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Day at the fair

Day at the fair

Aug 1, 2017 - By Randy Tucker, Staff Writer

The Ranch Rodeo is a favorite event of many Fremont County fairgoers. While the PRCA rodeo may draw larger crowds, the familiarity of local cowboys and cowgirls competing in the arena in events that actually take place on local ranches (OK, maybe not the hide race unless you're a teen-age boy trying to win a bet or impress a girl) has an appeal all its own.

Saturday night's Ranch Rodeo was an impressive display of athletic prowess on a horse and on the ground with uncooperative cattle.

It was interesting to see kids I covered in football, basketball and track competing in a different venue. Seeing Casey Albright riding and roping explained a little about his ability as a football and basketball player. The same was true for Bryce Hankins, who still has one of the most impressive vertical jumps I've ever seen in Fremont County. Levi Bain was a bull himself for the Wind River Cougars on both sides of the football, and Levi was the muscle of his team when it came time to throw cattle.

An impressive site came in the trailer loading portion of the event when Brad Peil of Thermopolis, captain of the High Mountain team roped a cow, dragged the animal across the ring and rode directly into a waiting horse trailer. As Peil rode across the arena, he tightened up his rope until only a dozen feet or so separated his horse from the cow. Peil rode to the front of the trailer with the cow in tow and remained on his horse until another horse was loaded, the trailer gate was closed and his team's time was recorded. It was declared a legal time, the gate was opened, and he rode back out.

I've loaded a lot of cattle over the last 45 years and this was easily the wildest method I've witnessed.

Longtime Ranch Rodeo fans give credit to Chy LeClair for doing it first in competition at the same venue about 10 years ago, but that didn't make Peil's move any less impressive.

The entire process brought to mind some of the more-inventive methods used to load cattle.

We have a large, white-faced cow. She is docile most of the year but turns into a 1,400-pound terror when she has a calf.

Three summers ago she fell ill, coming down with something that Dr. Glen Gamble diagnosed as wooden tongue. She was pregnant at the time and did not want to load as evidence by the corral she destroyed when we caught her and tried to load her in a trailer. She escaped to the open pasture, and we were in a dilemma.

Our place is just across Gasser Road from the CWC Equine Center. I walked over to ask facility director Mike Donelson if any of the kids remained that were good with cattle. Two 20-year old rodeo team members were leaving later that day for home, and Mike indicated they were top hands.

I approached the guys and offered them $20 each if they'd rope this cow and help me load her.

Within a few minutes they were in hot pursuit. Quickly, each one of them had a rope around her neck.

They stretched the cow out between them, and I backed the trailer with the door pinned open right up to the furious bovine.

One of the guys handed me his rope. and I passed it through a front stanchion on the trailer before giving it back to him. I did the same with the second rope. They both backed their horses up and pulled the now gasping cow into the trailer. They retrieved their ropes, I paid them, and gave them a little extra for lunch while the cow tried her best to knock the walls off our trailer.

Glen's treatment went well, and she was back home in a few days and had a healthy calf three weeks later.

It beat the method my friend and neighbor Dirk Bush used one afternoon when I was having trouble loading a horse into a small trailer. The mare led easily right up to the step into the trailer, then froze. I had a rope on her halter and passed it up through the front of the trailer but no amount of pulling could get her to budge.

Dirk came over to see if I needed help. I started to pass another rope to him that I planned to place behind her rear end so we could both pull her forward, when Dirk grabbed both of her hind legs, lifted her forward shoved her into the trailer.

There was a reason Tom Osborne gave him a full-ride scholarship to the University of Nebraska back in 1975.

On other occasions I've opened the side door at the front of a stock trailer when a mad cow wouldn't load and made a little noise to get her to charge me. It works but you have to be quick and close the door the second she comes charging towards you. A quick partner closing the main gate behind you is an integral part of the process.

The Ranch Rodeo remains one of the highlights of the fair and epitomizes life in our little corner of paradise. It was just another day at the fairgrounds and, for me, yet another example of why we live in the best place in the world.

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