Rodeo Songs: Take Your Wins Where You Find Them and Keep Your Tail in the Middle

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My rodeo career definitely did not start off with a bang–unless you count some of the more spectacular wrecks. Long before adding bull riding to my repertoire (and eventually specializing in that event), I managed a number of impressive buck-offs, hangups, and other entertaining maneuvers. Succeeding in the sense of actually winning something, however, took a while.

At the time, it seemed like a whole lot more than a while.

From my first rodeo competition at the District High School Rodeo in Ronan, Montana, in 1959, I had to fight discouragement plenty of times. Especially in the fall, after the rodeo season was over for the year and I’d done little but donate my time, money, humiliation, and a few body dings to the sport, it became necessary to pick myself back up from the depths of, “Well, that sucked!”

Fortunately, I found a way. I would have a conversation with myself that went something like this:

Question: “Okay, did you improve this year? Could you ride a tougher animal in September, say, than you could in May?”

Answer: “Yes. Yes, I did improve this year. Quite a lot, actually.”

Conclusion: “Well then, we’ll get ’em next year, right?”

Agreement: “Right!”

The following songs (or poem if you prefer, since the melody’s not here on the page at the moment) are lyrical representations of that process.

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Take Your Wins Where You Find Them
Copyright 2015 by Fred Baker

In the well known Bob Schall rodeo string in the spring of ’59
Gray Wolf was a saddle bronc whose name matched up with mine
We left the chute; I gave him the boot; he bucked me into the dirt
I hung up a little bit on my way down and you know that left hoof hurt

But I did not care ’cause my Dad drove down to the nearlby western store
Bought me a pair of Star brand cowboy boots and I couldn’t have asked for more
You’ve got to take your wins where you find them; they don’t come all at one time
I hit ten shows that summer and I didn’t win one thin dime
But I kept on learning every time they opened that gate
I knew if I kept on hammering down, I’d learn how to pull my weight

One year later the District High School show moved on to Hamilton town
Once again I drew that durned Gray Wolf; what was this going down?
But I’d learned a lot in the year between and I rode him all the way
Ended up the Saddle Bronc Riding Champion at the end of that particular day
You’ve got to take your wins where you find them; they don’t come all at one time
I hit another ten shows that summer and I still didn’t win one dime
But I kept on learning every time they opened that gate
I knew if I kept on hammering down, I’d learn how to pull my weight

High School graduation, the year I was seventeen
I won a little at Lincoln and Hamilton and a few towns in between
You’ve got to take your wins where you find them; they don’t come all at one time
I hit a lot more shows that summer and occasionally I’d shine
It’s been a long time since I rode a bronc or even a Brahma bull
The Wheel of Life keeps turning and you know my plate is full
The lessons of the rodeo are doing me just fine
You can take the cowboy out of the arena, but he’s still there in his mind

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Keep Your Tail in the Middle
Copyright 2015 by Fred Baker

Going to school in sixty-two on the college rodeo team
I had to add the bull riding to make the cut but I was chasing my dream
I considered myself primarily a bronc riding man
Until I found out you don’t have to start them bulls
And I came up with a plan

Keep your tail in the middle and a leg on each side
Don’t hit him with your free hand
If you can follow that simple rule
You’ll qualify in the end
A bull might break you a rib or two or rearrange your face
Don’t worry about those details; go on, pick up the pace

People told me I was insane every time I straddled an ox
But them pencil pushing white collar types never think outside of the box

Keep your tail in the middle and a leg on each side
Don’t hit him with your free hand
If you can do that often enough
You’ll win it in the end
You might find you’re broke with an empty poke
No easy way to go
Yet somehow you’ll get down the road
To the next rodeo

Ronnie Rossen was a friend of mine, gold buckle don’t you know
He had his rule whittled down to simply “Don’t let go!”
I might have made it too complicated but I knew what worked for me
Ronnie had his rule of one; I had my rule of three

Keep your tail in the middle and a leg on each side
Don’t hit him with your free hand
If you can add a little bit of style
They’ll strike up the marching band
You might die young when your bell is rung
But you can tell the Judge of the Dead
You’d do it all over if you had the chance
You’re proud of how your life was led

(fade)
Keep your tail in the middle and a leg on each side
Don’t hit him with your free hand….

4 thoughts on “Rodeo Songs: Take Your Wins Where You Find Them and Keep Your Tail in the Middle

  1. Nice poems, or songs. Got some fine lines in there.
    Dennis is doing much better. He is somewhat awake and they are having problems getting him off the breathing tube. He is having problems with that. They are checking twice a day, but do not want to rush it and have to put it back in. He was trying to talk a little to us, which is just about impossible with a tube down your throat. The infections are just about gone and he is looking much better. I will go over again Sat.

  2. Thanks (re the poems, or songs).

    Good news on Dennis, especially the double celebration part bout the infections being on the way out. Sounds like he’s got some doctors with common sense, too. Thanks for keeping us posted.

  3. Thanks, Sha. I may post on YouTube eventually, but no telling when–it could be years from now. I haven’t had the time since March or so to practice the guitar, a necessary prerequisite (duh) to recording the songs. They do have melodies (a capella), but it takes a while “whenever” I get around to working up a set of guitar chords to fit them. With the “stuff” piled high on my plate–including the publication of Tam the Tall Tale Teller (ASAP) and other books later–YouTube has slipped down to a pretty low spot on the totem pole.

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