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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Live Bullets Fired At Tourists At Wild West Show

Live Bullets Fired At Tourists At Wild West Show

PIERRE, S.D. -- One of the participants in a mock Old West gun battle in South Dakota fired live ammunition instead of using blanks, wounding three tourists, authorities announced Friday.
More than 100 people attended the show a week ago staged by the Dakota Wild Bunch re-enactors, who perform several times a week in Hill City, a tourist town in the Black Hills.
Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom said information gathered by investigators will be given to state and federal prosecutors next week to determine whether criminal charges are filed.
"What it boils down to is was it accidental or was it intentional. It would be premature to speculate on that at this point," Thom said. "I can say there was not a specific target in the crowd, if you will."
A 49-year-old member of the re-enactor group fired four live rounds during the June 17 show, Thom said. No phone listing could be found for the man.
The bullets shattered a leg bone of Carrol Knutson, 65, of Birchwood, Minn.; hit the forearm and elbow of John Ellis, 48, an optometrist from South Connellsville, Penn.; and caused minor injuries to Jose Pruneda, 53, of Alliance, Neb.
There was no immediate comment from re-enactors. On its Facebook page, the group has said their members are not allowed to bring live rounds to performances.
Knutson said she was glad to get confirmation from authorities that her leg wound was caused by a lead bullet. The hospital already had determined that a bullet had hit her, and lead residue was found in the wound, she said.
Knutson said she is frustrated because the wound ended a family vacation early and will prevent her from doing many things this summer.
"It's a painful wound, so it's going to take a while to get back on my feet," she said. But she said she was relieved to know that the shooting wasn't done by some anonymous person in the audience.
"I just wanted to know it was never going to happen again to anybody," she said.
Ellis also has said doctors told him the injury to his arm and elbow was consistent with a regular gunshot wound.
Officials from Hill City and the area Chamber of Commerce were not immediately available for comment late Friday. They have said the simulated gun battles have been suspended at least until the sheriff's department investigation ends.
The mock shootouts between lawmen and outlaws have been held in Hill City for at least a couple of decades, and the Dakota Wild Bunch has been doing the show for about four years, officials have said.
Thom said investigators from the sheriff's office, the Rapid City Police Department and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives used information gathered in the investigation to recreate the shooting scene this week. They located three lead bullets in different locations and traced them to a .45-caliber handgun used in the mock shootout, he said.
Four spent casings and two unfired cartridges with lead bullets were located near the scene Friday afternoon, the sheriff said. The gun, the casings and the bullets will be sent the state crime lab in Pierre for testing, he said.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Augusta rodeo celebrates 75 years

Augusta rodeo celebrates 75 years


AUGUSTA — When Tina Freeman was going to college in Washington in the 1970s, she told a friend that she was moving to a tiny town in Montana with her new husband — a town called Augusta.

"He told me he spent the best three days of his life there the year before," Freeman said. "I thought, 'what am I getting myself into?'"

Known for years as a rough-and-tumble event where most of the weekend was spent in a drunken haze, the 75-year-old Augusta Rodeo has cleaned up its act a lot in the last 20 years, said Freeman, who runs the American Legion Auxiliary concession stands at the rodeo.

"I would not let my girls up town then — too many cute cowboys," she said.

Now the Sunday afternoon event is catered more toward families and even the out-of-town crowd.

Students from the Rocky Mountain School of Photography in Missoula have become regulars at the event over the last few years, and most of them come from out of state.

The students can be seen sitting along the gates of the arena with their cameras and long lenses pointed toward the action — some dressed up in their best Western gear.

"I've never laughed so much," said Karah Sambuco of West Virginia. "I love the commentary."

Never having been to a rodeo in her life, Sambuco said she assumed a rodeo was just about bull riding, so she was pleasantly surprised when it involved calf-roping, saddle bronc riding and more.

"This is a totally different experience," she said. "My camera is going rapid fire."

For the last five years, American Legion volunteer Larry Atchison's job has been taking tickets at the general admission entry into the arena.

"I think its one of the more family-oriented rodeos I've been at," he said.

Sure, things have calmed down. But there's still a great deal of camaraderie, he said. Although he enjoys a good rodeo, Atchison said he'd rather be in the crowd.

"I prefer to work it," he said. "I get to see more people."

But 93-year-old C.H. "Pete" Cummings wanted to be as close to the action as possible.

