benny reynolds

It didn’t seem fair

to the horse

trying to buck him off,

Benny’s feet almost dragging

in the arena dirt. Literally

he was larger than life

for this butch-waxed,

popcorn muncher sporting

four-inch rolled-up cuffs

on his husky jeans.

Benny Reynolds ruled

the day all around

at the Powell County Rodeo:

steer wrestling, bull riding,

saddle bronc and bareback,

he dwarfed the stock,

made it look too easy.

And since the Old Man

had wrangled horses

in the Big Hole with Johnny,

Benny’s older brother,

he took me behind the chutes

with him when he went

to congratulate the Kid

and check in with the Melrose

boys. Of course I did

and didn’t want to go.

I felt embarrassed, unworthy

of meeting someone like that,

somebody of mythic stature: a King,

the Superman of Montana

Rodeo. I hung back a step

behind my dad, peeked

around him, felt my face

go red when Benny’s eyes

caught mine and he smiled at me.

John waved us in and offered

my dad a beer. Benny sat

on the opened tailgate of a pick up

truck, stuck out a huge paw

the size of my baseball mitt

and shook the Old Man’s hand.

He was all angles

under that black cowboy hat

and those arching eyebrows,

big boned, long armed and legged,

even long jawed. But all those

oversized features seemed necessary

to support his huge grin

when my dad kidded him

about “drawing all nags.”

He blushed, shockingly shy

as me, and nodded his head,

stole glances at the crew-cut little-

fat-kid while Johnny and the Old Man

sipped on Great Falls Select

and reminisced about names

I didn’t know and days working

on hay rakes and beaver slides.

Benny was quiet. He listened

and smiled. He did remind me

of “a kid” in a giant’s body.

He was what every child hopes

a hero will be—gentle,

kind, all modesty, humility,

and strength—possessing super-human

abilities—yet capable of calming

a panicked colt or scratching

a half-feral barn cat behind the ears

before putting out the lights

each starry, big-sky night, then

snuggling into his mama’s arms.


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