His First Rodeo A Chéad Róidió

A short story by Dymphna Lonergan (the Irish language version A Chéad Róidió follows below)

His First Rodeo

A large hat was plonked on his head, and a glove shoved on one hand, as an old man took a step forward saying. ‘Is this your first rodeo?’

‘Yes and no’, he replied with a laugh. ‘Don’t be stupid’, said the man in a low rough voice. ‘I am going to give you the most important advice about rodeo now. Hold the strap loose and when you fall off the bull after a second, and you won’t last any longer than that, open your hand. ‘ He turned on his heels and walked out of sight like John Wayne at the end of The Searchers.

He walked the Wayne walk to the railings and stood there waiting his turn. He pushed back the too big hat and straightened his shoulders. Yes, he was finally a cowboy. Not in the United States, of course. But the light of South Australia was as warm as the light beyond in the land of the cowboys. And there was freedom in this country as he had imagined there would be when he decided to leave his home country.

He began humming cowboy songs: ‘Don’t Fence Me In’ and ‘Rawhide’. He felt his pulse race and fear rising. He was sweating, and the sweat was dripping into his eyes. He pushed his hat back and wiped his forehead with the back of his gloved hand. The glove came off, but he caught it in time before it fell on the ground.

He looked around to see if anyone had seen the near mishap.

He was angry that he had not brought his own hat and gloves. But he didn’t know when they left the house that morning that he would be taking part in a rodeo. He knew nothing about rodeos except from the movies. He was only pretending to be a cowboy. Like everything else in his life. He was always pretending to be someone else. Yes, he was a right chancer, but today was serious. This was the greatest challenge in his life. He was on his own out in front of the world.

He looked up under his hat and saw his wife waving her hand and smiling. She pointed to the camera in her other hand. He straightened his shoulders again. Yes, he had married the right woman. A young woman who was happy to emigrate from Ireland with him. He had tried to do so twice before when he left for London but came back to Waterford every time because of the loneliness. He thought then that he was a coward who failed to stand up for himself. That he was still hiding behind his mother’s skirts.

His wife was a Dubliner, with more confidence than he had to go overseas. She was by his side all the time, and now she was ready to take a photo for the most important thing in his life. The day he was on the back of a bull at a rodeo, riding proudly into the arena, and the crowd shouting, and the exhausted bull at the end. He would be able to see the photo instantly with this camera they had bought on the ship from Southampton a few months ago. He would be able to send a copy to his mother in Ireland. She would be proud of him, no doubt.

He started to hum ‘Buttons and Bows’ and felt his confidence rising. The cheery melody, the rhyme and rhythm coming from the radio when he was a child.  He and his mother singing along. Then came the cowboy movies. The best Roy Rogers ‘king of the cowboys’ and his horse Trigger. Trigger doing tricks in every movie, and  Roy Rogers singing, and the white hat he never lost.

He settled the hat again. It bothered him that the hat was not white. He realized that it was not practical to wear a white hat at an Australian rodeo with all that red dust around, but at the same time, in the movies the hero always wore a white hat.

Suddenly he was at the gate and a man was talking to him. He did his best to listen, but the noise of the crowd and the noise of the horses in the arena made it difficult. Then he was on top of the rails with one leg on them and another leg on the back of the bull. He sat down carefully. The bull moved and he remembered the advice to keep his feet away from the bull.

He put his hand under the strap. He opened and closed his hand as he’d been instructed. ‘Listen to me’, said the cowboy who was helping him. ‘I’m not going to open the gate until I get the order from you. That’s “give it to me.” He moved up and down on the bull’s back. The bull was getting agitated, and although he was still scared, he said the important words, ‘give it to me’.

It is said that at times like this you see your life go by fast, or you see your family and your loved ones. But with ‘give it to me’, he saw nothing. He heard nothing. He felt nothing. Next thing he was standing in the arena, a cowboy congratulating him. How many seconds? ’, he asked. ‘Two’. His heart dropped. You had to stay on the bull for at least eight seconds to get a score on the scoreboard. He moved to the exit gate.

After returning the glove and hat, he ran to his wife’s side shouting ‘Did you get them? Did you get photos’?

‘Let’s see’ she said activating the Polaroid. A photo came out slowly, painfully.

‘Are there others?’ he asked looking anxiously at the photo of him standing in the arena brushing the dust off his clothes. Another came with him on the back of the bull, his hat in the air.

‘But what about coming out of the ‘chute?’

‘That’s it’.

His eyes lit up with anger. ‘You only had one job’, he said evenly and turning quickly headed for the car. ‘Fool!’, he shouted out over his shoulder.

On the way home they were silent for a long time. After a while she took the photos out again. ‘They’re pretty good. You were very brave. And we see you on the bull’s back, even though his legs and head are not visible ‘.

‘Me coming out of the gate would have been better’. ‘I could show a photo like that as evidence that I was in a rodeo. A photo like that would be perfect. ‘

Silence resumed.

She watched the evening sun slide into oblivion and sighed.

‘Nothing in the world is perfect’, she said. ‘And no one is perfect’.

‘Not true’ he said, gripping the steering wheel.