The longtime Sun River resident is one of the few people still alive who competed in the Augusta Rodeo during its first years in the 1930s. He came in 1938 and competed in the saddle bronc event.

Over the years, Cummings always made sure to have a day job, but he considered himself sort of a "weekend cowboy" and competed in amateur rodeos around the area. He doesn't claim to have ever done well.

"I ate soup and the champions ate steak," he said.

He took a break from the rodeo action when he enlisted during World War II, but hasn't missed many Augusta Rodeos since.

"It's just the biggest and the best around," Cummings said.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Three cowboys win Pilot Butte rodeo events

Three cowboys win Pilot Butte rodeo events
Three Southwest cowboys topped their respective events at the Canadian Cowboy’s Association stop in Pilot Butte.

Swift Current’s Dusty Caragata was the top competitor in Steer Wrestling, needing just 4.6 seconds to earn $448, edging Qu’Appelle’s Wyatt Klovansky by .01 of a second.

Mankota’s April Williamson also placed first in Ladies Barrel Racing by .01 of a second. Williamson covered the course in 18.66 seconds to take home $672. Stewart Valley’s Janet Lynn Moen was fourth in 19.10 seconds for $324, followed by Kyle’s Kathy Strandquist in 19.22 seconds for $115.

Kyle’s Cody Lewis was the top Novice Saddle Bronc rider with a score of 62 for $138, edging Regina’s John Turvey by one point for top spot.

Maple Creek’s Colby Gilbert was second in Junior Girls Barrel Racing in 18.97 seconds for $179, followed by fellow Maple Creek rider Mardi Yarshenko in 19.33 seconds for $119.

Mankota’s Shawn Williamson finished fourth in Tie Down Roping in 10.8 seconds for $282. Stewart Valley’s Aaron Moen tied for sixth place in 12.1 seconds for $46.

The CCA will have stops in Moose Jaw and Humboldt this weekend before returning to the Southwest for the Frontier Days Rodeo in Swift Current from June 30 until July 2.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

777 Ranch hosts western entertainment

777 Ranch hosts western entertainment

The 777 Ranch in Ferron held a Western Family Fun Day and Cowboy Poetry event for a large crowd of people from all around the State on June 11.

This event was hosted by Director Rick Benson his wife Jennie Benson and most of their adult children. Some of the events people could participate in were horseshoes, kids and adult horseback rides, horseback trail rides, Western kids games, a skeet shooting competition, a Dutch oven cook off, hay rides and old time Western photos.

Many folks came because of the Cowboy Poetry and of course the barbecued roast beef and chicken dinner. The Cowboy Poetry and the Country Western ballad entertainment was excellent according to attendees. The entertainers were Jeff Gore from Coleman, Texas who sang many Country Western ballads and recited some poetry. Ron Ehmann from Tooele recited Cowboy Poetry. Each entertainer declared himself to be a preacher and each included some of God's word in their entertainment.

This event was held in a huge enclosed building with an arena in the center. Bleachers lined the West side. Behind the West wall were dormitories an office and a kitchen. The floor was made of loose sand where many of the children played. On the East side of the building was a large area where horses were kept for easy access to the arena.

The food prepared by the Three 777 Ranch to feed the guests of this event was very delicious and more than enough to fill the most hungry of cowhands.

In order to feed this large group of people, two rows of tables were set up loaded with roast beef, chicken, baked potatoes, baked beans, cole slaw, garlic bread and watermelon. A third row of tables for the desserts, were filled with cakes of many varieties along with several pies including Dutch oven pumpkin pie topped off with whipped cream.

Director Rick Benson reported that they have a summer program at the ranch, where a total of nearly 100 young people are enrolled in a variety of programs, at various times, throughout the summer. In addition they have spring and fall programs for adults as well as young people.

Those young people that come for horsemanship camp stay for a week. In the Ranch Hand Program the young ladies and young men stay for eight weeks. Those that come for the eight week program become part of the ranch work force. They work on the ranch feeding livestock, taking care of irrigation and all types of things as well as getting involved in activities like this event. This helps them learn many useful skills.

For the adults there are retreats, such as ladies retreats, mother/daughter retreats, mens retreats, couples retreats. These retreats happen in the fall and in the spring. Benson said they have a horsemanship camp starting next week for adults that want to ride out in some of this beautiful scenery, to the mountains and out on the desert. In addition they get horsemanship instruction before and during these trips. It is a lot of fun. In the arena the riders learn how to do a lot of things on horseback. The following week they will have a horsemanship clinic.

