Tag Archives: rodeo


The Great Basin cowboy population descended upon McDermitt for July 4th, largely because most of us couldn’t afford fuel to drive to anyplace with a shade tree.  The rest of us went because we knew it’d be fun.

Immediately upon arrival, Kyla painted her toenails and I fixed my makeup.  We felt very ranchy.  Next, we slathered sunblock on every area of exposed skin, plus some that weren’t.  You can never be too careful.

After the horse and muley jackpot roping on Saturday, ice chests came out and shade awnings lined the arena for two days of rodeo excitement.  Jim Young made a good bronc ride, but unfortunately it was during the branding contest.  No official score was given, and he declined the reride option.

After the rodeo, everyone gathered at the Say When.  Where else can a person buy 6 mixed drinks for $18.75?  Or order a beer, hand the bartender a $10 bill and receive 2 fives, 2 ones and a quarter in change?  Bars that pay customers to drink are rare.  Actually, they’re probably bankrupt.

The band was good, and free.  Myles looked at my dress and said, “This is a ranch rodeo, not a formal event.”  But it’s so fun to twirl!

After twirling around the street dance until…who knows when, we all took naps and headed back to the rodeo grounds on the morning of July the 4th.  By then, partying didn’t feel like a celebration of a national holiday; it felt like punishment.  But, we powered through to watch the ZX team win the rodeo, then loaded up the trailers.

It takes 4 1/2 hours to get to McDermitt and 3 days to get home.  My traveling partners decided to relive their Squaw Valley days and take the longcut to Elko, through Tuscarora.  What follows is a sample conversation.

Driver (me): Hey, guys, was that the Midas turnoff back there?
Kids in the backseat (Rolly, Jim and Ryan): Oh, no – it’s up here a ways, just keep going.

A few miles later…

Kids in the backseat: Man, I don’t remember this power line being here.  And this turnout wasn’t here before!  I haven’t been out this way in forever!
Someone: I think we missed the turn.

The driver (me) pulled over, just as the tackroom door flew opena nd Jim’s saddle fell out.  We repacked and made it to the resevoir, where we watered the horses and Jake did his impression of a bareback bronco rider.  His mistake was letting the horse out of the pond and onto dry ground.

We eventually made it home, and I consider my trip a success because of two things.  #1: I had an actual, two-person, dialogue-style conversation with Jake Brennan (the one who works for Rolly, not the one who works for Matt Mori).  #2: We didn’t get thrown in San Quentin.  Can’t beat that with a stick.

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A Rodeo Survival Story

We all survived the Spring Creek Ranch Rodeo, and I don’t mind saying just barely.  Luckily, there were no wrecks requiring an ambulance or vet, and the only incident to note involved a cowboy’s right rein breaking during the branding contest.  I won’t mention any names, but he works at the YP, was riding a big Paint horse, and answers to Tim Kershner.  Not too sure what exactly happened, but he finished the event with only half his steering ability and did just fine.

I got “voluntold” to help with the calcutta prior to Saturday evening’s performance.  I’d never helped with a calcutta before, and it turned out that  “helping” meant running a footrace with myself carrying receipt books up and down bleachers and collecting checks from large, menacing women who said they owed $195 while my calculations said $205.  I barely survived.

After my public service stint, I sipped a gin and tonic and mingled.  Katie and I had prettied ourselves up at her house before the rodeo, and between the pre-event cocktails and giggling, I ended up with an Oscars-worthy updo.  I wore smoky eyeshadow, black eyeliner, and a  you-can’t-tell-it’s-not-real-leather biker jacket.  Seven-year-old Anna said “You look like you should be on a motorcyle!”  I felt like a bad a$$.  It was fun 🙂

During the rodeo, I finalized the details of my next job, lined up interviews for articles, conducted an interview, ate some French fries, cuddled the world’s cutest six-month-old (he belongs to you, Becky!), and pinky-swore a high school junior that I’d substitute teach school one day on the rez next year.  I hope I survive.

After the rodeo, we enjoyed smoke-free ambiance and conversation at the Star, then headed to Stockmen’s to dance.  The band was good and the drinks were weak, but due to the chain smokers we were all guaranteed to feel ill the next morning.  We somehow survived.

I decided partway through the night that I would be sober driver, but my change of plans was thwarted when I realized I didn’t have my pickup.  After the band quit, I drank big cups of water and listened to the guys tell stories about getting frapped harder into the dirt by the pickup man’s run-off horse than the actual bronc, starting colts in Kentucky last fall, and drinking in Nashville (“There are twenty-six bars in that town, and we went to all of ’em in one night!  I don’t remember most of them, though.”  Really?  Weird.)  They barely survived.

