The rodeo spirit lives on in Indiana’s cowboy and cowgirl youth
Bo Davidson’s jeans needed seams. Enough to keep a singer doing repairs for a while. However, he was lucky that his leg wasn’t slit.
Davidson, 11, of Brownstown, did his best to bring WWE to the mud at the Jackson County Fairground arena on Sunday. But despite his best grip around the animal’s neck, he was dragged across the floor and stepped on.
The jeans, previously worn only twice, was an accident with a hole the size of the Grand Canyon. Davidson, a newcomer to the event, had to wonder what he was getting himself into.
“Dad just signed me up for it,” he said.
The two-day Indiana High School Rodeo Association event attracted high school and junior high school attendees from across the state, including Jackson County cowboys and cowgirls, an intrepid local group performed in the Old West spirit of Buffalo Bill Cody and Annie Oakley Rides or Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.
There were 67 registrations, a total of 300 attempts in bareback ox riding, saddle bronze, barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying, team roping and more with some young people in about three events.
Most often, these are kids who lean towards the Western lifestyle towards highly competitive high school sports, even if they grew up in the Midwest, not the plains or mountains of Wyoming or Montana.
“Doing school sports and rodeo is really hard,” said 16-year-old roper Colton Whittymore from Brownstown. “It’s more difficult in the Midwest than in the West, where there’s a practice arena 10 minutes away everywhere.”
For the locals, this is their biggest rodeo around the year when, instead of driving lessons to a competition, the rest of the state, cowboys and cowgirls from Zionsville, Sheridan, Rushville, Muncie, Otterbein, New Castle and elsewhere, come to us.
Chris Meek, one of the association’s southern district directors, said the closest rodeo for Jackson County attendees would be in Salem in late October.
Rodeo is probably the most patriotic red-white-blue sport in the United States, maybe even more so than NASCAR racing, and every rodeo begins with a prayer and of course the national anthem. While the competitors definitely want to win, the atmosphere is lighter than in many other sports, according to Meek.
“What other sport do you have kids in who cheer the other kids for beating them?” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s a family thing.”
Local cowboys and angels
About 300-plus fans paid admission for the Saturday night performance, but the rodeo on Sunday was more reserved. It also played out in scorching conditions where the temperature reached 90 degrees and the heat index rose higher.
As evidence, this was the summer rodeo, cowboys, cowgirls, and adult officials all wore light white hats. It wasn’t because they were the good guys, but because wearing black might have helped melt their heads.
Horses and bulls relaxed in the arena and were gently gathered by riders who made soft “hey, hey, hey” shepherd noises. Music was playing over the loudspeaker, “Cowboys and Angels”. In a smaller adjoining enclosure, cowboys and cowgirls warmed up their horses.
Warming up may have been unnecessary under the blue, cloudless sky, but at least a little trot loosened the horse’s muscles. It was a little crowded in the narrow space at times as the 10 a.m. start time approached, but the Jackson County drivers took advantage of the opportunity.
Breakaway rider Amy Hall from Freetown, junior runaway Wyatt Mann from Brownstown, Raelyn Richey from Brownstown, Bo and Paige Davidson from Brownstown, and Colton Whittymore from Brownstown were eager to leave but didn’t want their horses to get up.
Admission was free, but funds raised on Saturday as well as sponsorship support were earmarked for scholarships, prizes and travel expenses for local children to go on road trips to larger rodeos.
“The stands were full,” said Meek.
Angela Hoagland, another board member for the southern district, said anything ingested “will help you later”.
A year ago, man, 12, pulled on a new white cowboy hat at this event. It fitted better now and had been through a few rodeo wars, had been broken into.
“It kicked,” said Mann.
This year Mann broke in a new horse named Poncho, which has a taste for apples as a snack. Man dealt with tear-off ropes, ribbon ropes and goat ties. Man especially likes the speed of tearing down, galloping into the arena, twirling the rope and trying to catch a dashing calf around the head.
“It’s quick,” he said. “Two swings and you’re done.”
All in the family
This family thing Meek noticed applies to the Davidsons. Bo, whose blue jeans got that dramatic hole from an ox, is the younger brother of Paige Davidson, 15, who tries multiple events but focuses on barrel racing.
Bo showed he was resilient by coming back and participating in goat tying. When he was on the floor after his tax incident, he gave the crowd a thumbs up and asked the announcer to say, “That’s a tough cowboy over there.”
Paige has bigger rodeo ambitions than most Indiana rodeo riders. Her goal is to make it to the pro class, but she has stalled a bit over the last year.
Barrel racers must develop a kinship with their horses similar to that of their siblings. They need to train for hours to develop their reactions, speed, and instincts as they do figure-eight laps around the barrels.
However, last year Davidson also played basketball and soccer with Trinity Lutheran. Harley, 23, the older of her two veteran horses, was in Brownstown that day and she didn’t think she’d trained him as well as it took to succeed.
“Rodeos # 1,” said Davidson. “Barrel Racing will always be No. 1. Harley was already on the track and I’m not letting him do his job. It didn’t go well. This could be my last year of sports. Maybe I have to quit the sport or quit the rodeo. It is time I had to make up my mind. “
The choice falls on Rodeo. It helps that she has a young horse at home – ZSpecialDolly – that is maturing and could represent the future.
Davidson blames himself for some of Harleys’ underperformance for taking their time and making them thin in school, Trinity sports teams, and the rodeo.
Just before analyzing her situation, Davidson had a tough bar-bending ride. In this case, six colored poles are arranged in a row in the arena. Horsemen dash out of the gate and then lead their horses in and out and around the bars.
Speed matters, but going too fast is reckless and can knock the bars over. The event measures horsemanship. Davidson KO had three poles and didn’t even get an end time. It was a reminder that practicing is essential and the need for practice time is vital.
Harley appeared to listen to Davidson’s report on her status, but made no comment.
“He only eats grass,” said Paige.
Holding on to the west
Whittymore qualified for national events in Guthrie, Oklahoma and Lincoln, Nebraska after improving his calf and team roping. He is fascinated by the tough competition, riding bulls and broncs, but his father forbids him to attend these events.
“I think I’ve gotten better,” he said of his abseil. “I can practice once or twice a week just to stay. I would like to do a rodeo in college. “
Whittymore tries to practice more regularly when a rodeo creeps up on the calendar, but it’s challenging in Indiana, where cowboys are less common and the western lifestyle is more on TV than walking out the door.
Rodeo may be Whittymore’s favorite sport, but he believes the opportunities for young competitors starting in the western states are more likely to be finished.
“You were born on a ranch and you have a rope in your hand,” said Whittymore.
In Indiana, to keep the old cowboy strong, you have to find those ropes and horses and invest TV time in John Wayne movies.
“We’re trying to keep it alive,” said Whittymore.