Flint Hills cowboys continue proving to be the 'best in the West'
By Frank J. Buchman
Flint Hills cowboys have again proven to be among the very best anywhere.
Well, actually, the "Top Hand" in the country hails from the Flint Hills.
The Arndt-Bailey Ranch Rodeo Team set two event records and team member Wes Bailey was honored as Top Hand out of 200 cowboys representing 40 teams at the recent 2012 All-Around Ranch Rodeo Challenge in Glen Rose, Texas.
This is the sixth year All-Around Performance Horse Productions has produced the "richest ranch rodeo," paying out $50,000 to the winning team.
While the Arndt-Bailey team collected that top check last year, when the rodeo was in Clovis, New Mexico, they came home with $6,500 for seventh place and go-round event winnings this time.
"We weren't disappointed, but we had our sights set on a repeat first-place performance," said Bailey, Cottonwood Falls, the second-half of the team name.
Ryan Arndt, Emporia, represents the first-half of the name for the team which also includes Glenn Collinge, Eureka; Reid Greene, Laverne, Okla.; and Josh Lilley, Manhattan.
"Disappointment" didn't run too deep among team members though as they set an arena record time in the calf branding event.
"We also tied the arena record time to win the double mugging, won the wild cow milking, and collected three day-money checks of $500 each in the long-go-round," Bailey calculated.
Team penning and ranch bronc riding were the other events. "We placed right in the middle in the team penning," noted Bailey, who rode his sorrel ranch gelding called Eddie.
An all-around cowboy in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, Bailey has collected many saddle bronc riding awards, including Prairie Circuit titles.
So, obviously, Bailey represented his team in the ranch bronc riding event, which differs from professional rodeo in that stock saddles are used, and rules permit contestants to also hang on with their free hand, "anyway to get 'em rode."
Qualified rides by Bailey in "his event" kept Arndt-Bailey in the race for that part of the team competition.
However, Bailey emphasized, "I had weaker horses in both go-rounds.
"I just needed better draws to place higher and help our team score," acknowledged Bailey, pointing out his markings of 74 points in the long-go-round, and 73 points in the short-go-round.
Those "poor draws" took a back seat for Bailey when he was announced as the "Top Hand," receiving a handmade trophy saddle, a custom-made saddle blanket and a 20X Resistol hat.
"I was really shocked to be recognized out of so many cowboys of such high caliber," Bailey admitted.
"I was just doing my job. I really didn't do anything different than I would working everyday on the ranch," he emphasized.
However, that might be a bit modest, recognized several spectators.
"I caught all of my loops in the branding, and I was the mugger in the double mugging," reflected Bailey, who "got right in there in the cow milking," and was "in the right place at the right time" in team penning, according to team mates.
Still, most likely what put Bailey "over the edge" in balloting for the Top Hand title was the grace in the saddle on his ranch bronc, "doing just what came naturally."
"Looking back, I did everything just like I would right here on the ranch," said Bailey, as he took an early evening break from shoeing a horse, after a steamy hot afternoon in the hay field.
"We've been shipping double stock cattle in the morning, and haying in the afternoon," reflected Bailey, typical of his ranch life.
"Yep, I had a good day. I was just doing my job. Everybody on our team did their job. Sometimes, we have a little more luck on our side. I had a lucky day," Bailey critiqued.
"It isn't my first trophy saddle, but the first time I've won as a Top Hand at a ranch rodeo. It sure humbled me, and I sure appreciated it," Bailey evaluated.
Among the cowboys competing at the rodeo was Cash Meyers, a Welda, Kan., native who's now an all-around professional cowboy living in Texas.
Besides Kansas, there were ranch rodeo teams from Alabama, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
All members of Arndt-Bailey team are fulltime ranch cowboys for their livelihood, and winning ranch rodeos is nothing new to them.
They have been the Kansas Ranch Rodeo Champions five of the past seven years and are regular competitors in the Working Ranch Cowboys Association Finals each fall in Amarillo, Texas.
"We did 'all right' at Glen Rose, but we are own hardest critics. We just would like to have done a little better," Bailey concluded.
Wes Bailey, Cottonwood Falls, was honored as the Top Hand out of 200 cowboys in the recent 2012 All-Around Ranch Rodeo Challenge, considered the "richest ranch rodeo," at Glen Rose, Texas. He competed as a member of the Arndt-Bailey Ranches team.