As usual in this series, this blog has nothing to do with woodworking and everything to do with keeping your sanity.
On Saturday, long before the sun came up, Carleen and I hit the road for Winnemucca, Nevada. We stopped at Arock on the way to pick up a granddaughter and a spare, kid that is. After about 3 hours of fighting a snow storm we dropped down into Winnemucca. The reason for the trip was the annual ranch rodeo.
For a lot of years the people” in the know” have declared the American Cowboy deceased. Well, I’d say they did pretty good for a bunch of ghosts. It’s hard to find real cowboys if you drive on the Interstates or hang around the cities. Most of these ol’ boys came from places with names like Jordan Valley, Round Mountain, Denio, Arock, Rock Creek, Tuscorora or Plush. They came out of the sagebrush to have a get-to-gather, try to win a little money and take home some pride for the outfit. Ranch rodeos are based on what cowboys(buckaroos) do on the range every day. Professional rodeo has become a real sport but it is not applicable to the work on ranches. So, every event at a ranch rodeo reflects real life work on horseback. The ranch style team roping uses muley cattle(no horns) and the ropers must rope on leather wrapped saddle horns the same as we do on the ranch. No rubber wrapped horns allowed. This is the way we doctor sick cattle and brand calves in the spring. There is also stock saddle bronc riding. The cowboy has to ride his working saddle. the horses are tough but just like in the sage brush, all that counts is being there when the ride is over. Not a lot of rules and extra points if you can fan him with your hat and turn your head and talk to the judges. Also have team branding where 4 cowboys have to put a paint brand on 4 head of yearllings. They have to head and heel them then switch the head rope to the front feet before the paint brand can be applied. The winning team did in under 5 minutes and that includes switching ropers in the middle. The yearlings had a lot of fun chasing the cowboys as well.The girls did steer stopping where they head a steer and then stop for the time. The little kids had dummy roping and stick horse barrel racing. The calf roping was different from rodeo tie down roping in that the roper had to dally and then take the tail of his rope with him just like we do outside then tie the calf down.
The entries were made of ranch teams, 4 men and one lady. Some of those girls are as good as the men. While there was a winner in each event, the main goal was to win the team award. Now, that’s bragging rights! As you can imagine we had lots of friends there and we did a lot of visiting. The girls took off and did what kids do; they trooped around with the other kids their age and had their own community. Funny part was that they were hanging out with the same kids they go to school with. We don’t spend too much time worrying about our kids here. They’re pretty safe except for rope burns and gravel rashs.
By Sunday night everybody had disappeared into the sage again. Somebody had bragging rights and everybody felt like going back to work. Ian Tyson once described our part of the world as a black hole on the map. We headed home as well, feeling like we had some fun and spent some time with family. We’ll see them all again the 3rd weekend in May here in Jordan Valley for the Big Loop. Hope you can make it.
-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon