Thursday, December 27, 2007

Fun with Christmas Toys

A Rodeo Allegory

Ranching was the only life the seven McDermott boys knew in eastern Oklahoma. Unlike other children in modern America, the McDermott's grew up in a religious home with its most prominent display of, not a large plasma TV, but rather a life sized statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, their spiritual Mother in Heaven.

Mrs. McDermott would tell her children:

"Jesus, our Lord, is both God and Man. Jesus proved this by his many miracles - the most important proof was when He rose from the dead. The Apostle St. Thomas didn't believe this last miracle until he saw Jesus. Then Thomas said to Him, 'My Lord and my God.' As God, Jesus fulfilled the promise of a Redeemer God made to Adam after Adam sinned that day long ago in the Garden of Eden. This is why Christmas is so special - we celebrate God becoming man to save us from the sin we inherited from Adam. He came to correct Adam's wrong and reopen the gates of Heaven for you and me, giving us, as God promised, the New Covenant, His Church. As Man, Jesus - the new Adam - gave the human race a new start and showed us how to follow God's Covenant and how to please the Father in Heaven. Since Christ was both Man and God, He perfectly kept the commandments including the 4th: Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother. Since Jesus is the new Adam, he is our good brother in the human race, therefore we should honor the Father in Heaven and honor our Mother in Heaven, Mary. After all, what Kingdom has a King, but no Queen? When you boys get big, you keep our family photo albums, there are wonderful memories in them. You also keep this statue of your other family member, Mary. She's family too, together with all the Saints in Heaven. Our statues are like our family photo albums."

Childhood memories on this Catholic ranch involved the rigors of ranch life - throwing hay, stretching fence, rounding strays on horseback - but it also included the tranquility of working the land that God created and prayer. As they grew older they became top hands and developed a reputation of fairness at their cattle sales. The harder they worked the land and invested in the gifts that God gave them, the greater their returns in both profit and spiritual growth. This devotion to duty also gave them the reputation of steadfast strength.

However Martin, took this to an irrational extreme for no good purpose. The more unscathed he emerged from each risk that he took, the more self inflated he became. As Martin grew up, his brothers around him matured in the faith while he remained rather prideful and selfish.

The oldest brothers, Peter, James, and John, grew in wisdom and piety. They successfully operated not only the 6,400 acre family-owned ranch, but also their own roping and penning arena. They volunteered to help neighboring ranchers brand and inoculate their cattle, as well as train other green cowboys to master the trade of horsemanship. The arena was also wisely used to hone their own roping, penning, and cutting job skills. All three gave thanks to God for the healthiest livestock in the state. God blessed each and every endeavor from these eldest sons and they never forgot to return God praise and thanks. They did this partly by serving at daily mass and by generously providing for their aging parents and the needs of those less fortunate around them. The McDermott brothers grew up knowing that God helps His friends, not his enemies. Although not all the brothers were as steadfast.

This morning began as usual with a low Latin mass at 0600 in the country chapel of Immaculate Conception Church.

The previous day, Martin managed to talk a professional stock contractor into letting him kennel two of the world's most popular and rankest bulls from the PBR Circuit named Vanity and his next closest kin, Pride.

Martin was much too eager to tempt fate against these dangerous beasts and even enticed his younger brother into giving his two new acquaintances a whirl in the arena. The twins, blinded by glory, wanted their own piece of the action by doing some rodeo clowning against the bulls.

Today, they offered their two younger brothers a quick trip from mass to the arena on their ATV's zooming past their older brothers who orderly walked the distance to the church.

As Peter, James, and John departed from mass blessing themselves with holy water, Martin the twins and his younger brother left in a raucous belch of exhaust from their ATV's, whooping "Let's take 'em boys!"

They arrived excitedly with their reckless ambitions for glory and daring buffoonery and to see their first glimpse of the world renowned bulls.

With a leap and a holler, the two younger brothers hastily threw their gear over the fence and dove after their fame.

While George gathered his gear he felt a whoosh under his hat and turned to watch Martin faceplant in the manure tilled earth of the arena. Shaking his head, George asked, "You okay?"

As they were gearing up George admonished Martin for his usual recklessness saying, "You know, you've gotta stop acting like you're invincible." Martin retorted, "Don't you remember that I'm older than you? Let me give you some experienced advice little brother: let a real man instruct you in the ways of life."

George replied, "Great! Where can I find one?"

After gearing up they met up with the twins who, in the meantime, outfitted themselves as rodeo clowns, ready to take on the Brahmas. They looked at the bulls and discussed the animals bucking patterns.

Vanity, a tan colored, shy looking bull, appeared harmless, young, and inexperienced, but once it was tried, would lead every bull rider down a long perilous journey through the arena. Vanity would toy with his passenger, deceptively breaking out of the chute into a predictable straight buck, deceiving the rider into thinking he can easily cover the 8 seconds and impress a full crowd. Only at 7.8 seconds when the rider thought that he triumphed in glory and honor would the bull finally dump its rider with a dramatic belly roll in full spectacle of the grandstands.

Meanwhile Peter, James, and John arrived and began a similar discussion about the popular, experienced, and notorious bull, Pride, as the bull watched out of the corner of his ugly worn out eye.

Peter leaned against the gate and explained, "Out of the seven deadliest bulls in the world, Pride has killed more men then all seven combined. There's nothing deceptive about him, you know his moves, a powerful jerk out of the chute, then he goes into a rage of twisting and spinning - always to the left - and once he's got you off he belows in triumph. It takes advantage of any mistake the rider makes. If the rider shows one flaw, Pride will eventually exploit it to your ruin. Boys, there's nothing worse than Pride. It's as if the devil himself invented him." At that the bull quickly spun around in agitation of the cowhands behind him and snorted loudly. The three brothers, all in unison, exclaimed, "Whoa!!"