The staff for the ranch at this time consists of three families and a single fellow. This ranch keeps them busy, they do not get bored. They do the camps, the farming, raise purebred cattle and raise horses. They have about 35 head of quarter horses on the ranch.

The evening concluded by the group singing "How Great Thou Art." The program was over and Mr. Benson thanked everyone for coming and wished them to have a safe trip home.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Winnie's Crone to compete in national rodeo competition

Winnie's Crone to compete in national rodeo competition
By David Henry

Tyler Crone got his start in rodeo as a two-year old, riding a toy horse he received as a Christmas present and using a green and gold Christmas ribbon that came with the horse as a lasso, roping stuffed animals in it.

All he wanted to watch on television was professional bull riding.

"He'd go bull ride ma, bull ride," said Michelle Crone, Tyler's mother.

Back then, the Crones lived in the city, in Beaumont and though both of his parents enjoyed watching rodeos, they didn't live the rodeo lifestyle.

A lot has changed since then for Crone, who will be a freshman at East Chambers High School in the fall.

Crone qualified for the National Junior High Finals Rodeo in Gallup, N.M. after finishing third in team roping at the state competition on June 4. The top four advance. This is his first trip to nationals.

Crone's family moved out to Winnie when he was three and he was invited to compete in his first rodeo at age 4 by a cousin who lived down the street.

Crone had never practiced and had no rodeo equipment but competed in sheep riding.
"The people we met there were so friendly, they were like 'borrow this', 'use that' because we didn't have the slightest idea," Michelle Crone said. "After that (Tyler) couldn't get enough."
A year and a half later, Crone had his first saddle, an award that goes to the overall points winner in a series of rodeos.

A horse trainer, Kyle Kahla, gave him a horse he could borrow.

Crone, who also plays basketball and football, has had high finishes at state the last two years in multiple events but his nerves always got the best of him - preventing him from placing high enough to make nationals.

He also qualified for state in chute dogging, goat tying, ribbon roping and calf roping.

Crone is the header on the two-person team consisting of him and Logan Cook of Alto, which means his job is to rope the steer while his partner ties the legs.

"Being a good header, to score right, you have to make sure you don't break the barrier and make sure you really give your heeler a great stint," Crone said.

Read the complete story in Tuesday's print edition of The Beaumont Enterprise

Qualifiers for the National Junior High Rodeo
Gallup, N.M. from June 26-July 2

Tyler Crone, an 8th grade student at East Chambers Junior High School, will compete at the 7th Annual Junior High Finals Rodeo in New Mexico from June 26 to July 2nd in team roping. He won a competition in Texas to advance to nationals.  His horse is "Ace."  Dave Ryan/The Enterprise / BE

Tyler Crone, an 8th grade student at East Chambers Junior High School, will compete at the 7th Annual Junior High Finals Rodeo in New Mexico from June 26 to July 2nd in team roping. He won a competition in Texas to advance to nationals.  Dave Ryan/The Enterprise / BE

Monday, June 20, 2011

Astride Rodeo's Professional and Amateur Worlds

Benjamin Carson of Utah Valley University working on a takedown in the N.C.F.R. steer-wrestling event.
Astride Rodeo's Professional and Amateur Worlds
CASPER, Wyo. — JR Vezain leads a double life that many young athletes might envy. A top contender to be the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association’s rookie of the year, he also recently completed his freshman year as a full-time college student on an athletic scholarship.

On Saturday night, while competing for Texas’ Vernon College, Vezain rode four bucking horses long enough and well enough to win the bareback riding competition at the College National Finals Rodeo.

That earned the 19-year-old Vezain $3,261.20, according to C.N.F.R. payout sheets, and he is ranked 12th among P.R.C.A. money winners in his event. The notion of collegiate athletes being paid for competing is anathema to the N.C.A.A., the organization in charge of the majority of athletics on that level. But the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, which oversees the sport outside the purview of the N.C.A.A., has sanctioned prize money since competition began on the collegiate level in 1949.

Those financial rewards stand in stark contrast to the N.C.A.A.’s rules for most collegiate sports, which prohibit athletes from receiving any extra benefits — financial or otherwise — because of their amateur status. Those who are caught doing so pay a high price, as recent cases involving the football teams from Southern California and Ohio State have shown.

