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Ropers, Milkers, Muggers, and Nuns (Part One)

Featuring Sisters Jim Bob Jesse and Forbearance

By Chuck EtheridgePublished 2 months ago 5 min read

“Wild cow milking is not a sport,” Sister Jim Bob Jesse proclaimed, brows wrinkled. She turned back to her tray and the half-eaten Salisbury steak, slicing it furiously like it had said something blasphemous.

“It is, too,” Sister Forbearance fired back. Her tray was empty, as it usually was three minutes after we went through the line. Her eyes scanned the cafeteria, ever-alert for youthful indiscretion at Galilee High. “Tell her, Pete.”

“I’m not going to get involved in another argument between you two,” I said, then regretted my tone. Sister Jim Bob Jesse is my principal. Sister Forbearance is the senior English teacher. It’s best to have both of them on my side, but, if push comes to shove, I’d rather have Forbearance mad at me than Jim Bob Jesse.

“It’s a simple statement of fact, Pete,” Forbearance said. “You aren’t this wishy-washy when you’re coaching them girls out on the basketball court, are you?”

“He’s won district twelve times. He’s not wishy-washy,” Jim Bob Jesse snapped.

Both glared at each other. Both wore old-style Flying Nun habits despite the murderous heat of the Texas Panhandle summer.

“Well?” Forbearance demanded. As a nun, she’s poorly named. Or maybe she was named after a virtue she didn’t have in the hopes that the Good Lord might help her develop some. “Or don’t they teach you to tell the truth in Methodist Vacation Bible School.”

“Watch it,” I said. Believe it or not, Sisters Jim Bob Jesse and Forbearance are my best friends in Galilee, Texas, which is mostly—like 95% Catholic—despite the fact that they are nuns and the minor detail that I am Protestant. We josh back and forth a lot—especially about religion—but sometimes Forbearance starts in and isn’t joking.

“Don’t let her bully you, Pete,” Jim Bob Jesse said.

The problem was that Forbearance was right and Jim Bob Jesse was wrong. I was wondering how I wound up in the middle—again.

“Why on Earth are we talking about wild cow milking, Sister Forbearance?”

“HAH!” she said triumphantly, sounding like a Ninja who’d just struck a death blow. “You admit it’s real.”

“I never said it wasn’t,” I said, trying not to roll my eyes. It’s a bad idea to roll your eyes around nuns, even if you are a grown man and, in theory, are on the faculty just like the sisters are. “I just wanted to know how the subject came up.”

“The upstairs girls’ bathroom has sprung a terrible leak,” Jim Bob Jesse said. “And the plumber said it’s gonna take a thousand dollars to fix it.”

“Money the school doesn’t have,” interjected Forbearance.

“And she says we can make the money by milking wild cows,” Jim Bob Jesse said.

“Only if you win,” I said.

“What?” Jim Bob Jesse seemed floored. “If you win? You mean it’s real? And I thought that, well, if you made money from it, it’s because you sell the milk or something.”

“No, ma’am,” I said. “It’s a real event. In ranch rodeo.”

“Ranch rodeo,” Jim Bob Jesse asked. “What’s the difference between that and the kind of rodeo you see at the County Fair?”

“Ranch rodeo is where real, working cowboys compete. Those people in the County Fair are professional athletes, kind of like Vince Young,” Forbearance said.

“Or Sheryl Swoops,” I added. Sheryl Swoops is a hero in Texas Panhandle Basketball, both because she helped Texas Tech win the national championship and because she played pro ball. She’s from Brownfield. My girls played against her once. We lost by three, but that Sheryl was something to see.

“Oh,” Jim Bob Jesse said. “Like Sheryl?” The good sister ignores most things secular, but she’s an encyclopedia of knowledge when it comes to Texas women’s basketball. “So these rodeo cowboys? They’re like Sheryl? They get paid to play? They have endorsement with Nike?”

“Maybe not with Nike,” I said. “But with chewin’ tobacco companies and folks who sell boots.”

“But Ranch Rodeo ain’t nothin’ like that,” Forbearance continued. “They’re real cowboys. Plus the events are different. They do stuff like you might do on a real ranch.”

“I thought the people at the County Fair Rodeo did stuff that they do on a real ranch,” Jim Bob Jesse said, wiping up the last of her brown gravy with the last bite of Salisbury steak.

“C’mon,” I said. “When was the last time you were on a ranch and the foreman said, ‘Ed, you walk the fence, Bob, you get 20 head a’ cattle in the truck so we can sell ‘em at the stock show this afternoon, Joe, you go make sure there’s enough hay on the back forty, and Clem, why don’t you go ride that bull for eight and a half seconds?”

“You gotta point,” said Jim Bob Jesse. “But milkin’ a cow? I still don’t see how that’s a sport.”

“How hard can it be?” Forbearance asked. “Milkin’ a cow? I used to milk cows every day when I was a girl. My dad says I was the best milker he ever saw. I bet we’ll win that thousand dollars real quick.” She smiled, happily, visions of dollar signs, or at least decent plumbing in the women’s bathroom, clearly dancing in her head. “I got faith,” she added, a contented smile on her face.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “What you do in a ranch rodeo has nothin’ to do with the kind of milkin’ you did when you were a girl.”

“Naysayer,” Foreberance said, her smile gone. “You ain’t got faith. You . . .”

“How do you know, Pete?” Jim Bob Jesse was looking at me suspiciously.

I was caught. Busted. Big time. But I still tried to wiggle out of it. “I guess it just sounds different.”

Forbearance looked at me knowingly. “You’ve done it, haven’t you?”


About the Creator

Chuck Etheridge

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