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How Mam Got Her Groove Back

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After Ruthie’s death, my mother was, as you would expect, very, very depressed. But then Christmas came and went, and she had an idea. From The Little Way Of Ruthie Leming:

“I think,” she told me, “That I’m going to ride that bull.”

“You what?”

“The mechanical bull at the Blue Horse. I think I’m going to ride it on Friday night.”

“Mama, are you out of your mind? You’re 68 years old. When was the last time you were in a barroom?”

“Hannah said that I should ride that bull. She was just messing with me, but I don’t know, it sounds like a fun thing to do. I feel like I’ve turned a corner. I think it was the candles. I told Hannah that sounded like a good idea, and she put it on Facebook. Now she’s got about forty people saying they’ll come out and watch me do it. You want to come?”

On Friday night, there was a rowdy scrum of Mam fans crowded into the back end of the Blue Horse, a laid-back but respectable honky-tonk with a handsome bar, a pool table, and an air of good cheer. When the bright blue inflatable pallet surrounding the bull began to rise, Mam’s moment in the neon spotlight of the beer signs arrived.

“Go Mammy! Go Mammy!” the crowd chanted. Grinning broadly enough to swallow her ears, Mam, wearing a baggy red sweater and a pair of tight jeans, donned a straw cowboy hat and climbed onto the spongy pallet. But the years had not been kind to the six-time grandmother. She couldn’t figure out how to mount the metallic beast.

Big Show came to the rescue. He gallantly offered his cupped hands as a stair step. This didn’t work. Then Show seized Mam by the thigh and, with a mighty shove, hoisted her atop the bull. He gave her bottom a robust slap, and wished her luck.

“Merry Christmas!” she cracked.

With a big smile we hadn’t seen in ages beaming from her face, Mam lifted her cowboy hat high above her head as a signal for the bar owner to start the bucking.

The bull rocked back and forth gently, like an aged Holstein trundling out to pasture. Mam rolled with it, pitching and yawing and, incredibly, failing to fall off. She lasted almost 30 seconds before tumbling onto the pallet below, roaring with laughter. The crowd whooped and hollered, helped Mam to her feet, and engulfed her with hugs, backslapping, and words of encouragement.

She stayed till one in the morning, singing karaoke with Hannah, and for the first time in a very long time, having a blast.

In the photo above, Big Show helps Mam climb up onto the bull. Little Way is a sad book, but it’s also a book filled with joy, like what you see here.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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