For the Capital Press

We have a nice little grocery store in my hometown. The kind of place where you can find the basics, order 500 pounds of lutefisk for the church supper and get recruited to be on a ranch rodeo team all in one stop.

That's what happened to me when I dropped by my friendly, neighborhood Towner Foods store. My experience with ranch rodeo has been as a partially distracted spectator at two of them. I've spent a lifetime working on the ranch part of the equation, but the rodeo part ... not so much.

Despite that, I was still game to give the team a go. It's hard to say no to your local grocer, especially after he's cut you a good deal on 500 pounds of Norwegian fish.

Ranch rodeo is one of the ways we entertain ourselves in small communities without professional sports teams, Broadway musicals or big-name concerts. It's got kind of a Roman gladiator twist to it as neighbors turn out to see if any of their friends get run over by a Longhorn cow or fall off their horse.

No one on our team was a ranch rodeo regular. We weren't afraid to learn on the fly, though.

The trailer relay was easy enough to figure out. Jump out of a pickup, unload four horses, run a little relay race as fast as the ponies will go, load up the mounts and jump back in the pickup. Fairly simple, unless you have a horse that's not used to people, or excitement, or being loaded in a trailer under the duress of a stopwatch.

Then there's a few roping events where you don't have the advantage of an even start like you do in normal team roping with the steer in a chute and the roper hovering next to him in the roping box.

In the trailer loading, I got our steer roped pretty quick like, dallied and pulled him over to a trailer sitting in the arena. That's when my two big, burly teammates dismounted and ran at him to load him in the trailer. That 300-pound Longhorn looked at the 500 pounds of combined cowboy headed towards him and knew he was beat. He jumped in like a trained circus animal.

In the steer mugging, we roped our steer, got him on his side and tied up three legs only to watch him wiggle loose in less than the six seconds he needed to stay tied.

The wild cow milking was the event where the spectators leaned forward in their seats in anticipation to see if any of their neighbors would get trampled, gored or kicked in pursuit of a few drops of unpasteurized, non-homogenized longhorned whole leche.

Our cow was pretty easy to handle once we got a rope on her and a couple guys on her tail. The challenge was in her October lactation. She was no Holstein. No relative of the Brown Swiss. She was a straight-up Longhorn who probably only milked decent for the first month or so after her calf was born. After that, she stuck with her calf more for companionship than nutrition.

Somehow our designated milker found a few squirts from one quarter of her udder, and I sprinted to the judge as best I could in chaps and cowboy boots.

When we packed up at the end of the day we weren't weighed down with any prize money or trophies, but it was sure fun. It wasn't exactly how we do things on the ranch. It was just different enough to seem like play, not work, and that's why I'd go do it again sometime.

Ryan M. Taylor is a fourth-generation cattle rancher, writer and state senator from Towner, N.D. E-mail: .


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