Vezain need not concern himself with such regulations. The valedictorian of his class at Rocky Mountain High School in Byron, Wyo., he was a two-time state wrestling champion and a national champion in high school rodeo. However, he may not have gone to Vernon, a two-year college in Texas, if the opportunity to make money was not there. Unlike basketball stars like Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, who went to the N.B.A. directly out of high school, Vezain did not have to make the choice between attending college and being a professional.

Instead of skipping college to turn pro, he moved into a dormitory last fall.

“I never planned to go to college,” he said. “I just wanted to rodeo. Our coach told me it was easy to pro rodeo out of Vernon.”

Of the roughly 100 colleges that compete in rodeo, none take part in more than 10 rodeos a year before the finals. However, Vezain and other top collegiate riders can buy permits to compete on the P.R.C.A. circuit and travel to dozens of professional rodeos around the country.

“Our students may have a college rodeo one weekend and a professional rodeo the next weekend,” said Roger Walters, commissioner of NIRA and a former rodeo coach at Sam Houston State in Huntsville, Tex. “Or they may be up in a college rodeo on Friday and a professional rodeo on Thursday.”

College rodeo was started by veterans of World War II, according to Sylvia Mahoney, a former rodeo coach at New Mexico Community College in Hobbs, N.M., and the author of “College Rodeo: From Show to Sport.”

“At that time, the G.I. Bill was the only scholarship for a rodeo cowboy,” she said.

Many had competed on the Rodeo Cowboy Association circuit before going to war, Mahoney said. The R.C.A. later became the P.R.C.A. When the veterans formed NIRA to organize rodeo as a college sport, they did not want to give up the professional circuit.

An agreement was reached that allowed NIRA members to compete in R.C.A. events. At the time, NIRA had no age restriction for competitors, since many veterans were older than other students, Mahoney said.

NIRA now requires that rodeo athletes use their four years of college eligibility within six years of finishing high school.

A few students have played N.C.A.A. sports and competed in college rodeo. Cole Cameron, who took his mother’s maiden name, Graybill, when he played football at Arizona and Texas A&M, used up four years of N.C.A.A. eligibility as an undergraduate.

Now a graduate student in communications at Texas A&M, he has two more years of eligibility under NIRA rules. A former linebacker, he qualified for the finals in steer wrestling, an event in which competitors leap from a running horse, grab a steer by the horns and force its back to the ground.“It’s more laid back in NIRA,” said Cameron, who now uses the name of his stepfather, Craig Cameron, a horse trainer. “The N.C.A.A. and NIRA want the same things, but the football program watches you more closely.”

Said Mike True, whose Montana State team won the women’s title here:

“I’m glad I don’t have to function under the N.C.A.A. regulations. They’re very complicated. You almost have to be a big enough program to have someone who keeps up with that stuff full time.”

Like most coaches, True encourages his top performers to compete at pro events. When one of his top steer wrestlers, Ty Erickson, failed to make Saturday’s final, True let him leave to attend a pro rodeo in Belt, Mont., on Sunday.

Bobby Scott, the rodeo coach at Vernon, excused Vezain from a college meet in April to attend the National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City.

“That’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Scott. “We had so much depth on our team that we could do without him for a weekend. We won our region by 1,300 points.”

Two-year and four-year colleges go head to head in competition, and many community colleges beat their four-year competitors, Walters said.

Unlike college football or basketball players, rodeo athletes pay many of their own expenses. Instead of catching a ride on the team bus, athletes are responsible for getting themselves to and from events.

Students who compete in timed events such as calf roping, barrel racing and steer wrestling, drive their own pickup trucks while towing their own horse trailers.

They pay to board and feed their horses and wear their own gear, from hat to saddle to spurs. The college typically provides just a vest with the college’s name and colors.

If the athletes appear on the rodeo grounds without wearing a long-sleeve shirt, a cowboy hat and the vest, NIRA fines them, Walters said.

Jacobs and Sterling Crawley, brothers who compete in saddle bronc riding — Jacobs for Texas A&M and Sterling for Hill College — travel with their gear in an ambulance they converted into a tack room and home away from home.

“I’m getting a college degree,” Jacobs Crawley said. “I hope I never have to use the degree. I want to retire a rodeo cowboy.”

Other students who rodeo professionally during the summer see the sport primarily as a way to pay for their education.

