LONG RIDE TO A DATE WITH DUST
ALL over North Queensland this week there will be cowboys driving long distances over lonely roads playing the George Strait song I Can Still Make Cheyenne in their mind.
It’s a song about rodeo and relationships and about how in the end rodeo always wins. It’s a rodeo favourite. One of the cowboys playing that song in his head this week is Normanton stockman Nigel Gilbo, a travelling man if ever there was one.
Nigel, 35, has been working stations since he was 16. He started at Delta Downs north of Karumba, but has worked on most of the big places in the Gulf Country. Now he’s employed on the Stanbroke Pastoral Company’s Kamilaroi Station north of Cloncurry.
Nigel is what you might call “saddle born”. Last Wednesday, with his chaps and bronc saddle in his gear bag he drove out of Normanton for Mount Isa, 500km away.
Apart from the words of that song going round and round in his head, he had only one other thought going through his mind and that was to draw good horses, ride time and use the spurs so that the crowds in the nose bleed section of the arena will be able to hear the ‘ buzz buzz’ of the rowels raking across the horse’s withers. That’s what soldiers might call the battle plan. Rodeo riders always have a plan, but when the lead starts flying the plan goes out with the dishwater.
Nigel will have a plan, but in that lightning strike of time on Saturday when the chute gate flies open there will only be Nigel, the bronc, its eyes as big as saucers, and daylight. For a moment in time, as the bronc looks out at the red dirt of the arena and Nigel looks down at its head, trying to judge which way it will jump, time stands suspended, the universe is still.
And then in a moment the horse explodes from the chute. The red dust flies and the battle plan goes out with the dishwater. Horses and station life, cattle and yard work and long rides to water is what he’s known most of his life.
For Nigel Gilbo there is nothing more natural than putting one boot on the top board of the chute, pulling himself up and over the top rail and easing himself down into a saddle girthed to the back of a quivering bronc.
This is what Nigel Gilbo lives for and it is what he’ll be doing at the Mount Isa Rodeo this Saturday. If he gets a good horse and if he rides eight seconds, he just might make it into the money during the finals on Sunday.
And if he doesn’t make it at Mount Isa there is always another rodeo. There’s always another ‘ Cheyenne’.
SHOW TIME: Nigel Gilbo, 35, has travelled 500km from Normanton to compete in the Mount Isa Rodeo this weekend.