucking horses. This afternoon, while munching sphaghetti at the Country House Restauraunt in Sierra Vista, Arizona, I finally finished a song that described the opening scenes for me at Ronan. I read the finished copy aloud in poem form, no music, to a friend of mine. Before I left the booth, the lady who’d been lunching right behind me caught my attention.
“I was listening when you read that poem,” she said. “It was absolutely wonderful!”
I had to smile in appreciation at that. “You must have been around rodeos and cowboys–”
We didn’t go into detail, but it was pretty clear I’d made her day–which, of course, made my day. Here are the lyrics that did the trick:
by Fred Baker
The District High School Rodeo was busy going down
Up on the reservation in a small Montana town
I’d drawn a little mare named Spark Plug in the bareback bronc event
They said she was a dink and I thought I knew what that meant
Secretly in my heart of hearts, I was glad she was not that tough
This was my first rodeo and I was already scared enough
When they opened up the gate and she crow hopped down the line
I didn’t have any trouble riding her, but there was something going on behind
She might not have known how to buck real hard, but she knew how to urinate
With every jump she’d let it fly, enough to irrigate the state
When I got back to the chutes, I heard a cowboy inquire
Why do they call that mare Spark Plug? They ought to name her Wetfire
I kept on riding for eight more years, made it to the professional ranks
But you never forget your first, you know, and I owe that bronc a vote of thanks
For taking it easy on a rookie kid, his first time out of the chute
So here’s my gesture of respect, Wetfire, but I’m making it a dry salute
My wife approved this one when she heard it, too, so I guess we’ve got a hit.