Baxter Black: Play like I’m not here
Ranch hands and cowboys often get put in the position of playing host to all manner of guests, reporters, owners grandchildren and bank vice presidents. Dave works on a ranch in south Florida. In the right season Florida looks like the Garden of Eden. He had been asked to guide a notable photographer around. He was shooting pictures for a book of Florida ranches.
I have had much experience with camera crews and photographers. Why they don’t get hurt more often is beyond me! They treat animals like furniture, crawling under them, trying to feed them, touching, pushing, pulling, petting, all to get a good shot.
The photographer, named Simington, discussed with Dave what he was hoping to capture on film, “You guys just do what you normally do, play like I’m not here.”
Well, no self-respecting cowboy with any vanity at all is gonna “Play like he’s not there!”
He’s not gonna kick off in a long trot for two miles and leave the photographer behind, no! He’s more likely to pause a little longer when he stops on a ridge to scan the horizon…striking a hero pose. None of the cowboy crew will be wearing their Tommy Hilfiger sweatshirt, or Dolphin’s baseball caps, either.
Dave took all precautions to protect their guest. He picked the gentlest horse in the string. He adjusted the stirrups so Simington’s size 13 tennis shoes would fit. He cinched him tight, put a roping rein on the bridle, and gave basic steering instructions. Once mounted, Simington was top heavy. He was a tall man, wore no cap and had two cameras hanging around his neck. The biggest one looked like a bazooka!
The crew winded through the Bahia and Bermuda grass, around the palm tree hammocks, down country roads and into the palmetto obstacle course. Somewhere along the way ol’ Gray Dog, Simington’s horse, had enough of the off-balance, jaw-jerkin’, foot slappin’, click-clackin’, snip-snappin’, slow-stoppin’, jerk-jabbin’ contraption on his back.
Dave said it was painful to watch; Gray Dog bucked through the palmetto like a ping-pong ball in a pinball machine! Simington dropped the rein…he was tryin’ to grab the saddle horn, two cameras swingin’ around his neck, the saddle horn, a nylon camera bag as big as a hound dog, the saddle horn, a fanny pack full of fruits and nuts, the saddle horn, his canteen full of papaya juice, and…the saddle horn.
Like a loose cannon on the deck of the Titanic he rocked and rolled, heaved and hauled, swerved and swayed, gee’ed and hawed, then, in a perfect example of an ancient Grecian two-step catapult, Simington went straight up, feet still in the stirrups, seemed to pause standing on the pommel, then was ejected out into space. With all his accoutrements, in mid air he looked like a satellite spreading its solar panels!
“What did you do?” I asked Dave, with some modest concern.
“Well,” said Dave, “Wasn’t much I could do. He crashed, rolled over and went to pickin’ up the pieces of his stuff so…I just played like he wasn’t there.”
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