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Ranch Rodeo showcases rugged way of life

Competitors get time to compete and mingle
A rancher attempts to secure the legs of a kicking steer during the Ranch Rodeo in Cortez on Friday night.

Since its founding in 1776, the United States of America has leaned heavily on ranchers who work sunup to sundown to raise the cattle that provide nourishment to the nation.

Stout and rugged, such ranchers have shown themselves loyal to their nation while demonstrating the willingness to rub noses with charging steers and climb upon the backs of unbroken colts in forests and fields where solitude serves as sustenance.

On Friday evening, as part of the Montezuma County Fair, more than 60 ranchers descended on the Rodeo Arena at the fairgrounds for the Ranch Rodeo, which showcases their way of life.

As several hundred onlookers peered down from the stands, the hands roped cattle, tied steers, maneuvered horses and shared laughs.

Event opens with patriotic scene

Setting the stage for the night’s entertainment was a touching moment during the opening minutes of this year’s Ranch Rodeo after the audio system charged with playing “The Star Spangled Banner” malfunctioned.

As the speakers crackled and the music stopped, crowd members and competitors raised their voices in unison to sing the final verses of their national anthem as a lone rider circled the arena carrying an American flag that waved in the wind.

As the words “and the home of the brave” were sung, members of the audience burst into cheers as cowboys and cowgirls tipped their caps to the stands.

“I think it’s just awesome that we’re able to get out and at least do a little bit of somethin,’” said local rancher Hardy Tozer. “We’re not attracting too many people, and it’s a big enough facility that everybody can stay separated. It’s a really neat deal.”

Calcutta auction raises money

Shortly after the conclusion of the anthem, and just before the evening’s main events, teams of ranchers moved to one side of the arena to participate in a Calcutta-style auction that allowed audience members to bid on individual teams.

After being informed that the money raised during the auction would be returned to winning bidders on the top three teams, community members began bidding in hopes of taking home a big prize.

As the auctioneer’s voice cascaded across the arena, bidders offered large sums of money, including a top bid of $1,000 for a team of local cowboys featuring members of the Tozer family.

“It’s just money, it’s not your wife,” exclaimed the auctioneer, while imploring audience members to raise their bids higher.

In all, $6,650 was raised.

Events showcase everyday skills

As the Calcutta auction concluded and the sun began to sink, 16 teams, each composed of a handful of ranchers, exited the arena and prepared for a competition that required them to pen two calves, rope and brand a calf, tie a steer to a hitching post and load a separate steer as quickly as possible.

Requiring male and female ranch hands, the evening’s events featured several memorable moments including one in which a steer ran over one cowboy and another in which a 9-year-old rancher roped and dragged a large steer to a nearby trailer.

“Ranch rodeos are a bit different than pro rodeos because you get a lot of working cowboys out here that don’t really get to come to town and have fun,” explained Cortez rancher David Jones. “We just come to town and have fun and let loose.”

Sometimes, I don’t hardly meet anybody for a year,” said local rancher Derek Goldtooth. These ranchers out here, they are basically my community.”

At the end of the events, the C Rafter L team, composed of ranchers from the Cortez area, took top honors. The TNT Arena from Cortez finished second, and The Day Breakers finished third.

After the closing contest – the Wild Cow Milking event – fans voiced their appreciation with loud cheers before disappearing into the warm night.

“It’s a good feeling,” said Jones. “We try to give them a show and give them something to watch, we give them something to come out and do. It’s cool to be in this environment, local and hometown.”