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May 20, 2022

Funny Papers Again Column | Lost in Transit

This week’s column was about cowgirls and cowboys and their dedication to the sport of rodeo and to the Western lifestyle. It was filled with quotes from participants of California High School Rodeo Association from three districts within the state who gathered at the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds over the weekend of March 25-27.

I had begun with reminisces of my youthful days when a couple of my female classmates were horse riders and participated in barrel racing and gymkhana events. I then told of how far girls had come in the world of rodeo and now participated in a wide variety of rodeo events. On the two days I was in the Rava Arena where events were held I noticed, at least during the hours I was there, that a majority of the participants were girls and that these cowgirls were doing things on a horse that scared the bejeezus out of me.

While the writing was nothing that was going to win any awards, it did provide a look into a youth-oriented activity, which is so valuable to any community and as such was shaping up to be a pretty good column, even if I do say so myself. But I apparently suffered a “senior moment” and lost the USB device on which the column was recorded and there went all my work. And that was not all that was lost; the device also held all the Funny Papers I have written since Column One. Bummer.

Now before you think to yourselves, “Why didn’t he save them in the Cloud?” I will state here that the only thing I have ever had in a cloud is my head. So, I have to play catch-up and get this column into shape enough to print; and this after I have tossed all my rodeo notes.

Here’s a fact: Horses are not dumb animals; and it would be unwise to state opinion to the contrary. “Don’t write that!” was the admonition I got from a KCHS classmate; a lady who is no stranger to horses. Neither are her children nor her grandchildren strangers to horses and all that is involved with the horse lover’s world. And, as it happened, a few minutes after offering my opinion of the intelligence, or lack thereof, of horses (I have a couple stories from my youth where horses are antagonist) I happened across (using first names only) TJ and Gracie, I guess now that she is high school age she is Grace; by either name she is Kate’s (the classmate mentioned above) granddaughter; and Tim is her grandfather.

When I asked TJ and Grace who I might talk to about events, they pointed out a cowgirl in a red vest with a clipboard who was monitoring a horse gate during the goat roping competition. A quick couple of words with the gal had us set up for a talk the next day when I planned to return with notebook and pen in hand (I fully realize my cell phone has voice recording capability, but I am “old school”).

Here are some of the responses I received on that Saturday, some with the names I remember: When asked, “When did you first ride a horse?” a majority responded they had no memory; their first time in the saddle, or bareback, was at an age when memory-making mechanisms had yet to kick in. That was the response of Ella from Coalinga, and Victoria from King City and four of five other cowgirls sitting on their mounts whose names I never heard. One girl did say she was 4 years old when she first rode; she remembered it was a pony not a horse.

The question was posed because for decades I have been amazed at how riders and horses train together for specific events and how to the untrained, me for example, it is a frightening spectacle to behold. Ella, a junior high school competitor, was entered in four events: team roping, breakaway roping, ribbon roping and goat roping; that is a lot of lariat lassoing. Now Ella is pretty much average when it comes to size for young, teen-aged cowgirls, that is to say most don’t weigh hardly nothing at all in comparison to the monstrous hunk of horseflesh they ride; and they ride at frightening speeds.

In the goat roping competition, which like most rodeo events is timed, the horse charges down the arena to where a goat is tied to a set place whereupon the rider, all 95 to 105 pounds of her, jumps off the still-running steed and attempts to tie the feet of the goat well enough to hold for six seconds. It is that leap from saddle to ground that makes me cringe every time; it is athleticism derived from years of practice. It is the same with pole and barrel racing, sometimes the horse is making tight, fast turns and other times the rider is urging the horse to full speed. It is not uncommon for hats to fly off heads and sometimes shirts and blouses get blown to the point of near button snapping.

And as for the red-vested cowgirl with the clipboard? As it turned out she is Rylee Roberts from San Benito High School, who on the Friday of competition was crowned the High School Rodeo Queen for District Four, which covers from San Francisco to Bradley and points east. She will compete for more queen titles at the state level in Bishop and then later at the national level in Wyoming. To become a rodeo queen one must not just be able to ride, there are also speech, Western wear modeling, personality, evaluations and the dreaded impromptu response.

Rylee not only did extremely well in all categories, on a 50-question test she scored the highest in California’s nine high school rodeo districts; and that ain’t hay (get it: horses, hay?). OK, enough, cowpokes.

Take care. Peace.

Steve Wilson
King City and Greenfield Columnist

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