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"The First of the Old Cowboys" by Samuel Vargo 

Samuel lives in Jackson, Mississippi.


© 2004 Samuel Vargo


The day my Uncle Jack lost his balance was the day he lost his life. The way he died was such an exaggerated conceit of the tragic literary figure that it made my poor Uncle look a lot more comic than tragic.

You see, throughout his life, Jack was on a grand championship rodeo ride. The average bull would give up quicker than he'd be thrown off. One announcer said Jack was the only person in the world with no gravitational pull. Some champion rodeo bulls found Jack to be such a riding nemesis that these horned criminals of the bovine world extinguished themselves during rides with ole' Jack. Yep, they belly up and died. Hooves in the air, big pink tongues hanging out like dead sea critters.


Jack was the bravest man whoever lived in Southwest Connecticut. He rode the Connecticut Rodeo Circuit.

Some friends of Jack's told me and my Mom at Jack's funeral that once, a bull that Uncle Jack rode at the Barkhamsted Barn Burner Blast fell over dead when it spotted Jack in the bull pen. That bull, Tornado Mountain, was well over two thousand pounds of insolent, egregiously arrogant beef. The announcer said over the Barkhamsted AM radio station, ole' Tornado must've seen the sacred, golden cows guarding the gates of Hades right after he saw ole' Jack. Right now, Tornado Mountain is buried in a cave somewhere where balance don't mean a whole lot. So much for sad soliloquies.

Ironically, after riding every bull around, including "man" killers who had taken the lives of cowboys, Jack lost his balance playing solitaire on a chair while he was drinking a beer. How he ever fell out of that armchair is a mystery to me and Mom. And likewise, all rodeo fans who ever saw him ride a bull wonder how he could have actually come to such a ridiculous fate, his feet raised in the air, eating cheese popcorn and watching a cowboy movie on the late-late movie show.

The strangest thing about it all was the quantity of water Jack drowned in. A half a teaspoon of water, to be exact. For some unknown reason, the teaspoon was sitting right beside the comfortable chair, on the shag carpeting of the log cabin out in the middle of the woods. Jeez, how he loved that cabin and those woods.

The Ledyard Police believed the whole thing might have been a homicide or a suicide. How does a champion rodeo rider - a man who has been on every mean bull in the universe - fall out of a reclining chair and drown in a half of a teaspoon of water? Under what unnatural law of nature did Jack's short fall out of the recliner put his nose right in that teaspoon? I guess only God and Jack know.

It sure is a strange sort of ending for a man who never knew what gravity was until he took the two-foot plunge from soft cushions to soft shag carpeting.


All I could see at the funeral was ole' Jack's parched lips. I could tell he urgently wanted to tell me and my Mom something, even though he was dead. And ever since his death, I haven't brought myself to drinking a glass of water - even with ice in it. I won't touch the stuff even on a very hot summer day. If I drink water, it has to be adulterated - in the form of soda, lemonade, ice tea or some fruity-pied, countrified drink. Heck, even some dirt in the H20 will do - I just can't drink plain water. It's much too painful to swallow and the simple thought of Jack drowning in a half teaspoon of water makes me wonder if there is a God. If there is a God, why would he let this horrible thing happen to such a wonderful lover of wild beasts, women and Northern Diamondback Rattle Worms?








All work is copyrighted property of Samuel Vargo.






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