‘Roy Rogers. Roy Rogers is perfect. John Wayne is perfect. And Trigger is perfect – for a horse. ‘

The drive continued southwards. It was pitch black. Nothing to see except the yellow car headlights.

Around them, one by one, the stars came out. They say that the brightest stars can be seen in the Australian skies. At the top of a hill, he squeezed her hand. ‘Look’, he said softly. Right in front of them Venus was rising. And just above the horizon, the Southern Cross.

A Chéad Róidió

Cuireadh hata mór ar a cheann, agus lámhainn ar a lámh chlé, agus thóg fear aosta céim ar aghaidh ag rá. ‘An é seo do chéad róidió?’

 ‘Sea agus ní hea’, a d’fhreagair Sé ag gáire. ‘Ná bí amaideach’, a dúirt an fear le guth garbh íseal. ‘Táim chun an chomhairle is tábhachtaí faoin róidió a thabhairt duit anois. Coimeád an strapa go scaoilte agus nuair a thiteann tú den tarbh tar éis soicind, agus ní fhanfaidh tú níos faide ná sin, oscail do lámh.’ Chas sé ar a shála, agus d’imigh sé as radharc leis an siúl céanna a bhí ag John Wayne ag deireadh an scannán The Searchers.

Shiúl sé leis an siúl sin go dtí na ráillí agus sheas sé ann ag fanacht a sheal. Bhrúigh sé siar an hata rómhór agus dhírigh sé a ghuaillí. Sea, bhí sé ina bhuachaill bó faoi dheireadh. Níl sna Stáit Aontaithe, ar ndóigh. Ach bhí solas an Astráil Theas chomh te mar an solas thall i dtír na buachaillí bó. Agus bhí an tsaoirse sa tír seo mar a shamhlaigh sé nuair a bheartaigh sé dul ar imirce óna thír dhúchais.

Thosaigh sé ag crónán na hamhráin a bhain le saol na buachaillí bó: ‘Don’t Fence Me In’ agus ‘Rawhide’. Mhothaigh sé a chuisle ag rás agus an imní ag éirí. Bhí sé ag cur allais faoin hata agus bhí an t-allas ag sruth isteach ina shúile. Bhrúigh sé a hata siar arís agus chuimil sé a éadain le cúl a lámh. Bhí an lámhainn freisin rómhór dó ach, agus is ar éigean a chaill sé í. Rug sé uirthi sular thit sí ar an talamh.

D’fhéach sé timpeall le heagla an bhfaca duine é ag streachailt leis an lámhainn.

Bhí fearg air nár smaoinigh sé ar lámhainní agus a hata féin a thabhairt leis. Ach ní raibh a fhios aige nuair a d’fhág siad an teach ar maidin go raibh sé chun bheith páirteach i róidió.  Ní raibh sé ag róidió riamh ina shaol, ach amháin a bheith ag féachaint ar scannán. Ní raibh sé ach ag cur i gcéill gur buachaill bó é. Mar an chuid eile lena shaol. Bhí sé i gcónaí ag ligean air gur duine éigin eile é. Sea, saghas ‘chancer’ a bhí ann, ach inniu bhí sé i ndáiríre. Ba é seo an dúshlán ba mhó ina shaol. Bhí sé ina aonar os comhair an domhain.

D’fhéach sé suas faoina hata agus chonaic sé a bhean chéile ag cruth a lámh agus ag déanamh miongháire. Chlaon sí a ceann i dtreo an cheamara ina lámh eile. Dhírigh sé a ghuaillí arís. Sea, bhí an bhean cheart pósta aige. Bean óg a bhí sásta dul ar imirce as Éirinn leis. Rinne sé iarracht é sin a dhéanamh faoi dhó roimhe sin nuair a d’imigh sé go Londain, ach tháinig sé ar ais go Port Láirge gach uair mar gheall ar an uaigneas. Shíl sé ansin gur cladhaire é nár éirigh leis an bhfód a sheasamh. Go raibh sé fós i bhfolach taobh thiar de sciortaí a mháthar.

Baile Átha Cliathach a bhí ina bhean chéile, le níos mó muinín aici ná eisean chun dul thar sáile. Bhí sí lena thaobh an t-am ar fad, agus anois bhí sí réidh chun grianghraf a ghlacadh don rud ba thábhachtaí dó ina shaol. An lá ina raibh sé ar dhroim tarbh ag an róidió, ag marcaíocht go bródúil agus é  ag teacht isteach san airéine, agus an slua ag scairt, agus an tarbh traochta ag an deireadh. Bheadh sé in ann an grianghraf a fheiceáil ar an toirt leis an gceamara seo a cheannaigh siad ar an long amach ó Southhampton cúpla mí ó shin. Bheadh sé in ann cóip a sheoladh chuig a mháthair in Éirinn. Bheadh sí bródúil as gan dabht.

Thosaigh sé ag crónán ‘Buttons and Bows’. Fonn gealgháireach, an rann agus rithim ag teacht ón raidió nuair a bhí sé ina leanbh. É féin agus a mháthair ag canadh in éineacht. Níos déanaí bhí na scannáin leis na buachaillí bó. An duine ab fhearr dóibh Roy Rogers ‘rí na buachaillí bó’ agus a chapall Trigger. Bhíodh Trigger ag déanamh cleasa i ngach scannán agus Roy Rogers ag canadh agus an hata bán nár chaill sé riamh.

