Bareback rider

A bareback rider makes the 8-second mark at the 2017 Dodge City Roundup Rodeo. (Journal photo by Kylene Scott.)

I'm a rodeo has been. I competed in youth rodeos, college rodeos and amateur rodeos for many years. I served on the board for the Kansas Professional Rodeo Association for four years as barrel racing director. Even though I haven't competed in a number of years, I still follow the sport and have deep-rooted feelings for it.

When they canceled the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo during the middle of the event at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was doubly upset because the rodeo was already underway and the livestock participants were essentially kicked out. Slowly but surely, other rodeos, fairs, livestock shows and events have been postponed or canceled since early March.

Late last week I caught the tail end of the Kiowa County Commission meeting. Seeing the Facebook live perked my interest because my husband had been filling me in with the happenings behind the scenes with this particular local rodeo. I watched as the stock contractor pleaded his case to the commissioners and the local health department. Officials were trying to decide whether or not they would be safe to go on as planned. Their modified rodeo event is scheduled for May 22 and 23.

A few comments in to the video I began talking to the computer screen. At one point the boys came in to see what I was so fired up about (picture me yelling at the computer like I would during a college football game). The county health department spokesperson was obviously concerned about the positive count of COVID-19 cases in the "county to our west" and what any contestants might bring to the small community from other states.

Later that same day, the governor of Kansas implemented Phase 1.5 of her Ad Astra: A Plan to Reopen Kansas, which meant groups of no more than 10 people were prohibited until June 1. The previous group restriction was to move to 30 people on May 18.

My husband had planned on entering the rodeo before the pandemic and I knew his intentions of attending the modified event if they didn't have the ranch bronc riding and helping wherever he could. I texted him after the announcement of Phase 1.5 and said, "Kiss rodeos goodbye until June 1."

After the Phase 1.5 information was released I was upset and irritated that the restrictions were ongoing. Enough is enough. It's time for some of these restrictions to be lifted. It feels as though these restrictions are about controlling Americans and their rights, than protecting the health of citizens. And this is coming from someone who lives in the number one county for positive cases in Kansas, Ford County. I want our community to be protected as well, but you can't continue to control people.

Late in the day May 18, a social media post on the Kiowa County KS COVID-19 page said, "The Governor's office has revised their previous guidance regarding rodeos, and after consulting the Governor’s office for clarification, rodeos are now permitted during Phase 1.5 IF they comply with the guidelines outlined in Executive Order 20-31."

That post came as a relief. It felt as though someone had heard the voices of those of us out here in rural America that need something to look forward to; something to improve the morale of those who are suffering because of the pandemic. Sure, I know rodeo isn't the cure all, but for many of us and for many on that committee it’s their lifeblood. The stock contractor is facing difficulties because the shut down has essentially took away his ability to do what he does and to have an income by producing rodeo events.

The next morning I ran across a comment again on social media about how the committee worked with the attorney general and Jamie Brown of the Triangle Rodeo Club hit the nail on the head. He said in his post, "Constitutional arguments were made. Common sense actually prevailed in government. I had almost given up hope that this was possible. Today the state AG (attorney general) reached out directly to our county attorney to let them know that rodeos WERE ALLOWED in 1.5. Something that had not been made clear prior to that direct phone call. The day was won!! We will adhere to health guidelines our best, to make it the most safe environment we can for voluntary spectators of our event."

The Triangle Rodeo Club is planning on bucking 40 bulls on Friday night, May 22 and Saturday night, May 23 will have 15 barebacks, 15 saddle bronc riders, and 15 bulls. I wish them all the luck for a successful and healthy event.

Brown continued, "We welcome all that wish to come join us. We ask that you be respectful of your fellow man and be mindful of their health. But we also say LET’S RODEO! Let’s take this first step back to normal. Let’s get out, enjoy ourselves, heal the mental anguish we have suffered, let’s celebrate our freedoms we still have to fight to protect over Memorial weekend."

I couldn’t agree more Mr. Brown! Let’s Rodeo!

(1) comment

Eric Mills

Have we learned NOTHING from this godawful HUMAN-caused pandemic? COVID-19--like the 2003 SARS epidemic--is a direct result of our gross abuse and mistreatment of animals, both wild and domestic.

Be aware that EVERY animal welfare organization in North America condemns rodeo due to its inherent cruelty. For most of the unwilling animals involved--horses and bulls alike--the rodeo arena is merely a detour en route to the slaughterhouse.

Rodeo has nothing to do with either agriculture or life on a working ranch. REAL working cowboys/girls never routinely rode bulls, or wrestled steers, or rode bareback, or barrel raced, or practiced calf roping (let's call it what it is) as a time event. And they certainly didn't put flank straps on the animals, or work them over in the holding chutes with painful "hotshots," kicks and slaps. Some "sport"! Indeed, rodeo is not a "sport" at all. That term denotes willing, evenly-matched participants. Rodeo does not qualify. Rather, it's a macho exercise in DOMINATION. And it needs to stop. The United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales) outlawed rodeos back in 1934. Can the U.S. be far behind? Legislation is in order: local, state, federal.

If we learn nothing else from COVID-19, it should at the very least teach us all a much-needed lesson in HUMILITY, with perhaps a dose of compassion for other creatures on the planet. Are we up to the task?

(Edited by staff.)

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