DRUMMOND — Behind the arena, among the trucks and horse trailers, are dozens of competitors and their animals waiting in anticipation for the day’s events.
Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeos, such as Sunday’s Drummond Kiwanis PRCA Rodeo, bring in some big names. The trailers carry license plates from Alberta, Canada, all the way down south to Texas.
Among the cowboys and cowgirls cleaning, feeding and readying their horses was Mike Gollaher of Great Falls. He was horseshoeing Six, the horse of Mark Roy, world renowned Canadian steer wrestler, before the day's main event. Gollaher had competed in steer wrestling earlier in the day during slack, which is for overflow contestants.
“Horseshoers are like artists,” Gollaher said as he drove nails in on Six’s horseshoes after he’d polished and the horse’s hooves. Gollaher explained that horseshoers often produce similar work, but in slightly different ways. But, they all get the job done, he said.
Roy joked that with the new horseshoes they might get 10 more miles per hour out of the horse.
Roy, Six’s owner, was the first Canadian cowboy to win the World Steer Wrestling Championship in 1992, was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2012.
Roy grew up on a farm, surrounded by rodeo in his community. “I just kind of caught the bug,” he said.
He now travels the rodeo circuit with his son, Denver Roy. Denver Roy, 25, followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a steer wrestler at 18. Denver Roy came in fifth at Sunday’s rodeo with a time of 5.8 seconds. The steer wrestling winner was Shawn Hanley of Bridger with a time of 4.2 seconds.
In Drummond, rodeo day is an all-day event, complete with a parade. Kids in fringed chaps clutching plastic bags wait excitedly for candy. After a handful is thrown, they instantly drop to the ground, hoping to be the first one to each piece of candy. This year there was something in it for the parents too — one woman was handing out beers.
In the Wagon Wheel Cafe, most of the diners were chatting about the rodeo with excitement.
The competition started at noon sharp and the stands were packed as the Drummond Rodeo celebrated its 76th anniversary. There were even people from as far as Texas and Norway in the stands.
The bucking horses featured in the bareback and saddle bronc riding were the favorite of many. As the horses busted out of the gate the crowd went wild as the cowboys fought to stay atop their horse.
Cauy Pool, from Klamath Falls, Oregon, stayed atop Canadian champ, Boardwalk, earning him a score of 65. Dismounting near the stands, Pool threw his arms up in victory, earning him another cheer from the crowd.
Rodeo attendees were friendly to all competitors, whether or not they were successful. The rodeo announcer reminded the crowd to show the unfortunate competitors their support. And they’d all earned it as Sunday’s horses weren’t playing around. One horse continued bucking, running into the arena’s gated fence.
“There was nothing fun about that. Not one bit,” said rodeo clown Danger Dave after one competitor's hard fall.
Kathleen Johnson was impressed by how many of the cowboys managed to stay atop the bucking horses. The horses are bucking with all their might, sending hats flying and jerking the riders around in every direction.
“I’ve seen rodeo a few times on TV, but it is much more fun in person,” said Johnson, who was attending her very first rodeo on Sunday after living in Montana for three and a half years.
Cache Hill, of Baker, won the bareback riding competition with a score of 79. Before Sunday, he was ranked fourth on the Montana rodeo circuit. Former world champion Jesse Kruse of Great Falls won the saddle bronc competition with a score of 81.
Judy Davis, who goes to multiple rodeos every season, accompanied Johnson to the rodeo, explaining the rules of each event.
Barrel racing is one of Davis’ favorite rodeo events because she knows many women who have competed and knows the hard work that goes into being a great barrel racer.
“The women are really good athletes,” she said, noting that the animals, especially in the bull riding event, are athletes too. Barrel racing requires precision and speed to win. On Sunday, many of the women’s times were within tenths of a second of each other.
“Rodeo is good, clean fun. And I love the animals,” Davis said.
Johnson’s introduction to rodeo was a good one, she said. “I love it. I’ll have to come again.”