Finally, Christina and I took the boys to their motel at 4 AM.  One of them offered me a ride home, and I told him Christina was taking me.  He offered again, and I told him if he needed a place to stay, we had two extra rooms.

He looked at me with a level gaze and said, “But, I wouldn’t want to stay in one of those rooms.”

“Well, that’s where you’d be stayin’,” I replied.

“You mean, we can’t just make out for a little while?”

“Um, no,” I said and (because I laugh at everything), I laughed. 

He shrugged and laughed, too.  “Well, don’t be mad at me for trying.”

“Oh, no, I’m flattered, thank you.  But that’s just not going to happen,” I said as I grabbed my purse and headed for Christina’s pickup.

Whew!  I went to bed early Sunday night and I’m teaching third grade today, which is a survival story in itself.  Can’t wait ’till Jordan Valley Big Loop….hope I survive 🙂


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Winnemucca Ranch Hand Rodeo

The best stories are always unprintable, but here’s one slightly censored version of last weekend’s Winnemucca Ranch Hand Rodeo.

I drove over on Saturday morning with Tilly and her boyfriend Jason.  Tilly was in the rodeo, so we left Elko at 5:15 AM in the morning.  It seems Rule #1 of Winnemucca is “All road trips must begin before 5:30 AM.”  Whether people drove from neighboring states, the Owyhee Reservation or ten miles south of the fairgrounds, everybody left in the dark.  It was good conditioning for a weekend of sleep deprivation. 

First stop for everyone seemed to be the Maverik gas station, where rodeo attendees bought diesel, coffee, and potato chips.  Once at the fairgrounds, the contestants loped their horses around and we spectators sipped bloody marys with plenty of pickled vegetables and ate chili fries. 

First point of interest: the horses from the rez.  I gotta say, I like those long, tall, rangy-lookin’ horses!  Such an improvement from riding Texas cutters, where you can actually help your horse travel by setting your feet on and pushing off the taller rocks. 

Horseflesh aside, I didn’t thoroughly enjoy the trade show.  Looking at all the hand-engraved silver, tooled saddles, Millie Hunt-Porter books, and jewlery with no spending money was kind of masochistic.  I took two-year-old Maggie walking around with me, and she would stop, point, and let out a loud gasp of delight every time she saw a dog or another child her size.  Good reminder that the best things in life still are free.

After the rodeo and during the horse sale, I made a great discovery.  If you buy coffee at the concession stand and carry it to the bar, they will pour a shot of kahlua in it for a small fee.  Yahtzee!  Hot toddies saved my cold-blooded self Saturday night. 

After the horse sale, we migrated to Winners Casino.  The Jeff Palmer Band did justice to some rockin’ dance tunes, somebody drank the bar out of Jack, and we got free popcorn.  Most unique line from a guy I’ve heard so far: “It’s 2:13.  Wanna go sleep in a bathtub?”  I think that was his way of saying “It’s getting late and I’m really drunk.  Can I crash in your room?” 

By the time I called it a night (or early morning, whatever), I had two outside horses to ride this summer, a queasy stomach from breathing several decades’ worth of secondhand smoke plus the freshly produced stuff, and a lap dance.  Success all around!

The theme for Sunday’s rodeo was “My eyes are a shade of red no eye drops can whiten.  I’m really craving French fries, but the thought of food makes me ill.  I barely have the strength to crack a beer and sit on my horse/sit in the stands.  At least it’s Sunday and we can go back to work and catch a break tomorrow.” 

I met a staff writer from the Nevada Rancher, got another story assignment, and met a neat braider/cowboy to add to my collection of People to Pester for Stories For My Cowboy Book.  Add a little work-related activity to a road trip and call the whole weekend a business expense.  I love being self-unemployed.

Like I said, the best stories aren’t printable.  As such, I highly recommend going to Winnemucca next March to acquire some unedited stories of your own.  If you’re there, look me up.  I’ll be the girl drinking cofee (wink wink) and laughing way too loudly.

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The Finals Fashionista

 My idea of style is clean jeans and a paisley wild rag, so I really got a kick out of observing how western folk across America dress these days. Sweater dresses, burn-out t-shirts, and rhinestone everything were in for women. Men’s fashion hasn’t changed much since the first cowboy stepped on a bronk: straight-leg jeans, pearl snap shirts and boots.

I noticed several women wearing hairy vests. I’m guessing they’re faux fur, but they looked more like a mountain goat carcass after a rough winter. Their addition to an outfit made otherwise pretty girls resemble blond imitations of Big Foot wearing eyeliner and lip gloss.

A popular and more eye appealing fashion statement is the burn-out t-shirt. Half the material is dang near worn through in a sort of see-through-yet-still-fit-to-wear-to-Sunday-supper kind of way. Girls wear tank tops underneath, and of course they are laden with rhinestone designs. You pay for the whole shirt, but it’s halfway worn out the first time you wear it. Since this style is low on functionality and high on price, I expect it will enjoy continued success in the fashion world.

Purses, wallets and boots in turquoise Holstein prints. This pattern does not naturally occur in the bovine world. What about purses larger than a TSA-regulation carry-on? Ladies, scoliosis is a valid concern here! A crooked spine is not worth the convenience of carrying your makeup bag, wallet, a packet of tissues, curling iron, hair dryer, extra pair of shoes, chicken sandwich and every parking ticket you’ve ever acquired. Be practical and businesslike: shove the parking tickets in the glove box of your pickup like everyone else.

I enjoy the dress-and-boots look. For once I blended in wearing my brown polka dot dress and turquoise Boulets. Usually, I just get funny looks from my small-town California friends, but thanks to the Texas attendees I fit in with the NFR crowd. I support this trend because it’s fun to wear dresses and be girly, but I can’t handle high heels because I trip a lot.

My favorite all-time look of the week: a black felt hat with a string of blue lights around the edge of the brim, Christmas tree style. If that ain’t punchy, I’ll eat my hat. After I unplug it, that is 🙂

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Dancing At The Finals

Good bands were absolutely everywhere during the Finals! With no cover charges, some high-quality boot stompin’ could be enjoyed for free. After the third go-round buckle presentation on Saturday night at South Point, we danced until 3 AM.

As Christa and I made our way to the packed dance floor I said, “Let’s dance one song together, and I bet we’ll have partners by the next one.”

I was wrong. We didn’t last half a song before we were snatched up by a dark-haired guy with a mustache and a guy in a straw hat named Clarence. I adhere to a personal rule of never turning down an invitation to dance, unless he is 1) old and sleazy, or 2) way past drunk and possibly a danger to my health if he misjudges a dip. Whenever a guy approached our table of girls and asked a general, “Would any of you ladies like to dance?” I gave my friends approximately three seconds to respond before I jumped up and said “Yes!”

Dancing with new partners improves my horsemanship. Both require timing, feel and balance. Learning to adjust to the cues of a brand-new leader sensitizes my ability to feel and respond to my horse. It’s communicating without speaking. The occasional “Ouch, you ninny, that was my foot,” is a sentiment applicable to both activities.

I took a break and observed the other dancers at South Point. Texas two-steppers took the outside circle of the dance floor, his hand on her shoulder and her arm around his waist. West coast-style swing dancers occupied the middle, doing the pretzel and lots of spins. Big, strong guys flipped girls in boots over their arms, pretty much carving out a spot wherever they were. There’s something about a pair of nipped toe Luccheses coming at a person that makes ’em show some respect and yield.

The dancing reminded me of the good ole days in Chico, when we’d hear a lively song on the radio at house parties and suddenly the couch and kitchen chairs were empty. Good to know there are enthusiastic, skilled dancers all across the country.

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Made It Home

I gave up counting on my fingers to see which day of my trip it is.  I have no idea.  As much fun as Las Vegas was, I’m sure glad to be home!  The lights of Stockmen’s never looked so good.

I’m very grateful to my job at Capriola’s, because going to the Finals was a fantastic opportunity and I soaked up every minute of it.  I caught up with old friends, made new friends, came up with some leads on new stories, I’m completely exhausted and have developed a cough.  But no complaints here….because I got paid to go to Vegas!  And it was legal! 

So much to do tomorrow – go to work, grocery shop, conduct a phone interview, write a couple articles, get pictures, wash the casino smoke out of my clothes, and get healthy.  Definitely excited to be back to a wood stove, no traffic and real life.  I have compiled some random notes into coherent essays on Vegas, and will post them when I muster the energy to locate my flash drive.  More adventure reports to come….but now I need eight consecutive hours of shut-eye 🙂

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Day Seven

Every day I’ve been here, I count on my fingers which day it is of my Vegas trip.  That’s what this city does to a person.

We watched the rodeo downstairs at the hotel last night, then ventured to South Point for the buckle presentation and fantastic band, the High Desert Drifters.  I met five girlfriends from college there, and we danced with everyone who was willing to shake it.  I danced with an MMA fighter from Vegas and a bull rider from Spring Creek (we’re neighbors!).  I met a pickup man/Hollywood stunt man from Dallas and two stock contractors from Deer Lodge, one of whom said he was an ex-inmate.  Is it time to put on my waders?  I think so….:)

I felt obligated to dance until the band quit, then chat with my friends and call a cab, so I didn’t hit the hay until 4 AM.  7:30 came pretty early, but I put on some fresh makeup and headed to cowboy church at Mandalay Bay.  The sermon was great, sang and preached by Corey Ross. 