“I love rodeo,” said Brittany Grant, who picked up a check when she finished fourth in the barrel racing competition for Sam Houston State and also competes in professional rodeos. “But this is a really good time to get a good job. I want to do public accounting. If I don’t like it, maybe I’ll take a couple of years off and rodeo again.”

Vezain has a long list of rodeos he plans to compete in as the pro season hits high gear in the summer.

Vezain’s goal is to pile up enough points to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in November. But classes will start in August, before the summer pro rodeo season ends.

“I have a 4.0 in college this year,” Vezain said. “I build saddles and train colts, so I want to have a degree to learn how to run my business and market myself. But now I want to rodeo. Maybe when I’m 35 I’ll quit and make saddles full time.”

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

County board backs rodeo, won't cut pay, gets earful from vets

County board backs rodeo, won't cut pay, gets earful from vets
By Jason Hoppin

SANTA CRUZ - The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors wrangled with employee retirement benefits, redevelopment, a sticky veteran's issue and an even stickier move to cut its own pay before finally lassoing the ongoing controversy over a proposed rodeo in Watsonville.

The Santa Cruz County Deputy Sheriff's Association, which represents employees of the county sheriff-coroner, narrowly won board support for a rodeo to be held Oct. 1-2 at the county fairgrounds outside Watsonville. The group is trying to round up support, but was hit with criticism Tuesday before the board narrowly backed the event, 3 to 2.

"This is not a bullfight. This is something that, sure, there might be some pain involved for the animals," said Supervisor Greg Caput, explaining his vote in favor of a resolution supporting the event. "It's tough to explain. There's a benefit and a burden for everything."

A rodeo has not been held in Santa Cruz County since the 1970s. A planned rodeo last year was cancelled amid controversy, but deputies are pursuing it again this year, saying it would help raise funds for community groups.

Supervisors Caput, Ellen Pirie and Chair Mark Stone voted to support the event. Supervisors Neal Coonerty and John Leopold voted against it, with animal rights advocates speaking against it.

"For the county to support an event that is widely believed to be organized animal cruelty is a huge step backward," said Sarah Eryavec of the Santa Cruz chapter of the SPCA.

While the county ended its meeting (figuratively, at least) in a rodeo ring at the county fair, it started the morning with a parade of sorts: veterans spoke en masse to ask that the county to consider reopening the Veterans Memorial Building on Front Street, which has been closed since January 2010 over safety concerns.

The veterans have sought their own advice on the historic 1932 building, which suffers from crumbling concrete and roof issues. The vets latest opinion suggested the building could remain open while repairs are done, and that it was not in imminent danger of collapse.

"It may save the county of Santa Cruz a great deal of money if the board opens up this issue and hears from these experts," said Bob Patton, head of the United Veterans Council of Santa Cruz County.

Veterans also have complained, to the board and through the court system, that they have no alternative meeting place while the county looks at what a repair would cost. County officials are in the later stages of a building assessment, and the vet's building will be considered as part of the county's budget hearings later this month.

"I remain hopeful we will have a solution identified and a plan of action before the end of June," said Nancy Gordon, the county's director of general services.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tie your interest to a worthwhile event: The Rodeo

