Archive for October, 2010

postheadericon A musical trivia

Chris LeDoux not only was a great entertainer, he was a real cowboy. If you listen to his music, you can hear it. His tales were spun about the rodeo trail, likely written on the rodeo trail. I met the man in the late 1990s at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson.

I was covering the rodeo for The Hutchinson News, and a day after Brittany Spears’ people tried to have the livestock removed from the grandstands infield before she’d take the stage, I leaned against the fence and chatted about rodeo with a legend. He watched the rodeo, telling me how much he liked Ike Sankey’s buckin’ horses. I listened intently. Who wouldn’t listen to a fantastic storyteller who wore a world champion’s gold buckle?

In what event, and in what year, did he win a PRCA world championship?

postheadericon Lowe and behold

Three-time world champion bareback rider grew up going to the American Royal Rodeo, and Saturday night he earned a share of the rodeo’s title.

postheadericon Jhetting on the rodeo trail

Jhett Johnson is one of the best heelers in team roping, a four-time qualifier to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

Jhett Johnson

Jhett Johnson

He’s also a friend.

On Friday night before the American Royal Rodeo in Kansas City, we got to visit for a few minutes before he and his partner, Turtle Powell, made their second run inside Kemper Arena. It was good to catch up.

I met Jhett through my lovely wife, Lynette, who went to college with the Wyoming cowboy at Panhandle State in Goodwell, Okla. He’s a family man – he and wife Jenny have three sons, Kress, Carson and Kellan – but he’s also a rodeo cowboy who makes his living on the road.

That’s the tough juggling act. This year, Jhett followed a routine that had worked fine for him in the past, taking time off the rodeo trail. But he finished this season No. 20 in the world standings, five spots out of the championship in Las Vegas.

“I won’t do that again,” he said. “My wife told me, ‘If you’re going to rodeo, rodeo.’ ”

It’s hard to be away from loved ones for such a long time. The rodeo trail winds a long ways from the house, and sometimes it means being gone from loved ones for weeks at a time. But Johnson doesn’t plan to take that path too much longer.

His wife’s words of encouragement were for Jhett Johnson to chase gold-buckle dreams while he can. She and their boys will be there when he gets off that rugged road.

postheadericon Roping across a Mote

Bobby Mote will compete in bareback riding on the final night of the American Royal Rodeo, but he was roping for big money Friday.

postheadericon Filling a Boyd

This is a story I wrote as one of the previews for the Dayton (Iowa) Championship Rodeo, which took place over Labor Day weekend. Boyd Polhamus is working with Randy Corley in announcing the American Royal Rodeo in Kansas City, and in about a month, they will work together at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

DAYTON, Iowa – If it hasn’t already happened, Boyd Polhamus is quickly becoming the voice of ProRodeo.

Boyd Polhamus

Boyd Polhamus

He’s been selected to call the action at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo 14 times, including the last 11. More importantly, he’s been named the announcer of the year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association each of the last three seasons. But for folks in central Iowa, he’s meant so much more than any award can represent.

“He’s certainly been instrumental in making our rodeo better,” said Jim Heckman, chairman of the committee that produces the Dayton Championship Rodeo, set for 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 3-Sunday, Sept. 5, and 1:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 6. “He knows what timing’s all about. He understands what a production needs to look like, to help people keep coming back.

“I think the main thing we have with him is bringing his expertise to our rodeo. With him being the announcer of the year, he does the top rodeos. For us to bring that knowledge to town is one of the biggest things.”

Polhamus grew up in Wisconsin, rather distant from the rodeo-crazy Southwest. But a fire began to burn.

“I won a pony in a raffle when I was 4 years old,” he said. “From that point forward, it was game on.”

The game involved cowboys and cowgirls, bucking horses and nasty bulls. Polhamus lived it. He qualified for the National High School Finals Rodeo in six events his junior year and went to college in Texas to chase his rodeo dreams. It was there that his connection to rodeo changed from contestant to announcer, urged a little bit by classmates and his coach.

