Love of Rodeos
© Copyright 2007
Story by Lin Stone
Most Photographs by Larry Wiggins
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Rodeo is as close to the real thing as you can get and still let an audience participate. Rodeos are fun for anyone in the family old enough to wear a hat.
Why is the rodeo so popular? I don't know for sure, but when I was only 8 years old I would walk eight miles in the dark to work cows with Gene and Ralph Narramore for free when I could have stayed home and earned cash money for driving a tractor. The heat (or cold) the sweat, and the smell, the thrill of working cows with real cowboys drew me like a powerful magnet.
(Note: Click on any picture here to see it in full size)
Then on Sundays we got to do the rodeo in the same arena for fun. Cowboys from 30 miles away would show up for the chance to compete and mingle with those who were good enough to compete. There were no bands, no parade, no music, and no hot dogs or barbecue, but it was a rodeo and a big crowd of watchers would always be sitting on the pole fences just waiting for a chance to yell encouragement and appreciation.
My part was just to punch the cows up for release, but I felt like I was a big part of the program. Maybe I was deluding myself back then, but I know that rodeo clowns like Jim McLain of Duncan, Oklahoma (shown here dressed for work) are a very important part of the attraction rodeos have for us.
As Gene and Ralph got older they would go farther and farther away to participate in real (paying) rodeos, and Gene Narramore ended up being a world champion when I met him again years later. I don't think he even remembered me, but that was okay because I never was a cowboy, and I was only at his ranch then to study the cattle-working corrals he had perfected. (The way he had his designed one man alone could do the work of 15 back when we were kids.)
Rodeos are for cowboys, and those who wish they were cowboys. At the Grand Canyon Ranch when I was 16 we worked cows the old way: find them, rope them, brand them, and turn them loose. At roundup time the cowboys would volunteer to come up there and work with me for a week or so for free. Some of them couldn't rope a crippled cow in a blind alley from a trained roping horse, but when dark settled in and the coffee pot was simmering on the glowing coals their talk always turned to the next rodeo they were heading to, and the ones they had already participated in. I'd sit in the shadows and listen to the awe in their voices. "You should have been there," they'd tell each other.
If they couldn't rope, could they really be cowboys? some people ask. Yes. Gary Jutson defined what a cowboy isn't one time when someone mentioned they had cowboyed with a J.W. Gary raised his eyes and said, "Jim isn't a cowboy." The group silently pressed for details and Gary went on. "One time we were bringing cows in off the BLM and it started raining real hard. Jim got under a tree and waited for the storm to pass instead of tending to the cows."
Like I said, I never was a cowboy; I didn't get under that tree with Jim -- but only because Gary didn't, and not because I didn't want to!
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Look at this next picture below which freezes forever a stirring event that happened recently at the Guymon Oklahoma Pioneer Day Rodeo. Your eyes will naturally go to Kendall Boling with his hands grasped securely on the helm. But if you want to understand the attraction of the rodeo, run your gaze over the face of each and every man caught unsuspectingly in the picture. There's no jealousy to be seen anywhere; you won't even see envy. They are too busy living the event with Kendall. (this picture will expand by clicking on it too.) Even the horses are focused on this one supreme second.
Cowboys who ride in the rodeos are professional athletes just like players in any other discipline. They are out there to win and they want to win consistently. Click on the picture (for a full-sized view) and study the concentration that nine time National Finals Rodeo saddle bronc qualifier Craig Latham of Goodwell, Oklahoma has when he is getting ready to ride in the Pioneer Day Rodeo at Guymon Oklahoma.
Time and again I've seen champions giving away free advice to their competition just like two time World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider Robert Etbauer of Goodwell, Oklahoma is doing here. Now why would anyone in their right mind be helping someone who is competing directly against them? Well, the most important thing every champion has is the drive to win. The second most important thing every champion has is a love for the sport they are in. If this cowboy uses the advice he gets to win the title you won't see any regret on Robert's face, although if you look real hard you might see a trace of pride.
Over the years I've been to hundreds of rodeos, and watched many on television when I couldn't get there in person. The excitement never dies. Maybe the best rodeo ever is Guymon's Pioneer Day Rodeo.
Guymon proudly calls itself the Saddle Bronc Capitol of the World and the Pioneer Day Rodeo certainly proves the point.
This is a FIVE-DAY event that starts on May 3rd (this year of 2002) and will be a gala show of the first magnitude. There are probably more former National Finals Rodeo qualifiers entered up in this rodeo than any other PRCA rodeo. "Generally we have at least 14 of the top 15 in the current world standings in most timed events."
Prize money will most likely equal right near $300,000.00
The (clown) bull fighters return most years, the barrelman (funny man) is new each year and almost always is a recent winner of the PRCA Barrelman of the Year award. "Our bull fighters are generally Jim McLain of Duncan Oklahoma -- and Alan Nelson of Missouri. They have been returning for this special event about 10 years now."
A 5K run is a fun part kick off of the Pioneer Days celebration in Guymon, Oklahoma. Men, women, children, anyone who thinks they can make it almost to the finish line, are invited to participate. Click on the picture to look at the smiles on these faces and you'll catch some of the enthusiasm generated by this event.
Now, one thing that really gets the old juices rolling at a rodeo is the parade. Back when I was a kid sneaking off work to watch the Helzapopping Rodeo Parade the thing I liked best was the candy being flung my way. But even then I took time to notice the two prancing palominos that led the way. Every horse in the rodeo was guzzied up to beat the band. All the trappings flashed with silver and gold and cowboys I'd never seen in a clean shirt before would be wearing white satin shirts and a hand-tooled calf leather vest. Bands pumped out a solid blast of powerful music. Rodeo Queens doffed their hats to anyone who smiled at them. That first parade I went to only lasted about 30 minutes. Today the parade at Guymon Oklahoma is so big it takes two whole hours or more to watch all of it on Saturday morning. How about YOU getting into the parade? "Sure! Anyone may be in it (we do ask that you pre-register, but the honest truth is that we don't turn anyone away). Parade winners get plaques to prove they were beautiful." Call 580-338-3376 to get in.
Rodeos deliver excitement and entertainment virtually non stop. It is a natural time for anyone with talent to show it off. If you can play the fiddle or sing a western tune there will be a time and a place for you to hop on the bandstand with a crowd to watch. The applause is generous and the cheers are spontaneous -- for rodeos truly are a time of rejoicing.
Just where in the world is Guymon Oklahoma, you might ask? Well, I'm glad you asked because that gives me an excuse to tell you. Guymon is found in the skinny panhandle of Oklahoma. Amarillo Texas is 120 miles away to the south. Guymon is about 4 hours northwest of OKC -- 6 hours from Denver and 7 hours from Dallas. You can call the Chamber of Commerce for tickets at 580-338-3376.
Motel accommodations are plentiful and there is a nearby RV park, Southwind RV Park, 580-338-7415.
About the photographer: Larry Wiggins does not have a web site and his phone number is 580 338 7187. Larry is one very nice guy and willing to help anyone get lasting memories, especially of rodeos.
Lin Stone is a professional author, writer and photographer, but obviously not as good with a camera as Larry is. More of his work can be found on http://www.talewins.com/StoneSoup.htm
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Click HERE for MORE great rodeo information. You'll even find John Wayne Clips. You will find photos of Bronc Riding, Bull Riding, Horse Pictures, Ranch, Ranch Rodeo, and a large Photo Gallery on top of all that. Best of all, you'll find an up to date list of rodeo events yet to come.
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