I ran into another girlfriend from college, which was a pleasant surprise!  Now I’m going to freshen up and head back downstairs for the wrap-up show (more Gay Beaver…love it, love it!) and to meet up with some Montana college friends I haven’t seen in 4 years.  I’m completely exhausted and crave sleep almost more than oxygen, but it’s my last night in Vegas and I have my heart set on seeing Justin McBride and Scotty Alexander play some good tunes.

Thanks for your time!  Viva Las Vegas 🙂

PS Vegas quote of the week: Christa and I were in a cab at 3:30 AM heading back to our hotel, and the cab driver asked us where we were from. 

 “Northern Nevada,” replied Christa. 

“Oh, what town?” asked the cabbie. 


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Day Six

My blog is going a bit retroactive, because I never have time to blog at night, so I’m reporting on last night’s events this morning.  A bit confusing, but I have faith all my readers can keep up 🙂

Round Two last night was a great experience!  The barrel racing was really tough, the calf roping was smokin’ hot, and a bunch of roughstock riders got down in the chute smashed between their horses and the fence but none were hurt.  The other day I commented favorably on the Cooper brothers’ looks, but my apologies to Montana: the Tryan men are equally attractive.  They may have frost in July, but they still manage to grow ’em tall, dark and handsome up north.

After the perf, we took in the buckle presentation ceremony at South Point, the out-of-town hot spot of rodeo in this town.  The round winners brought their family, friends, drivers – whomever they chose to come onstage with them and receive their awards – and introduced and thanked each person.  Each one received $17,500, a Montana Silversmiths buckle and a bottle of Pendleton whiskey. 

It was neat to see the rookies, nervously handling the microphone and exclaiming, “I just can’t believe I’m here!” and the pros like Martin Lucero, who said “Oh, I’ll be back two or three more times this year.” 

The band was rockin’, the cover charge was free and the ceremony real and unrehearsed.  We’ll be headed back tonight for some more dancing and good times in Vegas 🙂

Thanks for reading!  I just figured out how to work the flash on my camera, so pics to follow….I know, that’s sounding like an empty promise, but I am rather photographically challenged.  I’ll get it figured out eventually.

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Day Five

More people watching at the trade show today.  You can always spot the Mormon cowboys.  They wear Amish facial hair and suit jackets, without even a single look up from the mohair McCarties when I smile and say, “How are you boys enjoying the Finals?”

We scored tickets to the performance tonight (!!!) so that will be fun.  We plan to check out the buckle presentation at South Point, plus I have some college girlfriends staying out there that I need to hang out with.  It will be a fun night 🙂

It’s strange to think how far rodeo has evolved.  What began as a ring of pickups and wagons parked in a flat spot with a bronk raisin’ dust in the middle is now a bunch of dirt transported onto a basketball court floor in Las Vegas.  One thing hasn’t changed, though: rhinestones.  They are everywhere in the western world of fashion, as they have been since the 1950s.  Glenn Campbell would be proud.

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Day Four

Thursday was our first day at the trade show.  From watching the crowd, I realized all a girl has to do to stand out is wear jeans and a t-shirt.  Apparently, they don’t let you in the building without 8 pounds of jewelry and 3 layers of makeup.  All the Texas girls wear pendants that can be removed from the necklace and used as weapons of self-defense. 

The shopping is better than Costco.  Where else can you buy Garcia spurs, ML Leddy boots, candied almonds and a mattress?  Lots of free samples, too.  I tried bloody mary mix, chocolate martinis, and something called acai juice because I thought it was red wine.  Tasty, plus it’s healthy 🙂

For dinner, we went to Ellis Island, a total dive casino with truly amazing steak.  Steak dinner for 5 people cost $47!!  The delicious food was worth being half scared walking through the slot machines.

We watched the live NFR feed in our hotel bar.  I especially enjoyed the calf roping, mainly because the Cooper brothers are so good looking.  I watched Donnie Gay and Joe Beaver’s National Finals Tonight show in the Gold Coast lounge, which was hysterical.  JW Harris was their first guest, and he said, “I’m pleased to be on the Gay Beaver show tonight.”  I laughed.  They repeatedly showed Josh Peek’s steer wrestling run, in which he got mowed over by the steer.  I laughed. 

I was pleasantly surprised to note that Jesus was mentioned several times throughout the rodeo and wrap-up show.  The announcers told the crowd which cowboys were men of “devout faith,” Josh Peek said he and his wife prayed at length before making serious rodeo decisions, and Donnie Gay praised his recent emergency appendectomy as a “Jesus thing.”  The Lord is alive and well in Sin City for the ten days the PRCA is in town.  We’ll take it and build on it 🙂

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