He’s been a ProRodeo announcer for 25 years, earning his stripes at events all across the country. Besides the NFR, Polhamus has been the arena announcer for big rodeos in Omaha, Neb.; Houston; Denver; and Dodge City, Kan., just to name a few. Besides his PRCA honors, the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association has selected him as the announcer of the year three times.

And for the last four years, he’s made Dayton, Iowa, his Labor Day home, and that’s just fine.

“I think there are a plethora of things that are special about Dayton,” said Polhamus, of Brenham, Texas. “I love the way the fans sit on the hillside. That hillside is just amazing. It’s a steep hill, and people just stack on there.

“I think people should witness the atmosphere in Dayton. You can get out in the country on Labor Day weekend. You can come to the heartland. There’s going to be a lot of grass, a lot of soil under your feet. There will be dances and vendors and the smell of barbecue in the air. You’re not going to get that anywhere else. It’s not like a county fair; it’s better than one.”

Besides expertise, he carries a passion for rodeo. More, he adores the people involved in the sport, from the contestants to the personnel to the fans.

“The volunteers who make up the Dayton rodeo committee live and breathe that rodeo,” Polhamus said. “They are 100 percent invested. It’s something they live for. They’re not only friendly; not only heartland, but they epitomize what you think of when you think of people from the heartland.”

For Heckman and the others who work all year to prepare for the Labor Day weekend festivities, the words are nice. But the accolades aren’t why the rodeo committee has hired Polhamus to announce the event.

“From our end, one of the biggest things he does is his homework,” Heckman said. “He knows the contestants. He can fill in a lot of space – that time between the action – so that it seems flawless. If someone is injured, he can narrate the story and let the crowd know what’s going on.”

Polhamus isn’t the story, he’ll tell you; he’s the storyteller. He has learned the trait over the years, working with the best announcers in the business and developing his style. He’s told the stories of the greatest stars in ProRodeo, and he’s seen another generation take hold of its own legacy. He’s seen the triumph of world champions and the heartbreaking death of a friend in the biggest arena in rodeo.

“Boyd has seen so much and uses all that every time he announces,” Heckman said. “He adds a lot to our rodeo, and we appreciate it. I think the fans appreciate it, too.” 

postheadericon Bronc riding trivia

The saddle bronc riding Etbauer brothers own seven world championships between them. Billy Etbauer owns five, and Robert Etbauer owns two. Which Etbauer won the family’s first world championship, and what year did it happen?

postheadericon Bang for the bucks

The final two performances of the American Royal Rodeo take place Friday and Saturday night in Kansas City.

While there was plenty of action last weekend, there’s no letting up over the final two nights. There are still plenty of top names in the business that will be showcasing their talents inside Kemper Arena.

Some of those are the great animal athletes that will be featured in December at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

– Bareback horses: Stace Smith Pro Rodeo’s R.D. Mercer, Size Matters and Wild Flower; Smith, Harper and Morgan’s Jesse’s Girl; and Korkow Rodeo’s Quittin’ Time.

– Saddle broncs: Smith’s Pretty Boy, Big Jet, Justin’s Sock Dancer, Goin’ South and Restol’s Top Hat; and Smith, Harper and Morgan’s Flaming Desire and Painted Feather.

– Bulls: Smith’s Category 5 and Exotic Justin; and Smith, Harper and Morgan’s Smilin’ Bill.

There are plenty of great human athletes in the mix, but these great animals have earned top billing. Today they get it.

postheadericon Regional warriors

During the three performances over three days in Park City, Kan., the top competitors primarily from Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska will battle for the top prize in the region at the Dodge Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo.

This will be the first I’ve missed in a number of years, but I’ll keep an eye on the happenings as much as possible. Why? Because I know the action will be excellent.

Take bareback riding, for example. The top three cowboys in the circuit are D.V. Fennell, Steven Dent and Justin McDaniel, all three of whom will be competing next month at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Combine that with some outstanding bucking horses, and you can only imagine what great things will be happening inside Hartman Arena.