Shocraigh sé an hata arís. Chuir sé isteach air ós rud é nach raibh dath bán ar an hata. Thuig sé nach raibh sé ciallmhar hata bán a chaitheamh ag róidió leis an méid sin deannach dearg a bhí timpeall ansin, ach ag an am céanna, sna scannáin bhíodh hata bán i gcónaí ag an laoch.

Go tobann bhí sé tar éis tús an scuaine a shroich agus bhí fear ag labhairt leis go práinneach. Rinne sé a dhícheall éisteacht leis, ach bhí sé deacair le torann an tslua agus torann na gcapall san airéine. Ansin bhí sé ar bharr na ráillí le cos amháin fós ann agus cos eile ar dhroim an tarbh. Shuigh sé síos go cúramach. Bhog an tarbh agus chuimhnigh sé ar an gcomhairle na cosa a choimeád amach ón tarbh. 

Chuir sé a lámh faoin strapa a bhí ar dhroim an tarbh. D’oscail agus dhún sé a lámh mar a dúradh leis. ‘Éist liom’, a dúirt an buachaill bó a bhí ag cabhrú leis. ‘Níl mé chun an geata a oscailt go dtí go bhfaighidh mé an t-ordú uait. Sin “tabhair dom é’’.’ Bhog sé suas agus síos ar dhroim an tarbh. Mhothaigh sé go raibh an tarbh ag éirí níos teasaí, agus cé go raibh eagla air fós, dúirt sé na focail thábhachtach, ‘tabhair dom é’.

Deirtear gur ag amanna mar seo a fheiceann tú do shaol ag dul thart go tapa, nó feiceann tú do chlann, nó do leannáin. Ach le ‘tabhair dom é’ ráite aige, ní fhaca sé faic. Níor chuala sé faic. Níor mhothaigh sé faic. Nuair a tháinig sé chuige féin arís, bhí sé ina sheasamh san airéine, buachaill bó ag déanamh comhghairdeas leis. Cé mhéad soicind?’, a d’fhiafraigh sé. ‘Dhá’. Thit a chroí. Ba chóir fanacht ar an tarbh ar feadh ochtar soicind ar a laghad chun go mbeadh scór agat ar an gclár scóir.  Bhog sé go dtí an geata amach.

Tar éis na lámhainne agus an hata a thabhairt ar ais, rith sé go dtí taobh a bhean chéile ag scairt amach ‘An bhfuair tú iad? An bhfuair tú grianghraif’?

‘Fan go bhfeice mé’ a dúirt sí ag brú ar an Polaroid. Tháinig grianghraf amach go mall.

 ‘An bhfuil cinn eile ann’ a cheistiú é ag féachaint ar an ngrianghraf ina raibh sé ina sheasamh san airéine ag scuabadh an deannach as a héadaí. Tháinig ceann eile agus é ar dhroim an tarbh, a hata san aer.

‘Ach cad mar gheall ar ag teacht amach as an ngeata?’ ‘Sin an méid atá le fáil.’

Las a shúile le fearg. ‘Ní raibh agat ach jab amháin’, a dúirt sé os íseal agus ag casadh go gasta rinne sé ar an gcarr. ‘Óinseach!’, a scairt sé amach.

Ar an tslí abhaile bhí siad ina dtost le fada. Thóg a bhean chéile na grianghraif amach tar éis tamall. ‘Tá siad maith go leor. Bhí tú an-chróga. Agus feicimid thú ar dhroim an tairbh, cé nach bhfuil a chosa nó a cheann le feiceáil’.

‘Mise ag teacht amach as an ngeata a bheadh níos fearr. Bheinn in ann grianghraf mar sin a thaispeáint mar fhianaise go raibh mé páirteach i róidió. Bheadh grianghraif mar sin foirfe.’

Ciúnas arís.

Bhreatnaigh sí ar shleamhnaigh na gréine tráthnóna.

‘Níl rud ar bith ar domhan foirfe’, a dúirt sí. ‘Agus níl duine ar bith foirfe’.

‘Níl sé sin fíor’, ar seisean. Greim ar an roth stiúrtha.

‘Roy Rogers. Tá Roy Rogers foirfe. Tá John Wayne foirfe. Agus tá Trigger foirfe – mar is capall é.’

Lean an tiomáint ar aghaidh i dtreo an deiscirt. Bhí sé chomh dubh le pic. Gan faic le feiceáil ach na ceannsoilse buí den charr.

Timpeall orthu, ceann ar cheann, tháinig na réaltaí amach. Deirtear go bhfuil na réaltaí ba ghile le feiceáil i spéir na hAstráile. Ar barr chnoic, chuir sé a lámh ar ghlúin a bhean. ‘Féach ar aghaidh’, a dúirt sé go bog. Díreach rompu bhí Véineas ag éirí. Agus díreach os cionn na spéire, Cros an Deiscirt.

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