Peter subsequently turned to his reckless younger brothers and cautioned, you boys better think again before trying to take on Pride and Vanity. Martin scoffed and hollered back, "load 'em up".

George was first to ride and he picked Vanity. He admitted, "Vanity appears a little less experienced, but Pride . . . well, I'm just not that brash to say I can stick a spur into him."

Peter, James, and John stated, "it's your free will, if your mind is that stubbornly set into hooking into one of the 7 deadliest bulls in the world, then we'll oblige." James helped George rosin his rope while Peter cinched it tight across George's palm. Martin merely looked on without even as much as a word of encouragement while, apprehensively awaiting his turn.

The clowns waited impatiently, repeatedly checking the time when George started to give the nod.

James jumped in and said, "Hold it, hold it. George, at least make the sign of the cross before your ride."

George wasn't that foolish or proud to admit that this was probably a good idea seeing that Vanity was a universally popular bull. So George proceeded: "In Nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen. . . . Let's go boys!"

As meek as Vanity appeared, he charged out of the chute with a bang, meanwhile keeping its innocent appearance. It bucked straight down the arena and the ride went surprisingly well for George until he was dumped at 7.8 seconds . . . in front of the grandstands.

George emerged embarrassed and sore, but otherwise uninjured. As he later admitted, "my back hurt, my legs hurt, my arms hurt . . . heck, even my hair hurt."

Now Martin, instead of trusting in the sign of salvation, the sign of the cross, as he was instructed throughout his childhood, superstitiously dug up a used white shirt "for good luck". A superstition similar to what he had witnessed in all the sporting events he had participated in. While he changed, the twin brothers had an idea of their own: to bullfight Pride.

The quick bull turned out to be no match for the bullfighters as the bull first outran, outwitted, then overran the stumbling clown as bystanders covered their eyes in fear.

Pride proceeded to toss one, then another, and another about the arena like ragdolls.

Finally, Pride was lured into the bullpen for Martin's ride. Martin readied himself in the chute, and with his superstitious practice in operation quoted Chris Ledoux saying, "open the gate an itty bitty crack". The next scene summarized Martin's attempt with Pride.

The bull then repeated his rampage of destruction around the arena. Pride didn't care who he hurt. He even hooked into John, flicking him out of the arena and sent James running down the fenceline.

Peter, meanwhile, simply held his ground like a rock holding the rope to the gate.

Martin regained his composure and tried again, this time switching to his white hat. A gesture, he presumed, would bring him better luck.

The superstition again proved costly. As Pride exploded out of the chute Martin's rope twisted over his riding hand. Leaving him "hung up in the well."

James desperately tried to free his hand while the clowns distracted the dangerous beast. Peter even had a close call, although he never left his ground.

Exasperated, Martin gave up trying to ride pride for glory and honor. Instead, he thought he might cover 8 seconds of fame on a seemingly less provocative bull, Vanity. His superstitions continued as this time he borrowed George's riding chaps. With determination Martin completely ignored making the sign of the cross and murmured Frank Sinatra's adage, "I'll do it my way". The gate creaked open and the bull drove it open wide with its broad body.

Predictably, the bull went straight down the arena giving Martin a false sense of accomplishment and recognition. That is, until at 7.7 seconds when, in Vanity's typical fashion, the bull rejected its rider to Martin's embarrassment.

The superstitious cowboy, now fresh out of lucky combinations, save one, rubbed his old black hat for 'good luck' and thought for sure that his everyday working cover would finally produce his desired result. These silly superstitions finally caught up to the young cowboy, who certainly knew better. Vanity must have had enough when immediately out of the gate he dove into the air twisting his torso and causing the rider to slam into the ground with a thud. Then Martin was charged while everyone scrambled to rescue him.

Vanity was surprisingly unstoppable in the arena causing injuries, diving over the barrel, and trampling cowboys.

When everyone emerged they quickly penned the animals and sent them packing back to their owners. Martin, needing his hand amputated, finally admitted self defeat vowing never again to use superstition or to attempt Pride and Vanity.

Years later the brothers donated the ranch to a Carmelite convent in need of a home. Soon after they founded a Carmelite missionary order in following St. Therese of Lisieux's vision.

This time embarking on new, more self fulfilling adventures in life: to conquer not the world's idea of success, but to conquer themselves; and to work, not for their own glory, but for God's.

(Reference of names to real persons are purely coincidental)


Meredith said...

This is GREAT!!! Thanks for sharing it!

trinamom8 said...

I copied this off and will read it to the kiddos tomorrow night. It is a great allegory - especially for the boys. They will enjoy it I am sure. (love the pix! the guy standing on the fence is my favorite.)

trinamom8 said...

The kids really enjoyed your story! I brought them to the computer to look at the pictures: everyone oohing and aahing, and asking when we are getting a rodeo set.

Oh, C identified the seven deadly sins since she is doing that chapter in Baltimore right now,

and E wants to see a picture of George making the sign of the cross!

Salve, sancte parens! said...

Trinamom8: Glad the children enjoyed it. Tell E she can see George make the sign of the cross on the next picture above him leaving the chute. The pictures can be enlarged by clicking over the photo - otherwise, no you can't really see it.

Mary said...

omgsh sean thats brilliant!!! haha! I love it..gosh how did u do it so professionally!