The young guns have arrived
He was only about 3-feet tall – boots, hat and all. He stood looking through the rails of the arena fence as his daddy and three other cowboys rode into the arena, pulling their hats down tight and shaking out their ropes.
His little brother played in the dirt on the ground behind him, driving a toy truck and trailer through freshly built “roads” headed toward a tiny stick corral. His interest in the arena was intense, but only for short periods of time. He had “work” to do.
It was ranch rodeo time, in the infancy of the sport as a competition. That was 20 years ago.
Today, both those little cowboys are grown up.
The older one rides into that same arena with his britches tucked in the tops of his boots, a trendy shape to his straw hat and a cocky grin on his face.
The other, sitting solid in the saddle on a horse that isn’t as calm as he is, wears a look of serious competitive intent.
A cousin rides in next to him, followed by a friend that rounds out the team of four.
The game is on. The young guns have arrived and before the day is over, they will have proved themselves a force to be reckoned with.
Ranch rodeo is a family sport as much as any has ever been. As it evolved through the years, the youngsters of the early days fell eagerly into the footsteps of their fathers, holding out for the day they too could participate.
Father and son, father and daughter, husband and wife, cousins, brother-in-laws, father-in-laws and any other assorted family connection possible, team up, enter up and in the spirit of competition, spend a day roping, riding and hoping to claim a little of the prizes at the end of the day.
Youth ranch rodeo hit the scene some years back, serving to fine tune the young buckaroos into competition-ready young adults.
A cowboy with a baby on the saddle in front of him during the warm-up or after the rodeo is a common sight. Before long, that same baby is the toddler at the arena fence shouting “Go Dad,” with all his might.
The family dynamics at any event make it a kinfolk reunion as much as a rodeo competition. There will be several family patriarchs and matriarchs watching the events and being greatly entertained as they observe different branches of the family compete against each other, young and old.
There isn’t much left out here in the West that keeps families connected like they were 50 years ago.
The few remaining big family ranches maintain a connection through the work they do, but this venue for ranch family playtime has added a new dimension.
Whether the “kids,” taking in all ages from 9-60, arrive from the ranch, from a titled job, a college campus or anywhere in between, it all comes together in the competition.
Watching brothers rope and load a steer into a trailer with the same banter and sibling “encouragement” going on as would happen in the middle of a four-section pasture, takes “reality” entertainment to a new level.
And that little cowboy I saw last week standing on the fence rail hollering encouragement to his dad?
He’ll be a third generation ranch rodeo cowboy and with any luck, his old dad might be given a spot on the team.