Down to earth | TSLN.com

Down to earth

As a rodeo fan I'll admit that when the PRCA crowns its "World Champions" I fear something will be missing. For starters, how about Trevor Brazille, the Tryans, Luke Branquinho and others of their cowboy ilk?

Much has been made about the war between the PRCA and the ERA (Elite Rodeo Association) and I am less of a fan because of it. But I've found a new sport to take its place and if the PRCA and ERA don't stop their quibbling, the new kid on the block could snatch their thunder and part of their fan base as well.

Rodeo is supposedly the only national sport to have evolved from an industry, although one might argue that the chewing tobacco industry was invented by a bored right fielder during another long and dull Major League Baseball game. If you really want to see a sport that was mid-wifed by an industry try ranch rodeo. I've never ridden a bull or jumped off Gentleman to wrestle a steer to the ground but, like most ranchers, I've participated in ranch rodeo events like wild cow milking, team doctoring and bronc riding on a daily basis.

Ranch rodeo isn't really new, the Working Ranch Cowboy's Association held its 21st annual finals in Amarillo in November and it was a four day celebration of everything cowy, including traditional cowboy crafts like bit and spur making, horsehair hitching, cowboy poetry, cowboy concerts and traditional Dutch oven cooking. Talk about a tailgate party, the chuck wagon was the original! I'm told motel rooms filled up as far away as Tucumcari.

The roots of ranch rodeo are as old as the West itself and their tour schedule sounds like an atlas to the history of the West: Roswell, Encampment, Coffeyville, Medicine Lodge, Wichita Falls, Dalhart, and Roaring Springs. One of the qualifying ranch rodeos was held in Earth, Texas! You can't get more down to earth than that.

If the rodeo sites sound familiar, so do the names of the ranch teams like the Palo Duro, Tongue River, Sandhill Cattle Company, Spur, Haythorne, High Card Ranch, and the Bell. Ranch Rodeo is family entertainment and a team sport with photos of the winners almost always including one cowboy holding a baby. Ranch Rodeo has created a bigger demand for top hands who work on the ranch during the week and in the arena on the weekend.

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I predict that in the future there will be free agents in Ranch Rodeo signing contracts for $10 million, wild cow milking specialists will be buying real estate in Aspen and Sedona and instead of sleeping on the ground and in the mud when they go out with the wagon, top hands will have eight bedroom tents with maids, showers with hot water, 60 inch televisions, 300 thread count silk sheets and a masseuse to massage their sore throwing arms.

Cowboys won't have to tiptoe around Cookie anymore either, instead a French Chef will cook a son-of-a-gun-stew using filet mignon and shallots with a drizzle of truffle oil. Hungry cowboys will have to manage five forks and three knives as they sit on their haunches around the campfire. Before you know it they'll be using steroids, collecting Bentleys, and have to pee in a cup after every event. They'll hire high class New York divorce attorneys, go to rehab and party with the Kardashians. Saddle and vaccine companies will entertain in luxury suites.

One of the things I like best about Ranch Rodeo is the horses are honored as well as the cowboys. Before you know it geldings with names like Root Canal, Leather Lip and Damifino will have their own fans clubs and little girls will collect trading cards with horse faces on them.

A few years ago Steve Ballmer of Microsoft paid two billion dollars for the LA Clippers basketball team and he doesn't even get to play! For a lot less money he could have bought the Waggoner Ranch, hired all the cowboys who went to the NFR, suited up himself and had a billion dollars in change left jingling in his pocket. And, Mr. Colin Kaepernick, he'd also have had a team of superb athletes, everyone of them holding a sweat-stained cowboy hat over their big collective American hearts when Old Glory thundered into the arena.

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