There are some outstanding storylines:
– Veteran steer wrestler Shane Henderson is on the verge of his first year-end circuit title.
– Team roping world champions Nick Sartain and Kollin VonAhn lead the circuit standings.
–  Jesse James Kirby trails saddle bronc riding leader Cort Scheer by just $22 heading into the championship.
– Two cowboys, tie down roper Hunter Herrin and steer roper Rocky Patterson, have clinched the year-end circuit titles in their events.

So if you’re interested in a great show, sneak down to Hartman Arena this weekend on the north side of Wichita. You’ll be glad you did.

postheadericon She’s just Barrie exciting

This is a busy time for team ropers who have qualified for the USTRC World Finals in Oklahoma City. Many will rope numerous times over this week, and those watching will get see all sorts of action in the handicapped format.

Barrie Smith

Barrie Smith

I first saw Barrie in 2001 during the USTRC Finals. She was easy to notice, a blonde who roped in seemingly every event throughout the week-long championship. But I didn’t know who she was until I interviewed her earlier this year for Women’s Pro Rodeo News, the official magazine of the WPRA. It was then that I learned of a vibrant, fun-loving, hard-working cowgirl with a history of championships.

Women’s all-around champion Jackie Hobbs called Barrie one of the “funnest people to rope with.” Barrie has a tireless work ethic, from training horses to roping for hours in the practice pen. But she carries a great attitude wherever she goes.

“Good or bad, she’s going to be giggling or laughing all the way down the arena,” Jackie Hobbs said. “She’s one of those partners you feel no pressure roping behind at all.”

Jacque Woolman, who led the heading world standings at one time this season and is the wife of world champion roper Tee Woolman, told me today how happy she is to call Barrie her friend.

“She’s got a good attitude,” Jacque Woolman said. “If she wins, she wins. If she doesn’t, there’s another one. I think that says a lot about her.”

It definitely says she’s a winner, in and out of the arena.

But yesterday I visited with Barrie Smith of Stephenville, Texas, the 2010 Women’s Professional Rodeo Association heading world champion. She’s doing what she loves this week, competing at a high level for thousands and thousands of dollars at the Oklahoma State Fair.

postheadericon A little clarification is needed

In doing my daily research on rodeo, I came across a piece by Dorothy Marie Kucera on, a website that enables writers to blog about anything (special thanks to Kelli Wright at for finding it originally). In her post, Dorothy writes about Sunday’s NBC telecast of the final day of the PBR World Finals.

I applaud Dorothy watching and attempting to learn more about the sport, but her post is proof that we must get the word out about rodeo and bull riding to as many people as possible as soon as possible. “Those tight straps cinched around the poor animal’s chest and private parts are mean, in my opinion. If you have to create pain to make them jump so wildly, how does that further life on the ranch?”

To clarify: There are two pieces of equipment around the animals. One is the bull rope that is wrapped around the bull’s chest and allows the cowboy to hang on with one hand while keeping his free hand from touching the animal in accordance to the rules; the other is the flank strap, which, as the name describes, is wrapped around the animal’s flank.

The flank strap DOES NOT come in contact with the bull’s genitals. The bulls are not induced to buck by pain. No animal — especially a man — would be athletic in the least if a rope or string were wrapped around his “private parts.”

These animals are worth a lot of money to their owners, both as bucking athletes and as dads and grandads to generations of bucking athletes. No stock contractor would want to injure a bull, hurting that investment, and the last thing a livestock owner would do is potentially destroy the development of his herd by damaging the bull’s testicles.

My hope that the myths and untruths about the care of animals in rodeo and bull riding will be put to rest by folks with common sense. With education, we might get there. And while Dorothy’s post shed the light on the athleticism of these great bulls and bull riders in the PBR, many of her ignorant comments prove how far we have to go.

Common sense goes a long way; let’s home more bloggers use it.

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