There's at least one guy in our regular poker game who could probably play Cowboy Poker, and not because he drinks a lot. No, not all.

Sit 'Em, Cowboy!

Yep, another cowboys column. But in this week's paper version of Unfair Park I write not about Cowboys who catch pigskins, but rather cowboys who dodge bull horns. As usual, it's worth every penny.

I ventured out to the Mesquite Rodeo last weekend to witness nut jobs that play a game called Cowboy Poker. And what did I walk away with? A front-row seat that rewarded me with a great view and moist, brown dirt on my nachos. (Man, I hope that's dirt.) The unmistakable scent of livestock leavings. (Man, I know that ain't dirt.) And, most of all, a new appreciation for the old rodeo barn and the courageous--and don't forget kooky--cowboys who make a living roping, racing and riding animals. These people probably don't share my admiration. But I'd rather hang out with these folks anyway.

In light of Steve Irwin's death earlier this month, I got all serious up in cowboy Jason Williams' face about his mortality and how it relates to playing around with 1,000-pound bulls.

"It's just a reminder of what animals are capable of," Williams said of the Croc Hunter's passing. "It crosses your mind, but not when you're in the arena. When you've got a bull snorting at you, it's pretty easy to block other stuff out."

PETA spokesman Dan Matthews didn't really honor Irwin's death, saying, "It's no shock at all. He made his career out of antagonizing frightened wild animals." But the regular cowboys in Mesquite say their animals are treated like royalty. Cowboy Poker, in which four players sit around a table and compete to stay seated the longest while a Mexican fighting bull is sent their way, uses the same breed of bulls as the ones who trample humans--"Look ma, no hands! No really, I got no hands!"--through the streets of Pamplona, Spain. Mesquite's 10 bulls, however, "work" only about five times a year. What do they do the other 360 days? "Eat," says veteran clown Kenny Petet. "They got the life."

Check out the latest rodeo Sunday on Fox Sports Net Southwest. Look for Cowboy Poker. And notice the color choices in this year's fall Stetson fashion: straw or black. --Richie Whitt

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