Ranch rodeo rides into sunrise
Family focused event maintains longtime ranching traditions
By TIM HEARDEN
McARTHUR, Calif. -- Sorting and counting cattle and branding calves have been a lifelong chore for Mark Nonella.
So it's only natural that the Klamath Falls, Ore., resident competes in such events in the burgeoning ranch rodeo circuit.
"I grew up on a ranch and rodeoed, and I'm doing ranch rodeo now," said Nonella, who works at his father's livestock operation. "It's a good time. All of the ranchers get together and get to compete with each other. It's a good way to get out of work and get off the ranch."
Nonella was one of more than 50 competitors in the second annual Intermountain Ranch Rodeo on March 9-10 here, which drew teams of participants from throughout Northern California, Nevada and Oregon. The event raises money for the Shasta County Farm Bureau.
A departure from the more well-known pro rodeo circuit, ranch rodeos hark back to the early beginnings of the sport, when it was simply a competition among ranch hands. Their timed events are based on what actually happens on a ranch, and the degree of difficulty is high.
Events include ranch doctoring, calf branding, ranch sorting, herd counting and cow milking. One event that a modern rodeo fan might recognize is calf roping, which is used when a ranch hand needs to catch and treat a sick calf, explains an Intermountain Ranch Rodeo program.
The McArthur rodeo is one of a trio of such events in the region each year, as its participants typically also compete in the JP Ranch Rodeo in Red Bluff, Calif., and the Klamath Cattlemen's Ranch Rodeo in Klamath Falls, said Tiffany Martinez, manager of the Shasta County Farm Bureau.
In the fall, the local Farm Bureau office received awards from the state and national organizations for setting up its unique ranch rodeo, which was Martinez's creation and raised $13,000 last year.
Martinez and her husband, Tom, are ranchers and longtime participants in ranch rodeos and horse competitions. Tiffany Martinez thought the covered fairgrounds arena in McArthur would be conducive to attracting competitors from the three-state area, she said.
The two-day rodeo is sanctioned through the Western States Ranch Rodeo Association, with its winners eligible to compete in the finals in Winnemucca, Nev., later in the year. Last year there were about 100 different ranch rodeos in the country, Martinez said.
"It's really good because we can bring our families and the kids compete and stuff," she said. "Nobody's too serious and everyone loves to see the kids. My son is going to be 5 and he's going to be doing the California flag for the grand entry."
Most participants in last weekend's Intermountain rodeo were working ranchers or hands. Ray Hardy, who manages a ranch in Cedarville, Calif., said he enjoys the camaraderie.
"My dad did it before I did," he said.
Western States Ranch Rodeo Association: http://wsrra.org/index.htm
Shasta County Farm Bureau: http://shasta.cfbf.com/