Never set your cowboy hat on a bed. Don't wear yellow in the arena. Shave before a performance. Never compete with change in your pocket (because it might be all you win).
These are all fine examples of rodeo superstitions.
And, by all means, try not to leave the arena in an ambulance. Unless you are one of the Crawley brothers, or their hauling partner, Jeremy Melancon. Then it's OK. Because these three almost always leave the arena in an ambulance.
A few years back, during some down time at a rodeo in Wimberley, Texas, Melancon struck up a conversation with the ambulance driver, because rodeo cowboys always are striking up a conversation with somebody, and the ambulance driver just happened to be the closest somebody.
"Mind if I take a look inside?"
Sure, go right ahead, the ambulance driver said.
And after Jeremy Melancon resisted the temptation to turn on the siren and the flashing lights, he saw there was a lot of room inside, where you could put in some bunk beds and a shower and maybe even a microwave oven, because he had this buddy who worked at a body shop who specialized in horse trailer conversions because, hey, somebody has to do it.
And so Melancon asked Sterling Crawley how he would feel about traveling around the rodeo circuit in an ambulance. Sterling, who was going to school at Sam Houston State, said count him in, probably because college kids always are looking for a new adventure/ways to party. And, in this case, also to save money on a room at Motel 6.
This was why Sterling and his brother, Jacobs, who was enrolled in classes at Texas A&M (think of him as Johnny Rodeo), would take their swimming trunks to the arena. And then after they were through riding broncs, the brothers would shower by finding a water hose out back and turning it on each other. This is the honest truth.
There was one small problem: Where does a cowboy find a used ambulance with low miles and E-Z terms?
But Melancon found this place, on the New Jersey side of Philadelphia, so the three of them flew into Philly, leaving their cowboy hats at home (but not on the bed) so as not to freak out the skycaps and the baggage handlers. And after they blew up an engine test driving one of the used ambulances, they negotiated E-Z terms on another one, a 1993 model. They drove it 27 hours home to Texas, sometimes blasting rock music, sometimes the harder country stuff, through the loudspeaker once they got out of the city.
And when they were traveling through Nashville, they used the loudspeaker to tell a guy his gas cap was missing. But the guy didn't believe it or ignored them, because most people, even in Tennessee, aren't used to ambulance drivers shouting at them (and laughing) through the loudspeaker.
As much as Melancon, who is not competing at the National Finals Rodeo, and the Crawley brothers, who are, would have liked to keep that loudspeaker and the siren and the flashing red light on top, they had heard law enforcement frowns on that type of thing. So when Melancon's pal at the body shop put in the bunk beds and the shower and the microwave oven, he took out most of the cool ambulance stuff and painted the whole rig a deep black, deeper than a cloudy Texas night.
But the cowboys left the "death clock" hanging on the wall, though they removed the battery - being rodeo cowboys and all, they thought to leave it running might bring a heap of bad karma and mojos, more than even leaving their hats on the bed.
So this is how Jeremy Melancon and the Crawley brothers roll - in a converted ambulance that sleeps three cowboys comfortably, or around seven to nine buckle bunnies.
(Actually, they all have girlfriends, and there's never been seven to nine buckle bunnies inside; at least that's their story and they are sticking to it, though Jacobs had this mischievous look in his eye when he swore it.)
Except this week, they're not rolling like that. This week, Sterling and Jacobs rolled from Stephenville, Texas, to Las Vegas in a van, because for the National Finals they are wearing these little rectangular "MGM Grand" patches on their rodeo shirts. This means they get to sleep in a bed instead of an ambulance and won't have to worry about showering with a hose at the Thomas & Mack Center.
I would call Melancon and the Crawley brothers the "Mother, Jugs & Speed" of the rodeo circuit, but that's a really old movie about ambulance drivers. And whereas you might get volunteers for the Bill Cosby and Harvey Keitel roles, who among the three is gonna play Raquel Welch?
So maybe you should just refer to them as pro rodeo's "Ghostbusters" and leave it at that.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.