As the sun sank toward the horizon at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds on Aug. 2, a thin cloud of dust rose from the facility’s main arena and the distinct smell of stock and leather permeated the air.
Cutting through what might have otherwise been a silent night, the rich sound of an auctioneer’s voice cascaded across the arena floor before eventually mixing with the cries of young children and the conversations of excited fans.
In the arena, a large group of ranchers of different ages, genders and backgrounds laughed and exchanged tips ranging from how to best corral the small calves waiting in nearby shoots to how to avoid the horns of several large steers that would soon be loaded into a nearby horse trailer.
All the while, an American flag waved overhead with the help of a light breeze as if to remind all those in attendance of the greatness of the United States of America and its deep connection to the ranching community.
“Ranching is a different lifestyle and you don’t really understand it until you’ve done it,” said Will Vest, who traveled approximately six hours from Arizona to compete in this year’s event. “It’s a heartbeat of our country.”
Like many ranch rodeo events, this year’s rendition of the Josh Karston Memorial Ranch Rodeo required four- and five-person teams of ranchers to perform numerous tasks meant to simulate everyday work on a ranch.
Such tasks included loading steers into a trailer, separating and penning small calves from a larger herd, hitching a steer to a large post, and roping and tying down steers as if to prepare such steers for branding.
Unlike many traditional ranch rodeo events that require teams to perform each task separately however, the Josh Karston Memorial Ranch Rodeo’s “scramble” format required teams to compete all four tasks as quickly as quickly as possible without breaks in between.
The result of the unique format was non-stop action that kept fans engaged and kept competitors entertained and shortly after the event, several ranchers praised rodeo organizer Zane O’Dell for putting together the unique event.
“The reason that we come (all the way from Arizona) is because of Zane O’Dell,” Vest said. “Zane is a cowboy and he comes at it with a cowboy mindset. The event that they have here are cowboy events and everything is so well-organized. It’s all because of Zane O’Dell.”
Seven teams competed in this year’s event, including The Wild Bunch from Blanding, Utah, which led off the competition with an impressive performance that highlighted the importance of teamwork and ended with an event-best time 3 minutes and 23 seconds.
Also producing a crowd-pleasing performance was the Tomahawk team, which was comprised of several local ranchers and featured two young female ranchers whose deft roping elicited loud cheers from the large crowd.
Shortly after the conclusion of the main ranch rodeo events, teams competed in a Wild Cow Milking Event, which required ranchers to rope a cow and subsequently remove a bell from its neck.
As teams of ranchers did their best to hang on to the wild cows while dodging ropes and horns, the arena announcer remarked that Wild Cow Milking “can get real Western real fast” as if to recognize the pure intensity of the event.
After a team known as the Outsiders captured top honors in the Wild Cow Milking event with a time of 42 seconds, competitors gathered near the arena and conversed with other members of what many described as a “tight-knit” ranching community.
“Nearly everybody out here knows each other,” Cortez rancher Jeff Osbourn said. “(This event) is just a good deal and we all enjoy one another and we do what we need to do.”
Thanks to Josh Karston Memorial Ranch Rodeo organizers and the many ranchers who competed, fans were treated to another exciting ranching showcase at this year’s Montezuma County Fair.