By Jeff Rebitski
Friday night, the Dubois Rodeo opened their season to an incredible crowd of rodeo fans and contestants. The stands were packed with spectators from all over Fremont County and beyond as local Dude Ranches and tourism coordinators brought guests from across the country to enjoy the events.
For some, it is their first rodeo experience and for them the shock can be seen in their faces and heard in the gasps as they watch kids of all ages along with the women and men compete for the money that is up for grabs at the pay window.
The rough stock events, Bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding and steer riding for the kids were a big hit as these contestants place themselves in harms way to see if they can stay on while following the rules, the beasts that are chosen for them are singularly focused on putting the riders on the ground in the harshest way possible.
The ladies have their time in the arena as they compete in barrels and break away roping, attempting to rope a steer and let it run to the end of the rope and pull it from the saddle horn with the hope of doing it in under 3 seconds.
The men who rope are of two varieties, 1st are the “Team ropers.” Two men leave the “Boxes” together and one ropes the head first and the other contestant ropes the hind legs, or the “Heels.” They are concentrating on time, speed and accuracy. A clean run will add to the average until the fastest team takes the win.
The second kind of roping is the “Calf Ropers;” they work alone against a calf who is running to the opposite side of the arena. The cowboy must rope the calf around the neck, dismount his horse, run down the rope, throw or “flank” the calf, then tie three of its legs together, get back on the horse and wait to see if the calf shakes free. All this happens, often in under 10 seconds.
It is fast paced and very physically demanding for both rider and horse.
The final event is steer wrestling. The calf is released and the cowboy rides hard to get alongside the beast sliding down the side of his horse, grabbing the horns and wrestling the steer to the ground. During the dismount, the horse can be moving in excess of 30 miles an hour. All of this is hopefully accomplished in less than 8 seconds.
The traditional barrel racing is primarily for the ladies, but in recent years, more men are doing this event in local rodeos. A clover leaf pattern is run around three barrels, competing for the fastest times. A “good” run will be accomplished in around 17.5 seconds. Women train for this event and condition their horses for years.
The most popular events for the spectators are the rough stock events. The joy for them is found in the talent of the animals in these events and nobody was disappointed on Friday night as almost nobody rode a qualified ride. The cowboys who did were celebrated and the losers, well they will spend the next week trying to figure out what they did wrong, but they will be back next Friday night to try again.
Katie Becker, the director of the rodeo and her husband Jerry own Wind River Rodeo Company in Dubois. They provide bulls for the event and coordinate with the stock contractors for the rest of the stock. She states that the cowboys collected somewhere in the neighborhood of $1500 at the Friday event and each consecutive rodeo makes the numbers grow. SInce everything has gone up lately, the ticket prices to get into the rodeo have gone up to $15.00 per person. That ensures there is money for improvements. This past week they were able to install a new public Address system so everyone sitting in the new grandstand bleachers could hear. Private donors provide much of the support for those items. It’s safe to say that private donors are the lifeblood of this ever growing rodeo. Many local and distant donors appreciate the effort made to keep the rodeo alive and running like a wild mustang that roams freely in the hills surrounding Dubois.
This is just one more reason to visit the mountain community of Dubois, nestled in the hills of the Wind River Range.