One of the channels I get on television has been rebroadcasting rodeo performances in recent weeks. You can’t watch bull riders without gaining a lot of respect for them.
I met some of the best in the sport while working for the Bulletin’s partner newspaper in Stephenville. That’s been almost 20 years ago now. Those few years covering Erath County are a distant memory, but I still have the phone numbers of a handful of rodeo stars who are household names to many of us. I don’t know if they still live in that area, or if they’ve had to change numbers because too many people like me acquired them. But keeping them in my contact list reminds me of the time when I brushed elbows with those stars.
Bull riders endure the most intense and dangerous eight seconds in sports — assuming that they’re good enough during that round to hang on that long. If not, they spectacularly land in the dirt, exposed to the fury of the bull that just bucked them off. It also results in a no-score for that round of competition. I would imagine that lasting the eight seconds needed to complete the ride seems like an eternity.
Most of us probably relate, in one way or another, to how slowly time can pass after doing what we’ve been asked to do during the coronavirus pandemic.
As governmental leaders begin to ease us out of isolation and restart the economy, we don’t definitely know that the ride has come to an end. Will the virus roar back even stronger? Or, have we already done enough to contain the disease? The arguments and speculation rage on, and we should learn the answer before too long.
Americans have endured weeks of restricted activity with mixed outcomes. On one end of the spectrum are folks like actor Matthew McConaughey, who told “Texas Monthly” that he’s having a “(expletive) good pandemic.” He’s been busy filming online television interviews, calling bingo for senior citizens, and creating public service health announcements.
On the other end of the spectrum, many have lost jobs, can’t pay the rent, and wait in line for hours at food distributions.
While my situation isn’t at either extreme, it is closer to McConaughey’s than not. Let’s just say I’m having a “reasonably” good pandemic — not as good as his, but good enough to avoid hardship.
We might have visited our grandson in Austin during April… but didn’t. We might have taken weekend road trips… but didn’t. We would have gone out to eat more… but we settled for takeout.
I’m fortunate. Everyone in our family is doing well. We haven’t run out of toilet paper. We’re missing church services, but the online substitute is meaningful. Our yard will never win any awards, but we’ve never before worked on it so diligently.
As this is being written, no one in our family has been sick enough to even warrant a test for COVID-19. One in-law in his mid-50s died last month after showing symptoms, but the postmortem test came back negative.
An online meme nails it: “We may all be in the same storm, but we’re not in the same boat.” While some sail along comfortably on a yacht, others are in a lifeboat taking on water. That’s tragic.
The sweeping steps Americans have taken are intended to calm the storm. As we emerge from sheltering, our hope is we don’t fuel COVID-19’s spread. While we await the verdict, those living in the “fortunate” category realize how important people like grocery store employees, public safety officials, cleaning crews, truck drivers, and food producers are to a comfortable way of life. They are just as “essential” as our dedicated health care providers and researchers are.
Just like bull riders, everyone is struggling to hang on and ride it out.
Those of us able to wait at home, venturing out only for groceries or medicine, are fortunate indeed. “Thank you” doesn’t begin to express our appreciation.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at email@example.com.