around to him and laughs and says, "Man, you in a lot of trouble."
bull ain't going to give you no show for the money. Second, he going to try and
kill you when you come off him."
What Coffee is
talking about is the paradox of the bucking events in rodeo. In those three
events—saddle bronc riding, bareback riding and bull riding—you are judged 50%
on how well you ride the animal, but also 50% on how well the animal bucks.
It's a factor you have no control over. You can put the best ride in the world
on a bull, but if he doesn't buck you are not going to the pay window.
We arrive at the
arena where, just like a matador getting out of his car at the corrida de toros, Coffee is immediately surrounded by children and fans who want his
autograph. Even though we are running late, he patiently signs for everybody,
including a rodeo groupie (in my day called a Shiny Bright, but now known as a
Buckle Bunny) who opens her shirt and asks him to sign on her bra.
All Coffee says,
as we walk toward the chutes is, "Man, I'm glad she had something on
underneath her blouse."
Coffee came to
rodeo the way most cowboys do: He was born into it. His grandfather owned a
1,500-acre ranch, and his father broke and shod horses in Blanco, Texas, about
50 miles west of Austin. As a kid, Coffee liked to ride bareback, the wilder
the horse the better. At age nine he began competing in rodeos. But after 14
years, he says, "It wasn't a challenge to me anymore." So instead of
dancing on a bull's back for a living, this cowboy started disco dancing in
front of the bull's face—to the tune of I'm Your Boogie Man by KC and the
Sunshine Band. "That's my trademark," he says.
But the job isn't
all Saturday-night fever. He goes to the stock manager and questions him about
the bulls. He already knows the stock, but he leaves as little as possible to
chance. That's one reason he's among the best.
The program begins
with either bareback riding, steer wrestling, calf roping or one of the other
events that keep a crowd in the stands while they wait for the bull riding.
During that time
Coffee is out in the arena clowning around with a calf rope. He's lassoing
women barrel racers after they've finished their ride, bucking-event cowboys
who lean up against the chutes and J.G. Crouch, his partner at this rodeo.