Applejack was drunk. Not hammered, but enough to be getting surly. We were sitting in some forgettable Irish pub near Penn Station and she was going on about how hard life in Equestria could be. In town for BroNYCon, the tough girl of the My Little Pony world had grown tired of signing autographs and had snuck away from her adoring fans to enjoy a drink. I had been sitting at the bar when she walked in, sat down next to me, and started chewing my ear off.
Empty shot glasses littered the bar in front of us, and Applejack’s breath reeked of brine from the dozen pickle backs she’d put away. “You ever seen Applebuck Season?” she asked me, her mane making a faint swishing noise as her head bobbed back and forth. “You think Stutterfly helped with that harvest? Always playing with her forest friends. You think that bitch Rarity is doing anything but combing her tail all day?”
She gulped down another shot of house whiskey and pointed her hoof at me for emphasis. “You think climbers are tough?” She gestured over to Madison Square Garden where the Professional Bull Riders event was going on. “You think those stupid cowboys over there are tough? Horseshit. Ponies are tough. Ponies are tougher than anyone,” and then she burped, vomiting a little bit in her mouth, and swallowing it back down.
I pulled down the foam rubber ciabatta below my mouth and took another sip from my Maker’s Mark. My chicken and Brie sandwich costume was hot and uncomfortable to sit on a bar stool in, but when you’ve got a unique fetish you take the good with the bad. I’m sure those guys you wear horse tail butt plugs don’t always enjoy that either, but we all have our crosses to bear.
Applejack was still going on about what a bunch of redneck pansies those chumps in the PBR were when I looked behind her and noticed the seven foot tall steer looking mighty pissed at having his great sport denigrated. His name was Viagra Thunder on account of a marketing deal his owner had struck with Pfizer, and he was known as one of the toughest bulls in the game. He wasn’t just angry, he was mean, always trying to give riders a bit of the horn if he could after he’d bucked them, and stomping on them once they’d hit the ground.
Viagra Thunder leaned in real close to Applejack’s muzzle and growled, “Listen here pony. I don’t like what you’re…” but before he could get another word out, Applejack knocked back another shot of brine and then blew pickle juice all over Viagra Thunder’s face. At this, the bar went silent, all eyes on Viagra Thunder waiting for him to massacre this little pony who had the gall to insult one of the toughest steers to ever have his balls bound in a bucking strap. Applejack, obnoxious twit though she was, did not deserve the viscous curb stomping that Viagra Thunder would have given her, and I knew I had to act fast. Thankfully, at that moment I remembered one of the deleted scenes from the 1994 cinematic classic 8 Seconds, starring the immortal Luke Perry.
I leapt between Applejack and Viagra Thunder, my comically oversized white-gloved hands pushing them apart. “Round Robin Rodeo!” I shouted, looking at Viagra Thunder and silently praying that he’d honor this obscure passage from the Bull Rider’s Code. The rage in his eyes dimmed a bit while he processed what I’d just said and then his gaze slowly drifted from the pony he’d been about to murder, to this foam sandwich-suited man, this outsider who had just quoted from the holy Book of Bull. “In the arena in 20 minutes,” he demanded, and then turned and walked out of the bar without another word.
Applejack looked at me, queasy and confused. “Round Robin Rodeo is an old way of settling disputes like this,” I explained. “It’s like the rock, paper, scissors of the Old West. The three of us enter the arena and take turns. Everybody rides everybody, and whoever has the best combined score as both rider and mount is the champion. And then we’ll know. Then we’ll know who’s the toughest of them all: pony, bull, or sandwich.” And so Applejack and I walked over to Madison Square Garden, where Viagra Thunder was waiting in the arena, but what happened inside is a story for another day.