The skating rink and the deer roper

By Gerre Joiner | Published Wednesday, January 15, 2014

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Almost every old-timer remembers when, over 50 years ago, a few entrepreneurs would travel through the country, find a good spot in a small town (one without a lot of high-class social events to work with), erect a tent and create a skating rink.

Gerre Joiner

Gerre Joiner

Decatur was such a place 50 years ago. The skating rink stories abounded at the coffee shop this morning. But almost nobody there remembered the material of which the floor was made.

One friend remembered that the floor was sloped toward the center, but nobody remembered if it was plywood or some other product. Whatever the product, the sections were kind of unfolded to make the skating surface.

Another friend remembered that there were ladies who performed in an event much like today’s roller derby. I think the reason the guys don’t remember the floor is because they weren’t looking at the floor. They were looking at the ladies.

Someone mentioned the drizzle of rain coming down outside the coffee shop. Someone asked our friend, DPS Sgt. Lloyd McKinney, if it was true that during the first few minutes of a rainstorm, the streets and highways are dangerously slick because of the oily film on the road surface, causing many accidents.

Sgt. McKinney said, “Yes, that is true.”

Another man (who spoke with authority) asked, “Did you guys know that there is more oil spilled on the roads of our country every day than was lost during the Exxon Valdees oil spill?”

We were stunned. This friend had reported this information with such clarity and confidence so that no one contested … anything. When I arrived at the house, I was still thinking of this bit of trivia. Then it hit me.

The name of the infamous oil tanker was the Exxon Valdez. With 10 or 12 guys listening – most of whom would argue until sundown about the tiniest detail of the most insignificant story – nobody knew the name of the ship that had released so much oil on the coast of Alaska in March of 1989.

Most of us coffee drinkers don’t remember a lot of stuff. I’m thinking some of our regulars remember the names of the roller derby ladies, though.

Then Delbert White asked Rodney Lisby to tell the story about roping the deer. I think that’s when I got my phone out so I could take some notes. This sounded like something I could use!

Here’s the story:

Rodney was a mid-20s guy working on the Halsell Ranch spread out from Graford in Jack County. His daily responsibilities took him and his horse through a gate about 100 yards from a secluded draw.

For several days, there was almost always a good-sized buck deer in the draw. On one especially meaningful day, Rodney decided that he would see if he could test, 1. his horse’s speed and 2. his skill as a roper.

He latched the gate, built a loop, kicked his horse to top speed, approached the draw, surprised the deer, chased him a few seconds, and then dropped the perfect loop over his horns.

Rodney tells with vivid recollection that the horse was spooked by the sounds made by the frightened buck. Is it a “scream” when a deer is scared? Is it a grunt? (No. I think a grunt is the sound a buck deer makes during another part of his life cycle.)

Anyhow, the horse was spooked. He danced around in a tight circle, wrapping the rope (attached to the saddle horn) across one of Rodney’s legs as he sat in the saddle, behind the cantle, then across the other leg.

Rodney realized quickly that he was in trouble. The horse danced some more. With each spin, the span of rope between the deer and the roper grew tighter … and shorter.

The combination of a buck deer at the end of a tight rope, a scared/spinning horse, a saddle-trapped cowboy and a knife in the bottom of a deep pocket are the makings of a great story.

Rodney finally got the knife out and cut the rope. For a few days, he saw the deer dragging 20 feet of the rope he bought as a 30-footer.

Gerre Joiner is a semi-retired church musician and has lived in Decatur since 1999.

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