WRCA Ranch Rodeo at the Rock’n Western Rendezvous Ranch Rodeo will be held on June 2-3
May 26, 2017
It's an opportunity to live the ranch life vicariously; while just observing working ranch teams all cowboyed-up in dress team shirts, intensely compete at ranch chores in an arena.
Several ranch teams in the Rockies and on the High Plains are gearing up for the WRCA (Working Ranch Cowboy Association) Rock'n Western Rendezvous at The Ranch Events Complex in Loveland, Colo., June 2-3.
The teams will take turns competing in chores that are nearly identical to chores they handle back home, such as ranch bronc riding, stray gathering, wild cow milking, branding and team penning.
One of the teams comes from the massive 40,000-acre J.O.D. Ranch; two miles west of Wild Horse, Colo., on the Big Sandy Creek, where ranch manager Cash Chamberlain runs 1,100 head of cattle.
Owned by Phillip Camenish, the J.O.D. Ranch has transitioned from sheep to Hereford cattle to a Black Angus cow calf operation, and from a raw prairie to dryland farm ground and back to its original prairie grass. Cash and his wife Candie handle the daily duties.
After competing in the WRCA since 2009 and qualifying for the finals in 2013, 2015 and 2016, Cash and Candie this year have joined up with ranch day worker Clayton Casey — and two ranchers from the nearby Brown Mill Ranch 10 miles south of the J.O.D. Ranch; Kenny Yoder and Levi Leonard.
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Brown Mill Ranch is the Colorado division of Page Whitham Land and Cattle with over 60 years of livestock operations.
J.O.D. and Brown Mill Ranches will compete together, as one team. They'll haul their own horses, and wear the same color team shirt.
"A lot of stuff we do emulates the ranch rodeo. We're not really professional cowboys, so we get to showcase the skills that we do have on the ranch," Chamberlain said.
A ranch history and lifestyle inspired Chamberlain to compete in the WRCA.
"I used to rope calves. Kenny did too. Levi team ropes. This (rodeo) is more of what we already do every day; sort cattle, rope calves in the pasture — as opposed to taking time out to practice an event," Chamberlain said. "So, it's easier to prepare for this, than to practice roping calves. It's our lifestyle. Also, when you get four guys in the truck, you enjoy their company and have a good time, and … do what God has given us the ability to do."
Cowboys from Beachner Brothers Livestock in Erie, Kan., say WRCA rodeos are a shining example of the opportunity to be role models for the next generation.
"My kids like to do it, and it's a lot of fun doing it with them," said Calvin Kendall of the Beachner ranch, which runs 2,500 momma cows and 8,000 yearlings on grass. "It's something for them to do; keeps them out of trouble. Some people think it costs money — for the entry fees and transporting horses but there are a lot of worse things kids could be doing, that also cost money," Kendall said.
Kendall will compete with sons Cody and Caden, as well as Ty Swiler; a friend of the family. Kendall's wife Gina is also on their roster. "She doesn't ride much, but the boys got a real kick, when she had to run the branding iron. When she's in the stands, she hollers to rush us, so now, we enjoy watching her compete," he said.
Kendall is proud to be associated with the WRCA. "It's is a pretty neat deal," he said. "They do a lot of scholarships and crisis funding for ranch families in need, like helping ranches out after the wildfires. They raise money throughout the year."
Here's how the WRCA rodeo works:
Each of the 10 teams participate in one event, and takes turns over two days, competing in all the events, twice. "One night, we might brand, then milk a cow," Chamberlain said. "The next performance — we would stray gather (turn two roping steers out into the arena and rope them by the head and heel, then tie three legs together and get a time)."
"Another event we do is ride broncs, and 'pen' (team penning) which involves a group of approximately 20 head of cattle," he said. "One guy goes and sorts out the number that's called, herds them along — to the other end of the arena and attempts to put the three head of cattle in one pen. When the last cow goes in, that's your time."
There are specific qualifications for teams to hold their WRCA card to ensure the contestants are cowboys who work on a ranch every day.
"This is not a hobby for these guys, it's literally how they make their living," said Abby Powell, senior events manager of The Ranch Events Complex in Loveland, Colo. "These guys are just hard-working real cowboys. I think that is what draws people."
