Ridin’ at the Rodeo
Never ask a bull rider if he has ever been hurt right before a ride, and don’t ask if he is scared.
These were the words of wisdom offered by Truckee Championship Rodeo chairwoman Cathy McEneaney moments before the bull riders took to McIver Rodeo Arena Saturday night at the Regional Park.
There were many events in the rodeo besides bull riding – bareback riding, saddle-bronc riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, the boot race, rodeo clowns, barrel racing and the post-rodeo dance and barbecue, to name a few.
But judging by crowd reaction, no event is more popular than bull riding.
As the announcer introduced the event, spectators in the box seats squeezed next to one another and hung their heads over the railing to secure a better view.
The first rider, Brian DeCanter from Menesee, Calif., could be seen adjusting his grip, wedging his hand underneath the bull rope which was cinched around the animal’s torso.
Meanwhile, the other riders were behind the gate pacing back and forth, preparing for their turn by stretching or praying. Some were practicing the motion of being whipped around on the back of the enormous beasts like a flag on a windy day.
The excitement was inescapable.
It’s hard to describe the thrill of being next to a raging bull, seeing the spastic thrashing, the hooves punching the dust and kicking the air. But it may be even harder to imagine what it must be like for the riders.
DeCanter was spun about, bounced like a paddle ball, for eight seconds.
“I can’t remember anything when I’m riding a bull. I can hardly hear the crowd,” DeCanter said later. “It’s funny, you go into a subconscious state. They say if you can think about what you’re doing you’re a half a second too late.”
DeCanter earned a 67-point ride, which put him just below the finalists.
“I pray a lot,” DeCanter said of his pre-riding preparation. “It’s a very mental game. You gotta really focus. You can’t think when you get up there to ride; you just gotta do what you know how to do. And pray a lot. It’s dangerous. One of the riders we were riding with broke his jaw last weekend… He’s around 40 years old.”
The rodeo is the type of cultural production, like the Shakespeare Festival or a rock concert, that leaves the viewer stunned for some time before comprehending the event. For today’s Truckee resident, the rodeo can border on surreal.
It didn’t used to be that way.
Truckee has a long-standing tradition in ranching, and rodeos in particular.
Rex Powell, who has been at the Truckee rodeo since day one in 1975, when it was still an amateur event, recalls working on the construction of what’s now the McIver Rodeo Arena.
“I’ve been here since ’72. [Back then] it used to be just on an old dirt bank on the side. I used to spend a lot of time putting it together when it was new.”
Chris Whitehead, a professional cowboy and steer wrestler for 18 years and former Truckee resident, said the Truckee Rodeo is one of the prettiest rodeos around.
“I’ve been going to the Truckee rodeo for close to 12 years. The recent changes with the people… the crowds are bigger and better. It’s definitely one of the prettiest rodeos I have ever been to, and I’ve been traveling with the professional rodeo for 18 years, attending 40 to 60 rodeos per year,” he said.
Josh Susman said there were near record numbers at the rodeo this year with approximately 11,000 attendants.
“It was believed to be a record sponsors appreciation on Friday. Roughly 450 people were present for dinner,” he said.
In the sponsors penning competition on Aug. 11, USA Media took first place, followed by Hooper Real Estate and Dependable Tow.
“We really want to thank our sponsors,” Susman said. The Rahlves family, Eagles Crest, Disabled Sports USA and USA Media were the some of the biggest sponsors, and helped put together one of the largest Truckee rodeos to date.
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