The Code of the West… didn't migrate East, apparently
Wednesday, 04 September 2013 22:38

As a rodeo professional, I conduct business like any other entity: Pitch, Negotiate, Agree, Perform, Recap.  Over the 10 years of doing this, a majority of these agreements have been a-la-Code of the West… on a Handshake.  If an event is simple, I was ok with that.  But if there are intricacies, I use a 4-page detailed contract (complete with cancellation agreements on both parties, etc.)

This posting isn't a sob story, or a whoa-is-me… but it is more of a setting of the record.

Rodeo started from the West, and many people in the business call themselves "Cowboy" and feel that they are privileged to abide by this code:

"The Code of the West was a gentleman's agreement to certain rules of conduct. It was never written into the statutes, but it was respected everywhere on the range. " ~  Ramon F. Adams

From the code: A Cowboy’s word is his sacred bond, a handshake is more binding than a contract.

Here's the preface.

I booked a series of events with a contractor that I have a decade of relations with.  The series was hosted by a committee, who after 7 weeks decided to part ways with the contractor and take over full production responsibilities, and approached me to fulfill my previous bookings through them.  I didn't like how this had played out for my contractor client; it had seemed like he really was getting a bad deal, considering he built an event (competitors, production, personnel, building weekly attendance), and now all of his work was just being taken over turnkey and carried onwards…. 

Boom.  Awkward.  But after discussions all around, I renegotiated and agreed to modified terms (on a handshake).  Not to be confusing, but I was compensated for announcing and music duties, while sound systems were to be provided by both parties (previous contractor and new hybrid committee-contractor) for all bookings, and this plays into the pivotal punchline.

The event changed format from almost a "full rodeo" to a bulls and barrels with specialty acts show.

I sauntered down for my first event with the hybrid committee-contractor.  As it sounded like a stress factory, I offered to provide a sound system the first time at no charge as it was in my truck from the series of events I was at… this was graciously accepted.

The lighter format flew by (with 9 bull riders and 8 barrel racers)… and as we approached the 27-minute mark and were through our first-half schedule and ready for intermission, I jumped on the grenade and did my own "clown act" to save the day by extending the performance.  The entire performance went as well as it could, and all parties were content.


The hybrid committee-contractor had used one other announcer along with myself, and week 3 into this new arrangement, decided that they could handle the duties.  We still spoke.  Things were well.  A couple weeks went by, and I called to verify my last booking.  All was good.  I called the week before to verify again.  All good.  The Monday of, just touched base.  All good.

Text Message: Mom is coming Text Message: Mom is coming

Then… the Thursday before the event, the committee-contractor-announcer texts me (paraphrased): "If you want to do it, you can, but my Mom is coming and I'd like to do it.  Your call".  I was like, "no worries.  Have at 'er."

…. at this point… favour 1: reduced rate, favour 2: no-charge sound system at 1st event, favour 3: give way to the Mom performance, and favour 4: no cancellation fee/charge…. and no hard feelings.  At all.  

So then….(punchline):

A colleague of mine goes to the performance and knew I was supposed to be there.  He asks, "Where's Scully?"… and they go on a diatribe about how I left them hanging, and that I allegedly had the gall to ask to use their sound system and not give them a break… 

Meanwhile, it was all a break, and the deal from the onset.  And I wasn't there because his Mom was coming, and I had bowed out…. 

In summary:

Not that I think any believable story would come out of this podunk camp to our industry, but to be clear, I did not renege on my Cowboy Code-esque agreement, nor was I asking for favours, or aggressive in price.  But, if any story were to come out, I did want to have what I believe to be the truth in print, and showcase the craziness that goes on in business.  

It's ALWAYS the FAVOURS that sting.  I had cheques bounce and then the company go bankrupt with no settlement, well after I had spoke up before they wrote me a cheque for too much… thus saving them money (fictitious money).  I had another contractor take a beating on an event he was co-promoting, asked if he could give me 3/4's of what they owed me and the rest later, and I felt his pain and took half…. and never got the other half.  Here… 4 favours and I'm getting trash-talked to colleagues.

It's sad, but moving forward, regardless of our relationship or your reputation, we will have a handshake, after you sign my four-page contract.  And for sure, I won't call you a Cowboy until I've seen you ride (and I'm as cynical as an A-level English Coach).


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