Tie your interest to a worthwhile event: The Rodeo

If you get to the center of the makeshift village that emerged at the Bannock County Fairgrounds, you will be a target.
    This village is made of pick-ups and travel trailers, and those setting up this temporary camp are all boots and cowboy hats.
    Check it out. See if you can get from the middle of all those trailers back to the road without having a rope circle one of your extremities.
    Yes, it’s rodeo time once again in Pocatello as the top high school cowboys and cowgirls in the state are vying for a berth in the National High School Finals Rodeo in Gillette, Wyo., on July 17-23.
    In case you’ve never attended one of these events, one of the first things you notice is the abundance of rope. I’m talking everywhere.
    It was like that on Monday, hours before the first performance of the Idaho High School Rodeo Finals kicked off what should be another exciting week.
    Anything, and I mean anything, becomes fantasy livestock. Practice ... practice ... practice.
    On Monday afternoon, one 8-year-old was trying to ride his bike around, zooming past an array of cowpeople (have you ever wondered why they aren’t called horseboys?), aged from high school to toddlers. It seemed everyone was swinging a rope.
    The cyclist paid the price for not swinging his own rope, as every 50 feet he was dodging nylon. I looked up to notice that one of the cowpokes didn’t have much of a grip as the cyclist sped away, a lasso around his neck and the rope trailing behind on the ground.
    In other parts of the campground, the ropers were aiming at little wooden horses, being moved around on rails or wheels. Mirrors on the sides of vehicles. Check. Trailer hitch. Check. My right arm. Check.
    If I could find a way to separate some of you from the couch and get you out to the Bannock County Fairgrounds this week, I would. Somebody hand me a rope.
    We moan all the time about kids not having a solid work ethic, that they only want to play video games, that they have everything given to them. You have the opportunity through Saturday morning’s finals to see that we might just be wrong.
    In speaking with Preston’s Claira Hollingsworth, last year’s state Queen and an entrant in several categories this year, on Saturday, we talked about the training that goes into rodeo events.
    She noted that one of the things she loves about rodeo is that the competitors really spend most of the time coaching themselves.
    Sure, they get lots of advice from those in the know, but the bottom line is that if you don’t show up for practice, nobody is going to say a word. It’s up to you, and only you. We will give a tip of our cowboy hat here to team ropers, who do have to rely on one another.
    But like the Blake Shelton song says, “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking?” In this case, we can say “Who are you when no one is looking?”
    It’s take extraordinary patience, passion and desire to toil in obscurity to perhaps become a National High School Finals participant.
    They say baseball hitters have a hard time coping because the best only have a success rate of one third. Consider how many times a cowboy throws that rope before he starts hitting the target a third of the time.
    All those off-line tosses in the village, prepare not just aim ... but integrity.
    I asked District 4 Girls All Around champ Kimberlyn Fehringer which event she likes the most. Considering that she was fifth in the nation in cow cutting last year, and a state champ in team roping, I thought she would say one of those two events.
    But she noted that she really likes breakaway roping, especially after winning a national title in seventh grade.
    So has it just been bad luck since then that has kept her from repeating such a lofty standing? “No,” she said. “Just little oopses.”
    One thing you learn from throwing that rope is that things don’t always go your way, no matter how hard to work. You simply make no excuses, pull the rope back and try again.
    If that suits your fancy like a big belt buckle, then by all means make this event a small part of your schedule this week. Performances start at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. today through Friday. The finals will be held Saturday morning at 9:15 p.m.
    It’s an event that helps to make your community a special place. Why not be part of it?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ready at last, Wash. cowboy returns to Ore. rodeos

Ready at last, Wash. cowboy returns to Ore. rodeos


BEND, Ore. —
Ryan Gray had every reason to believe a gold buckle was within his grasp last year.
The 27-year-old cowboy from Cheney, Wash., was having the best rodeo season of his life in 2010, finishing the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) regular season first in the bareback world standings with $159,024 in winnings, more than $22,000 ahead of his closest competitor.
Gray won or was the co-champion at 12 rodeos last year, which included a $55,350 payday at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and a $19,978 check at the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Pocatello, Idaho.
A solid performance in December at the season-ending National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in Las Vegas and Gray would have been in contention for his first world title.
But then tragedy struck.
In the second round of the NFR, Gray's shot at the 2010 world bareback championship was literally crushed in a split second.
After riding Golden Dream, a horse he estimates weighed more than 1,200 pounds, Gray's right hand hung in the rigging for a brief moment as he was bucked off, throwing the rest of his body directly under Golden Dream.
The horse's back right hoof landed square in the middle of Gray's back before sliding down the right side of his body.
"Apparently there's a small part of your liver that's not covered by your rib cage there," says Gray, who was scheduled to ride Saturday night during the evening performance at the Sisters Rodeo, recalling the accident. "That's where she stepped on me as I was getting off. I hit the ground and at the same time, `Wham!,' all of her weight was on me."
A shocked crowd at the Thomas & Mack Arena watched as Gray was rushed to the hospital.
"I knew almost immediately something was wrong," says Gray, who suffered a lacerated liver from the accident. "I'd never really experienced anything like that, an injury of that degree of seriousness. ... It was a weird, painful type of pain I couldn't really describe. I knew something was going on internally."
In a flash, Gray's chance at the world title was gone. (Bobby Mote, of Culver, one of Gray's close friends and traveling partners, went on to win the bareback, his fourth world championship.)
Gray, a Texas Tech University grad who finished sixth in the world in 2009 and fourth in 2008, spent 3 1/2 days in the hospital's intensive care unit. Doctors told him he would need three to six months to recover.
"It was difficult to sit back and watch the rest of the (10-day rodeo) go by knowing I wasn't going to be able to compete," Gray says. "But at the same time I'm thankful to walk away with my life. I knew I'd be healthy again and I could still ride again. The fact is, (the accident) could have been a lot worse."
After three months of rest and recovery - "I was going out of my skin not to go insane," Gray says - the Laramie, Wyo., native was cleared by his doctors to compete in his first rodeo of 2011, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, where he won more than $50,000 the previous year.
His comeback was under way - briefly.
"The second horse I got on I separated a rib," Gray says. "I tried to get on a couple more and it got worse."
Determined to let his rib heal, Gray just recently got back in the saddle. He earned $199 last week at the Wild, Wild West Pro Rodeo in Silver City, N.M., his first PRCA check of the season.
While the current bareback world standings leader, Tilden Hooper, has won $53,673 to date this year, Gray hoped to use Saturday's rodeo in Sisters and Sunday's Livermore (Calif.) Rodeo as a springboard for the rest of the year.
"Everything's possible," says Gray, who has qualified for the past six NFRs and fully expects to make a seventh this December. "The thing about the summertime is there's so much money to be won in a short amount of time. Usually we've only gone to 15 rodeos by the time June starts. There's over 50 rodeos between now and the end of September."
"It's a tough deal," says Mote about Gray's road to recovery. "But he's tough, obviously. He's working at it - and he's finally back and healthy."

