(Radio Rick Myers, 1975)
Promoters, from Colonel Tom Parker to P.T. Barnum to the high school teacher who organizes faculty fundraiser basketball games, all ask the question, “How can we promote for free?” Throughout my radio career the answer was simple: Create a celebrity event, and invite disc jockeys! Well, why not? Appeal to our ego, and we’ll go anywhere. Plus we’ll talk about it on the radio, which is Free Advertising! Plus radio stations love to get DJs “out in the public eye.” It’ll be fun. Listeners enjoy getting to see what their favorite air personalities look like. Make a good impression and we’ll have more listeners. What could possibly go wrong?
The first mistake is in not asking the question, “Is this dangerous?” But when asked, the second mistake is accepting the answer, “Hey, that’s part of the fun!” Oakdale is the “Cowboy Capital of the World!” But to make sure the world takes notice, they created “The Disc Jockey Calf-Tying Contest.” It’s pretty safe, if you’re a cowboy. You’ve seen this event: A young calf, about 150 pounds, is let out a chute. The cowboy on horseback races out and lassoes the critter. The rope goes taut, the calf is jerked onto its back, the cowboy jumps off his horse, and while the calf is still dazed, ties up three of its legs. Done and done in 6 seconds. It looks easy, so bring on the disc jockeys, and we’ll all have a good time! Out goes the calf, out goes the cowboy on horseback, and out goes the first disc jockey, on foot, falling further and further behind the action. The cowboy lassoes the little doggie and then sits motionless; where’s the DJ? The crowd starts to laugh; this is quite a scene. The doggie staggers to it feet and starts running. But the rope is one big tether, forcing the little critter to run in a perfect circle, around and around that horse. The DJ, not in great shape, runs after the calf, losing ground with each stride. This is Keystone Cop stuff! After a while, the DJ gives up the pursuit, and waves to the crowd as he walks out of the arena. I’m next and I have a plan! Out goes the calf, out goes the horseback cowboy, and out I go. I run straight to the horse! At the saddle horn I grab the rope, and follow it zip-line style while I chase after the running-in-circles calf. That solves one problem. I reach the calf that doesn’t want to slow down. Here I am, skidding along, holding onto its neck until we finally come to a halt. The crowd is having a hoot. The calf is not happy. I’m to reach over the calf’s body, and jerk upward as my knees buckle into the calf’s ribs, tossing it on its side. In that bent over position, 150 pounds is a lot of weight. I manage. Now my knees fall on the calf’s ribcage. The calf is kicking up a storm. My job is to grab three legs and tie them together. With two hands I grab the three legs. My little rope is between my teeth. I need two more hands! I’m supposed to wrap the rope two times around those legs and then cinch up a Hooey knot. What’s a Hooey knot?? One leg slips free, so I start over. Two legs slip free, so I start over. All three legs slip free, so I start over. This goes on for a while. The crowd loves the comedy. Three minutes go by and my time is up. My chest is heaving like I just blew up a truck tire. Several thousand have watched me fail. Don’t try this at home, folks. What fun. Next up is Larry Maher, K-5’s afternoon guy. He liked my “run-to-the-horse-and-grab-the-rope” idea. Down the rope line he goes. The calf jumps up and takes off running. Larry gets to the end of his rope, where he picks up and slams down his calf. All calves have the same DNA, and this one is another kicker. Larry gets right down into this buzz saw of flailing legs, and one hoof kicks him right behind the left ear. Larry is also hapless when it comes to Hooey knots, a rope trick that’s too darn tricky. Soon his three minutes are up.
The crowd’s laughter (this is all good-natured fun, right?) turns to a gasp when they see bright red blood streaming down Larry’s neck. That fleshy part behind the ear bleeds like a stuck pig. (I don’t know anything about stuck pigs, but barnyard descriptions seem to fit here). Larry hadn’t noticed the blood, but three little words got his attention: “Larry, you’re bleeding!!” An ambulance is always present at rodeos. It’s all good-natured fun, right? Today, six stitches and a turban bandage around Larry’s head is all part of the fun. Next week, it’s Celebrity Roller Derby! What could possibly go wrong?
POST SCRIPT: At the Celebrity Roller Derby event, they invited us to come down that afternoon and practice on the banked, oval track. It was a bit tricky, but I learned to go into the corners low and come out high, just like NASCAR. I won the event, mostly because I stayed upright. A KTRB DJ thought you win by knocking everybody else down. He lunged at me; I ducked, and down he went, breaking his arm (hey, it’s all good fun, right?). The Bay Bombers congratulated me, but offered no contracts.