Rodeos hold center stage |

Rodeos hold center stage

As our favorite sport of rodeo continues to hold center stage across our region it seems to get regular coverage here over the corral fence as well. You no doubt recall our mention, several months ago, of a proposed “Professional Rodeo League” that might change the face of the sport considerably, while providing rich opportunities for a select handful of cowboys and cowgirls.

That prospect has apparently not faded from the scene, although it didn’t kick off as quickly as originally planned. According to an article in the August issue of Spin to Win Rodeo, Truman Wright is pushing on with his plans for a draft in “September or October” and “a firm deadline of August 15 for contestants to sign up with the league.”

Wright told the magazine the draft date was pushed back for “two reasons.” He said, “When we brought out coaches on, they wanted more time to evaluate the contestants already in the draft, and they also wanted more time to recruit potential contestants who weren’t actively competing. As we bring the coaches on, there are guys we didn’t know about and hadn’t been able to reach, so the coaches are bringing them in.”

The article mentions Paul Tierney and Jimmie Cooper being among “prospective coaches.” The possibility of “600 contestants” is mentioned, along with the information that “Eight cities have been confirmed: Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Denver, Salt Lake City and Kissimmee, Florida. Four others are still in flux.”

That August 15th deadline is on the immediate horizon, so we’ll no doubt learn more in the near future.

Another new event that’s flourishing in the arena is the “World Series of Team Roping,” which will again be held the final weekend of the National Finals Rodeo. Event promoter Denny Gentry says, “I intend to marry the recreational aspect of this business to the entertainment component.”

He’s doing that by paying lots of money during his “Grand Finale” on December 13th – $800,000 each to the #10, #11 and #13 Finals – plus including a “15-minute World Series Specialty Barrel Race” with a $10,000 payout; a 15-minute World Series of Mounted Shooting with a $50,000 payout; and a World Series Bull Fight Challenge featuring four bulls and four bullfighters. All of that is set to award $2.8 million over the course of two hours. Gentry remarked, “The prospects of redefining cowboy entertainment just flat sounds like fun.”

I’m sure the ones who take that $2.8 million home will be agreeing with him!

Since we mentioned barrel racing there, we should perhaps share the latest news from the professional level of that event; news that I don’t believe is positive.

One disgruntled WPRA member posted an email saying she received her membership card last December but “no rule book, no other polls, no newspapers except one that was sent by the VP at my request.” Then, seven or eight months later, she’s being asked to “vote for revisions in the Articles of Incorporation.” While acknowledging that “some of it has needed updated for years” she pointed out the following as “objectionable” – “Members may not amend, repeal or adopt new bylaws” and “The Board of Directors shall have the exclusive power and authority at any time and from time to time to amend these articles of incorporation by the affirmative vote of more than two-thirds of the directors then in office.”

This lady also mentioned they cut the quorum from 25 percent of the members to 15 percent… and she concludes, “If anyone likes this new proposal, they must also love the set-up that the PRCA operates under. Members will be at the mercy of the WPRA board, and without representation if the board so desires.”

Sounds like a smart lady to me; and I’d have to agree with her. The lawyer coyotes have been set loose on that piece of legal mumbo-jumbo… that last statement sounds to me like some power-hungry officers could kick the dissenting directors off and then do whatever they pleased. It plainly reads “two thirds of the directors then in office.”

After taking the PRCA to court because they didn’t feel they were properly represented, it looks like the WPRA may be going down a similar crooked trail. Having paid a lot of dues to both organizations and having watched both organizations gain prominence, and now watching them apparently self-destruct and disintegrate, I am saddened.

Other very sad news for the rodeo family last week was the unexpected passing of 27-year-old Levi Wisness of rural Keene, North Dakota. Levi, prominent high school, college and pro rodeo cowboy was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor last year. Even though Levi rode high in bulldogging world standings for most of 2007, the tumor kept him from competing in the National Finals Rodeo. He’d apparently won his battle with the disease, though, and was reported in good health, looking forward to kicking off a strong PRCA season next October.

The ranch-reared North Dakota cowboy rodeoed for South Dakota State University, Eastern Wyoming College and the University of Wyoming, and was National College Steer Wrestling Champ in 2003. An honor student who excelled in football, wrestling and rodeo, Levi spent the past six years working for and living with Brian and Lisa Fulton of Mission, South Dakota, where he was considered part of the family.

It was said of Levi that “Making friends was what he did best… his ready grin and warm and generous spirit… attracted people like honey attracts bees… Levi never met a stranger, just friends he hadn’t bumped into yet.” He will be deeply missed by all who knew him; most of all his parents Milo and Julie and his siblings Beau, Heather and Chase. We extend our sincerest condolences.

In closing, here’s a heads up to those of you who live in regions affected by Coal Bed Methane and the water discharge associated with those gas wells. The Wyoming Environmental Quality Council (EQC) is about to become involved, for the first time, in the process to protect landowners and citizens from this waste water, and there’s a brief window during which you can comment. Comments made earlier to the DEQ or Waste Water Advisory Board need to be re-submitted for the consideration of this group, because there’s strong hope that EQC will “take some real, responsive action from landowner comments.”

Especially urgent are requests that EQC ensure protection of agricultural uses for livestock, soils and vegetation, since the DEQ Ag protection policy should avoid impacts to these resources as the top priority. They should also be requested to set water discharge standards at safe levels for livestock and wildlife as recommended by the University of Wyoming study.

Let your thoughts be known, no later than August 26, 2008, by faxing to (307) 777-5973, or mailing to Environmental Quality Council; c/o DEQ/Water Quality Division; ATTN: David Waterstreet; 122 West 25th Street; Herschler Building- 4W; Cheyenne, WY 82002.

And that’s the end of this ol’ lariat rope for another week…

© 2008 Rhonda Stearns

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