The event is Friday and Saturday, June 2 and 3 at 7 p.m. each night, preceded by an authentic chuck wagon dinner.
At WRCA headquarters in Amarillo, Texas, excitement is building for Loveland and the road to the finals.
"The winning team from this ranch rodeo will receive an invitation to the 22nd annual WRCA World Championship Ranch Rodeo, Nov. 9-12, 2017, in Amarillo.
"Loveland is a great host city for the Rock'n Western Rendezvous Ranch Rodeo and we are so grateful to the local community for making the event one of our premier WRCA sanctioned ranch rodeos," said Leman Wall, WRCA manager. "We invite everyone to Amarillo in November to root-on the winning team from here in Loveland at the World Championship.
Tickets for the World Championship go on sale June 1.
In addition to hosting the 2017 Rock'n Western Rendezvous Ranch Rodeo, Powell said the 240-acre Ranch Events complex in Loveland also hosts about 2,400 events a year, including the County Fair, horse events, rodeos, livestock shows and the county's 4-H program.HELPING OTHERS
On its website, The WRCA Foundation states that it offers immediate financial assistance to qualified applicants who are working ranchers and cowboys suffering significant hardships.
"Everything we do as an organization ultimately goes toward the our 501c(3) foundation's mission to provide financial assistance to working ranch cowboys and their families through scholarship funding and crisis assistance," Wall said. "This support is largely made possible through public contributions from people who want to support the working ranchers who carry on the legacy of the western lifestyle," Wall added.
The Wildfire Relief Fund was established to specifically address the needs that arise from wildfire disasters. The foundation states that membership is not required to apply or to receive assistance. http://wrca.org/apply-now-wildfire-relief-fund/
As the June 2-3 WRCA rodeo looms closer, another team preparing to compete, features cowboys from two completely different ranches in Redfield, Kan., eight miles west of Fort Scott; the Stock Ranch and the Felt Ranch.
Kolby Scott of the Stock Ranch, who made it to the WRCA Finals in Amarillo, Texas, four times, thrives on the competition.
"Most of us on the team competed in rodeos," Scott said. "I went to school here at Fort Scott on a rodeo scholarship, and as you grow older, it's still a good way to be competitive with great people and a good organization — and still be able to 'scratch that itch' a little bit."
Having participated in the WRCA since 2009, Scott is excited to include his 9-year old daughter Klara Scott on the team with him this year. "We're looking forward to having her step in," he said. Coy Hyer and his brother Marshall Hyer are also on the team, as well as Troy Felt and his son Tyler Felt from the Felt Ranch. "The WRCA is a real high-quality competition, and there are a lot of good people involved. It's a real family atmosphere, and they help people a lot with assistance and scholarships. Also, their finals is an excellent event. Our family enjoys going and it's a vacation for us. In fact, the family gets upset when we don't qualify and … that's tough on dad (me)," said Scott, who said the ranch operates on 1,600 leased acres in Bourbon County, Kan.
Another team created from two different ranches — one ranch in Wyoming and another in Nebraska — merged to compete in the WRCA. From the Four Three Ranch north of Lusk, Wyo., Clay Ashurst will be teamed-up with Four Three employees Bradley Lang, Boe Simmons and Jed Roark. "Also, Chris Laucomer joins our team from the FX Bar Ranch in Sioux City, Neb. The Four Three Ranch runs 3,000 head of momma cows and about 1,000 yearlings on 120,000 acres including leased ground. The FX Bar has 1,000 head of momma cows," Ashurst said.
"I like watching the Bronc riding the best," he said. "My favorite to compete in is stray gathering. Nobody likes the wild cow milking, except maybe the crowd," said Ashurst, an WRCA member since 2010. "What I like best about working on the ranch is — I get to do a job that's enjoyable 90 percent of the time, and I like that Four Three still does all our cow work on horseback, and that my family joins in whenever possible."
As Ashurst put it, "Even though we're on opposing teams, its enjoyable to be around fellow competitors, and I look forward to seeing them. WRCA events are fun to go to with my family."
For more information, visit the website at: http://www.wrca.org. ❖
— Hadachek is a freelance writer who lives on a farm with her husband in north central Kansas and is also a meteorologist and storm chaser. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org