Rhinestones, rodeos, gambling & cowboy manners

Imagine my joy when I realized today was the National Rodeo finals. The national rodeo thing has been going on for the last two week. (I didn’t know such a thing existed, but hey, it’s Vegas, why not?). The casino boss told me to leave the interview early, or get stuck with the masses at the airport.

“They’ve been here the last two weeks,” he said, proceeding to tell me of a gambling man from Texas, who in the 80’s, came to Vegas every weekend. At first, he took coach. When Urban Cowboy came out (John Travolta), his western wear business exploded. He then had 6 western wear stores, the largest outlet in the country. Soon he flew in on his private jet, betting 1-500K a day.

Like all gamblers, he was superstitious, gambling at certain times of the day, with certain dealers, getting FRBR (free room, beverages and rides–rides being limos) to and from the airport or all over town.

As I moved through the eight-row deep cattle line of passengers, many waiting to be touched and prodded at security, I couldn’t help but notice the silver belt buckles the size of Texas pancakes, all things rhinestone (including a nose-ring I saw on a contemporary cowgirl), and a sea of hats. It pushed me back to the story I’d been told earlier that day.

“What happened to him?” I asked my casino boss subject when he stopped. He pulled one corner of his lip up, his face, tan from golf, rippling up to the crease of his eye.

“He lost everything,” he said. The western wear trend didn’t last forever. It went out about the time Travolta started gaining weight. The man’s gambling habit remained. Soon, he hocked the stores, then the plane. “Then the house, and his second home,” the boss related. “His wife left him and took the kids,” he finished.

I mosyed closer to the TSA agent, looking for a rod with an electric device, a bad odor catching my nose. I looked around, wondering if a spectator had gotten a little too close to the bulls. The dinging of the slots rang in the background as I thought about the man from Texas.

“Why didn’t he stop?” I asked.

“Saaaaraaahh,” he drawls, extending my name, the Italian accent still thick, 50 years after leaving New York. “Let me tell you. There are three types of gamblers. The man who wants to own the hotel and the Rolls Royce. He’s a loser, but he stops when the money is gone. Then there is the man who has a fight with his wife or girlfriend. He’s also a loser, but stops when the wallet is empty. The last person who gambles is the man who wants to keep playing, no matter if he wins or lose. This is the person who loses it all.”

I, being the sheltered San Franciscan-gone quasi-Maple Valley cowgirl, asks why he can’t win it back.

He clucks, shaking his head at my naivete.

Cowboy Etiquette“Saaaraaahh,” giving me a look like an errant child, about to be given a stern look, the one he’d give his daughter when the curfew is forgotten. “It’s the law of averages. Everyone can win at any given time. Anyone can will a million. But if you stay, you will lose it back.”

I’m dubious.

“Always?” I ask.

“House odds are in our favor,” he shrugs, opening his palms, spreading them wide. It was Joe Pesci in Casino, except at three forty-five in the afternoon, it was real. “If you get up and leave, you keep it. But if you stay, it’s ours.”

“Did you ever hear from him again?”

The man, wearing a chestnut colored cashmere jacket, nearly the color of his tan, shook his head. “He sure was polite though. Good manners to the very end.”

I thought about his last statement as I walked past the woman and the man standing at the legalized gambling area within the terminal. He wore an overpowering off-white, butt-length long-sleeve leather jacket with tassles draping from wrist to shoulder then down to wrist. She boasted a never-before site: a humongous, rhinestone butterfly across her derriere, so loud and glittery, that when I reached to get my ringing cell phone from the pocket of my purse, I accidentally removed the lipstick and some jewelry that scattered across the floor. (it was quite a butterfly. Mariah would have been proud).

Mortified (and running late) I hurried to pick up the items that had gone in all different directions. Two men and one women stopped to help me–the men, both wearing cowboy hats, gave me a “here you go ma’am’  and a simple ‘ma’am,” while the woman winked.

This act of wonderment was complimented by an unheard of event. I’m sitting in the window seat of the exit row, squished into a twelve inch space due to a person requiring a seatbelt extender, who, bless his heart, was trying to keep within the legal bounds of his armwrests, when a potential altercation arises across the aisle. A man is sitting in the wrong seat–the window in the exit row. Now, exit rows have more leg room than any other row in coach, and are coveted by frequent travelers. I’ve seen fights break out over the exit row, and heard words to make a truck driver blush.

Up walks a tall man in a cowboy hat, and identifies to the man sitting in his seat in the row that the seat is his (very politely, I might add. Sort-of questioning, like, I might have the wrong seat, versus, you are in my seat, get out). A woman (cowboy-man’s wife, I presume) yawns out….”It’s ok honey (referring to the man, not her husband), it’s no problem for us. We can switch with you.”

The tall cowboy nods his head, shrugs his shoulders and moves on. (I’m mesmerized at this point, and can’t help watching the rest of this play out). He sits down, scrunches his legs, all the while, keeping his cowboy hat on.

At that point, the only thing that came to mind was writing a book called Cowboy Manners (no such book exists with that title btw). Wouldn’t that type of civility be great?

I re-situated myself against the window, trying not to be irritable at my lack of room. Then I think, ‘I need to channel some cowboy mannrs, and all will be well in my personal universe.’

I’ve been channeling now for the time it’s taking me to blog. It’s worked. No gambling, but cowboy manners for me all the way.