Friday, June 10, 2011

Rodeo and monster trucks returning to 2011 California Mid-State Fair

Rodeo and monster trucks returning to 2011 California Mid-State Fair
By Sarah Linn

The California Mid-State Fair is bringing back two of its greatest crowd-pleasers: rodeo cowboys and monster trucks.

Fairgoers can see classic rodeo events such as bull riding, barrel racing and team penning at the County Rodeo Finals, July 30 at the Main Grandstand Arena. Tickets are $14 to $18, or $20 the day of the rodeo.

On July 31, the Toughest Monster Truck Tour visits the fairgrounds for a night of car-crushing fury. Featured trucks include former world champion Bounty Hunter, Iron Outlaw, Patriot and Camo Thunder.

The event also features a freestyle motocross show featuring three riders selected X Games veteran Chuck Carothers. Admission is $16 to $20 in advance, or $25 at the door.

Tickets for both events go on sale June 16.

The California Mid-State Fair runs July 20 through July 31 in Paso Robles.

For more information, call 238-3565 or visit

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ropin' a championship

Elks Rodeo: Final day of ridin’Ropin’ a championshipBy Elliot SternThe youngest champion at the 68th annual Santa Maria Elks Rodeo is a seasoned veteran when it comes to cowboy competition.

The father-son team of John and Chance Machado smoked the competition to win the Elks Team Roping championship.

On Sunday’s final round, the Machados stopped their calf in 9.6 seconds - giving them a three round aggregate time of 32.8 seconds.
Bill Wineman and Mike DeVan had a faster time during the Elks Rodeo championship Sunday — 7.8-seconds — but they were behind after the first two rounds and, with a three-go total of 34.2 seconds, had to settle for second place.

Just fractions of a second behind (34.6 seconds), Tony Weldon and Craig Pritchard earned third place honors.

That made Chance Machado the youngest buckle winner at this year’s rodeo.
Chance is just 13 years old.

“It was fun. I was really dialed in today,” said he just moments after nailing down the title. “It’s fun roping with my dad.”

The win also gives the Machados bragging rights over John Machado’s Elks roping buddies for the next year.

Will Chance take the time to rub it in?

“No, I’m not going to give the guys a hard time,” said Chance. “My dad will.”
“I might,” said dad John. “I’m extremely proud of him. He had the harder job, being the heeler and catching the calf’s heels. We spend a lot of hard hours in the practice
“It was so much fun to watch,” said mom Sabrina. “I was so busy screaming while they were out there.”
Chance Machado is wrapping up the seventh grade at Orcutt Junior High.

He’s won a number of events at the Elks Mini Rodeo over the last few years.

He has also been competing in California’s District 7 junior high school rodeo division and this year took second place in the state junior high school team roping championships, earning him a trip to the Junior High Nationals.

“My team roping partner is Caden Cox. He’s in the sixth grade in Arroyo Grande,” said Chance. “We’re both excited about going to the Junior High Nationals Finals Rodeo.”

