Every day at Round-up begins the same way: members of the National Guard line up and parade the colors out onto the field. Then some talented local voice sings The Star Spangled Banner while a couple thousand cowboy hats are held over a community of deeply patriotic hearts. I am positive that I am not the only one who feels the catch in her throat.
One the things I love most about the Round-up is that it is something everyone in our family enjoys. (“Go ahead – walk away from me in them wranglers, cowboy.”) (Oh, like you never thought that.) Year to year, each of us may go for different reasons, but we all enjoy the show.
In the opening event, bareback riding, the championship title and second place were both split between Tim O’Connell and Caleb Burnett, who both finished with an aggregate score of 166. (I didn’t know until this weekend that the rules allowed for a split championship.)
Saddle bronc riding is a crowd favorite. These guys are crazy.
At 28, Cort Sheer is at the top of his game, taking home the Pendleton Saddle Bronc Championship this year with a combined score of 175. That’s and average of 87.5 for two rides. Not too shabby.
If the bronc riders are crazy, what does that make bull riders?
Ultimately, 28-year old Steve Woolsey, from Payson, Utah, stuck his eight seconds to win the Round-up for the first time with an aggregate score of 172 after making Saturday’s best ride with an 87.
Of course, there are plenty of other events.
For the third straight year in a row, 37-year old Trevor Brazile of Decatur, Texas won the title of All-Around Cowboy. He collected more winnings than any other competitor at Round-up, including qualifying and final rounds. Trevor, known as the “King of the Cowboys,” has won over $5 million in his 18-year professional rodeo career.
After all is said and done, my favorite event is barrel racing. Not because it is the only ladies sport, but because it is the closest to my heart. Barrel racing is a rodeo event in which a horse and rider attempt to complete a clover-leaf pattern around preset barrels in the fastest time. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)
Pendleton has an inordinately long barrel course, and for the third year in a row, Christy Loflin and her nine-year old mare, Movin’, took the Barrel Racing Championship. I held my breath for all 28.02 seconds of her final ride.
I did a little barrel racing when I was young. (What girl with a fast horse and a little bit of flat ground didn’t?) And though I’ve never competed in a real rodeo, or even raced anywhere beyond my own back-forty, barrel racing is about as close to nirvana as I have ever been. It’s been over 30 years since I’ve rounded that third barrel, and still, when those racers hit the line, I feel it all – the lean, the wind, the turn, and then… full-throttle, open up – amazing grace.
And really, that sums up rodeo for me, and why I love it so. It is strength and speed, courage and fire. It is a passion for life driven by dust, sweat and tears. It is Amazing Grace.