After hundreds of miles on the road and dozens of hours behind the steering wheel, Coleman, Texas natives Brent Arnold and Walt Arnold arrived in Cortez on June 7 to participate in the second night of the Ute Mountain Roundup.
Rodeo men through and through, the father-son duo, who grew up playing football in Texas before becoming steer wrestlers, decided to attend the Ute Mountain Roundup based on the elder Arnold’s experience in Cortez 36 years ago.
“I came to (The Ute Mountain Roundup) in 1983 when I was on my way to the College National Finals Rodeo,” Brent Arnold said. “It’s just such a great event. You don’t see big crowds like this in a lot of the places that you go, and the community is so welcoming.”
Rodeo runs in the bloodAfter concluding his professional rodeo career a decade ago, Brent Arnold shifted his attention to a family life that included his son Walt Arnold. Steer wrestling never left Brent Arnold’s mind however, and over the years, he and his son attended numerous rodeos across Texas.
As Walt Arnold grew older, his spry legs and powerful shoulders left little doubt as to his lineage. By the time that Walt Arnold arrived in high school, he was already and accomplished football player, and by the time he graduated from Coleman High School, he had earned All-West Texas honors as a center and defensive end.
Although several colleges offered Walt Arnold the opportunity to compete at the college level, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound, soon-to-be college freshman decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and pursue a career in professional rodeo.
Although Walt Arnold’s choice to leave the gridiron was not an easy one, he noted that tackling speedy Texas running backs was not all that different than bringing down 500-pound steers in rodeo arenas across the country.
“There are a lot of similarities between football and steer wrestling, I think,” Walt Arnold said. “Back when I was playing (football), I remember the announcer said, ‘Man, it looks like he’s throwing down a steer down there.’ I got to transfer my (football skills) to (rodeo), and I think that helped.”
Now a well-known steer wrestler on the college and professional rodeo circuits, Walt Arnold takes pride in following in his father’s footsteps, while the elder Arnold cannot help but beam while talking about his son.
“I drug (Walt Arnold) around to all these rodeos when he was a little kid,” Brent Arnold said. “I’ve rodeoed a long time, and we just enjoy rodeoing. It’s a good way to stay together and spend time with each other. It’s in our blood, I guess.”
Steer wrestling highlights nightAmong the many highlights of what turned out to be a memorable second night at the Ute Mountain Roundup was a series of standout performances by a group of steer wrestlers who showed little fear while competing in one of rodeo’s toughest events.
Those who competed included Keensesburg, Colorado. cowboy Gage Hesse, who broke quickly from the shoot and pinned his steer in 6.3 seconds. Moments later, Walt Arnold put his steer on the ground nearly as quickly when he earned a time of 6.5 seconds.
The finest performance of the evening however, came from Coyote Canyon, New Mexico, cowboy Rooster Yazzie, whose unique name and connection to the Navajo Nation rendered him a fan favorite before he ever left the shoot.
Timing his break out across the barrier perfectly, Yazzie bailed from his horse almost immediately and caught his steer by the horns in less than three seconds. The two-time Indian National Finals Rodeo qualifier then slung his steer to the ground in short order to earn an event-best time of 5.7 seconds.
As the ground roared its approval and Yazzie walked back towards the shoots, the power in his arms and legs was obvious and the toughness necessary to compete steer wrestling event was plain for all to see.
Although no steer wrestlers were injured during the second night of the Ute Mountain Roundup, broken bones and torn ligaments are not uncommon in the event, which tends to attract only the strongest and most hard-nosed cowboys.
“I never had any serious injuries, just the usual stuff” Brent Arnold said, when asked about the dangers associated with steer wrestling. “I had a torn ACL, a separated shoulder, a broken leg, just a few little things. I was fortunate to have stayed pretty healthy. Rodeo keeps you young.”
Families enjoy community atmosphereAs fathers, sons, mothers and daughters competed in the Ute Mountain Roundup arena, scores of fans enjoyed the festivities from the Montezuma County Fairgrounds arena. Among them were individuals of all ages and backgrounds.
On a night that began with first responders from the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office, the Montezuma County Fire Department and several other local entities being honored, smiles were aplenty and the feeling of community permeated the air.
Asked about the family-type atmosphere that makes rodeo so special, Brent Arnold emphasized that the sport has a tendency to bring individuals together, whether those individuals are watching from the stands or competing in the arena.
“Rodeo is all about family,” Brent Arnold said. “I’ll tell you what, there are guys that I went to college with and rodeoed with and now their kids are doing the same thing. We see each other at the rodeos and that’s enjoyable. The sport is a good family type deal and there’s a lot of camaraderie.”
Certainly, such camaraderie was evident throughout another memorable evening at one of Cortez’s most entertaining community events. The final night of the Ute Mountain Roundup will kick off at 7 p.m. Saturday.