Sunday, April 05, 2009

Excitement, Action & Fun: 15th Annual Laughlin River Stampede Rodeo

When Roy Honeycutt talked about the rodeo at the breakfast meeting of the Laughlin Rotary Club, he got emotional. His voice quivered and several times he swiped a tear from his eye. He spoke of passion for the horses and of honor for a rodeo friend who passed away. He mentioned with pride his family, especially a young grandchild who said the Pledge of Allegiance at a recent rodeo opening ceremony. He praised his wife Virginia for her hard work and support. He repeatedly apologized for his emotional display, but no apology was needed. Roy spoke like a man who deeply loves his family, his animals, and rodeo.

Rotary invited Roy to their meeting to talk about Laughlin’s four day event, the 15th Annual Laughlin River Stampede PRCA Rodeo. Roy’s family business, Honeycutt Rodeo Inc., produces the Laughlin event.

When Roy asked for questions, my hand shot up along with the hand of a man seated next to me. Roy apologized again, “Sorry, Terry,” he addressed the man to my left. Then pointing at me, he grinned, “She’s prettier than you.” eHH He addressed me, “What’s your question?”

“I just want to go to your rodeo. Where are the rodeo grounds and where do I get tickets?” I asked.

“You will be my guest in the VIP tent,” answered Roy surprising me with his reply.

With grateful and exuberant appreciation, I said, “Thank you!”

I restrained my happy dance until got back to the Prevost coach and made the announcement to Ed, “We have tickets to Saturday’s rodeo! This is going to be fun!”

On Saturday before entering the rodeo gate, Ed and I wandered around the show grounds. We met Travis Bounds, a polite young man who we’d later watch compete in team roping. Rodeo comes natural to Travis. He told us he’d been on horses and roping calves throughout his young lifetime. He learned about rodeo from his Dad who competed – competed Travis said in rodeo that is until family responsibilities like birth of Travis’ sister came along. Travis told us he felt especially grateful to his sponsor Western Pump & Dredge in Grand Junction, Colorado. Without a generous sponsor, Travis explained he’d be hard pressed to cover expenses – the entrance fees, fuel for his truck to haul his trailer to events, his meals, and feed for the horses. He estimated his costs to be sometimes as high as $200 a day. We noticed a bale of alfalfa mounted with a mock head of a calf; Travis practices his roping on this model. He gave us a demonstration just for fun. His lasso easily landed on the mark.

Inside the gate, we found the white VIP tent and Roy Honeycutt. Although he appeared busy with last minute details of the rodeo, he broke away to give us a wholehearted welcome. “Everyone has to have a rodeo hot dog,” he encouraged us to grab a plate and enjoy the show.

We had barely taken our seats in the VIP stands when we heard a gunshot. A cowboy on his horse burst into the arena. Then the roar of hooves pounding the dirt created a thunderous sound. More than an dozen horses stampeded through the arena. “Wow,” I said aloud. “What an exciting opening!”

The cowboy introduced us to the stars of the show – the herd of horses still moving in clusters around him. Then, he said something I’d never heard at a rodeo. He addressed the claim by some that rodeo animals are mistreated. He told us it would be foolish to mistreat rodeo horses. They are expensive. They get good nourishment. They perform minimal amounts of time, much less time than most people in the stands work in a week. And, the horses receive regular veterinary care. He affirmed that the animals get high quality care. What a great message to share!

Now, let me be a myth buster too. I like rodeo for more reasons than just seeing cowboys in Levi jeans, Justin Boots, and a Stetson Hat. I like the excitement of watching the lassos fly and seeing a steer wrestled to the ground. I like screaming , “Go, go, go” as the young ladies whip around the Coors barrels and finish seconds apart in the barrel races. I like to laugh at the rodeo clowns who mock the crowd and joke with the announcer. And, I like the thrill of watching the bareback riders and bull riders flop like rag dolls for the full 8 seconds then worry as they release themselves to get whisked away by a rider or tussled on the ground. Fast action, danger, thrills and cheers – that’s what rodeo is about for me.

So what set the Laughlin Rodeo apart from the Houston Livestock & Rodeo Show or the Mesquite Rodeo? First, I thought the announcers rallied the crowd to welcome each contestant. They commanded cheers for each success. And, the announcers did well in handling the rodeo performers who suffered penalties or a poor performance. They encouraged applause and even said something like “no man leaves disappointed.” That is good sportsmanship. Second, I believe that the bareback riders and bull riders put on a good show. They hung on to the bucking animals for more than a blink of an eye. I’ve been to other rodeos where only a few fellows ride the full 8 seconds. We were not disappointed in Laughlin. And third, we witnessed the unique, whip-cracking performance by the John Payne, the One Armed Bandit. With his extraordinary cowboy skills, he rounded up two buffalo and led them up a ramp atop his animal trailer. His amazing act has been acclaimed as the PRCA Specialty Act of the Year eight times. We’ll acclaim his talent too!

We left the rodeo energized by all the action and fun entertainment. Roy Honeycutt knows how to put on a show!

March 28, 2009

The Laughlin River Stampede was held March 26 -29.

It is one of the PRCA’s biggest rodeos with more than $200,000 in prize money for the

top cowboys and cowgirls in competition.

No comments: