The Day Andy Giff was Champion of the Montana

There was a little quiet and a thump from down in the wooden chutes and I saw my Dad bob up behind a gate, then let himself down easy, looking down at the horse under him, one hand holding for a minute to the top of the gate. I knew it was him because of the narrow brim Missouri Stetson that nobody else wears and the white shirt he was wearing. “Little trouble here folks,” the announcer said, and the loud speaker popped and crackled. Carl and Stevie, on the other side of Mom, were pulling on her arm and still asking for pop, but she just let them tug and sat straight and stiff, chewing a little on her lower lip and a knuckle; her hand shaking.

And then the gate was open and a horse was out, lunging, with my Dad up on her, arm back over his head, spurs set over the shoulder, toes out. The horse stopped with a heavy grunt and put all four feet down hard, sudden, and started those bone jarring, stiff legged, jumps and twists, coughing a bronc squeal every time she came down, her hind legs kicking out at the sky, my Dad leaning back, staying with her, spurs raking from the knees, shoulder to flank, pulling that bronc back under him every which way it went, his body leaning back then lurching forward and sitting back into the saddle with every jolt. And then he was near us and the crowd was starting to cheer and come off their seats. The hair on the back of my head tickled. Mom was standing up and screaming “Andy Andy ride ‘im Andy. Stay with im.” Stevie and Carl on the other side of her just gawked up at her like she had lost her mind. “Jesus, Jesus,” my aunt was saying in a soft voice “Jes Us Christ, that boy can ride.”

I still remember it that way and remember my dad walking out of the dust after the pickup man had him and he slid over the rump of pickup pony, walking back up to the grandstand, reaching around with one hand then the other to unbuckle the leggings of his chaps as he walked, with that whole crowd applauding.

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