The national championship competition kicks off June 23 in Gallup, New Mexico.
Sunday got off to an iffy start. The skies were dark and threatening. There were
occasional raindrops but no real storm. The weather actually improved as the afternoon wore on.
The cloud cover was down to about 1,200 feet.

Skydiver Kent Lane really needs good
visibility from 2,000 feet but he didn’t let the low cloud cover stop him from flying in his giant American Flag.
Jumping through the clouds, Lane broke through a bit off course — landing outside the arena near vendors’ row.

“We were flying blind through the clouds but I was determined to fly the flag in,” said Lane. “Actually, I would have made it into the arena but the wind got to me. I guess I gave somebody else a show — the people outside the arena.”

Then it was time for Team Bronc
Riding. completed a four-day weekend sweep. The trio of Trace and Wade Agin, from Los Alamos, and DJ Stoneburner, from Nipomo, held off a late challenge from the Bill Agin team of Bill Agin (Trace and Wade’s father), Dan Stoneburner (DJ’s dad) and Chuck

In PRCA Team Roping, Manuel Gonzales and Tristen Luther had the days’ best time — 6.1 seconds.
The team roping championship went to Jake Cooper and Matt Garza whose two-round time was 11.6 seconds. At 11.7 seconds, Wade Wheatley and Santa Margarita’s Caleb Twisselman placed second and at 11.8 seconds, Waylon McCurley and Travis Woodard placed third.

Two-time World Steer Wrestling champion Luke Branquinho was home in Los Alamos for Elks Rodeo weekend.

Branquinho is currently leading the nation as he tries for another spot in the National Finals Rodeo and another shot at the title.

He had a 5.5-second run before the partisan crowd. Branquinho finished in the money but didn’t win the Santa Maria crown.

Josh Garner’s 4.8-second run Friday night held up over the weekend earning Garner the Steer Wrestling crown.

But the rest of the top performances were all on Sunday with Stan Branco (5.0 seconds) finishing second, Sterling Lambert (5.3) finishing third, Branquinho was fourth and Ethan Thouvenell (5.6) was fifth.

“You have to be focused on the ride, then just go and have fun,” said Branco, “That’s what I did today.”
Chant DeForest won the Tie Down Roping title with a two round total of 17.8 seconds. C.J. DeForest, Jr. (18.2) was second followed by Ryle Smith (18.3).

Christina Richman won the Barrel Race with a two round total of 35.12 seconds.

Sheena Robbins was Sunday’s fastest racer, completing the three-barrel course in 17.42 seconds.

Righetti High School and Cal Poly graduate Bailey Tuck finished in the money. Tuck was fifth in each of the two go rounds, ending up fifth overall in the competition.

Younger sister Shelby Tuck had a 22.99-second race Sunday. Paso Robles’ Annie Spurr had a 27.99-second race, Arroyo Grande’s Courtney Cline ran 17.71 —third best on Sunday— Paso Robles’ Brittany Kelly ran fourth on the day at 17.82 and Los Alamos’ Karla Sanchez ran 19.20.

Bareback Riding saw the second and third best finishers in action on Sunday.

Joe Gunderson had bareback rides of 82 and 75 points Sunday, good for a 157 total, just one point behind Clint Lear’s championship total of 158.

Tilden Hooper had 78 and 77 point rides Sunday. His 155 total tied him for third place with Tyson Thompson.
The top Saddle Bronc riders were in action on Sunday.

Roy Johnson had an 80-point ride to win the championship. Cody Wright had a 79-point ride, tying him for second with Joaquin Real.

The Bull Riders had their best day of the weekend with six of 17 riders going the full eight seconds — posting four of the top five scores.

Only Kris Matthews 84-point ride on Saturday night made it into the top five.

Chandler Bownds 88-point ride Sunday earned him the championship, bumping Matthews down to second.
Josh Daries (83) took third on Sunday with Neil Holmes and Steve Woolsey (78) tying for fourth.
The All-Around champion was Kyle Lockett.

“Everything went really, really well this weekend,” said Elks Recreation President Keith Barks. “The weather actually turned out great, The grounds crew did a remarkable job keeping the arena in top shape, the volunteers — well, they are the backbone of Elks Rodeo and we all know we couldn’t produce a great event without them. And the crowds — great, great people. We need to thank all of them for coming out to support the Santa Maria Elks Rodeo. Now, let’s get ready to do it all again next year.”