Brady Swanz

Brady Swanz holds on as tightly as he can to his sheep, “Ewe will regret this,” during the mutton bustin’ competition.

Half of the Glendo rodeo arena was covered in thick mud, mud so thick that when 19-year-old Colton Roark, volunteering as the event’s rodeo clown, walked through it before the mutton bustin’ competition, he lost both of his shoes.

While unforgiving for human shoes, the arena’s conditions proved to be no issue for horseshoes. Teams from around the region convened July 6 for the Glendo ranch rodeo. There were nine teams in total competing in three events — the mad scramble, trailer loading and sort-n-order.

The mad scramble had the team of four split to brand a cow, milk a cow and doctor a calf. Between each competition, which was just for the trained adult ranchers, were different contests for children including mutton bustin’ and a boot scramble.

The children were able to claim small prizes from the concession area after they finished, the adults for a cash grand prize. After the singing of the National Anthem, each team walked their horses to the center of the arena for the calcutta led by auctioneer Cooper Gray.

After all the teams were purchased for the day, thousands of dollars were put in the pot. Once that was said and done, rodeo action kicked off with the mad scramble from Cross H Ranch. Cross H Ranch, from Buffalo, finished the first event in just over two minutes, setting the bench mark for the rest of the competition.

Cross H wound up finishing in second place among the nine teams with 22 combined points. Before this week, the team had only three members despite needing four for competition. Ben Hanson, Brandon Moody and JV Bolden were the original members, asking Eric Wassenberger to join them for the ranch rodeo.

Wassenberger was already planning on being in Glendo over the weekend, he was also a member of Boot Heel 7 with his brother Andrew Wassenberger. The Wassenbergers were joined by fellow brothers Lane and Brett Hageman. The only team to score more points than Cross H Ranch was Boot Heel 7, ending their day with 25.

“Now that we’re all older it’s a good way to be able to compete still because everybody likes to compete,” Lane said.

To complete the mad scramble, the teams would break apart into twos. One pair would corral and tie the calf while the other focused on the milking. Almost all of the teams ended their round by gathering together to take down the cow for the branding.

After all teams had their chance to scramble, most of the teams finished, the children took over their corner of the arena. Just finishing each event was a point of pride for several of the teams, including the Platte River Boys.

“We could use some work, but we completed all of our tasks, Brock Hladky, of the Platte River quartet, said. “We didn’t leave any task unfinished.”

Giving ample time for the ranchers to relax, 24 children signed up to try their hand at mutton bustin’ madness.

Some of the young competitors, like Madison Henson, held on just barely before getting lifted off of their sheep. The winner was 6-year-old Remington Schiel who won while riding “Takin’ it to the Lamb,” for 3.52 seconds before falling into the muddy muck.

Behind each and every child was Roark, decked out in stars-and-stripes patterned suspenders and face paint with American flag bandanas hanging out of his pockets. His main job was to keep the young riders out of harms way, using his own childhood experience to motivate him.

“I went to a rodeo as a mutton buster and held on all the way to the end of the arena. Sheep took a right-hand turn and threw me into the fence and blew out my entire right orbit in my skull,” Roark recalled. “I take that and use it as my fuel. These kids don’t want that and I don’t want that for them.”

Thankfully for Roark, all the children and their gathered parents, the ambulance remained quiet just outside of the arena. Once the sheep were guided back into their pen and the cattle were readied, all nine ranch teams prepared for the sort-n-order.

For this event, the announcers called out five numbers on the loudspeaker. The team would then search through the herd of cattle to find the numbers that were called before mushing them out to the center of the arena in their proper numerical order.

While not the most visually stimulating competition, it required deftness and skill in properly herding the cattle to where the ranchers could weed out the few they were searching for. Reverse F Cross Ranch, the third-place finisher, completed their search in 1:50:56, the best of the top placing teams.

All of the events for the grown ranchers required skill that was honed after years of competing in ranch rodeos and working on ranches. The kids were able to enjoy themselves and compete in simpler events. Their next challenge was the boot scramble.

On one side of the arena, all of the racers piled up their boots into one dirt-coated heap. They then sprinted from one side of the arena toward the heap, searched out the boots they wore in, and ran back to the starting line.

The final rodeo event of the day was the trailer loading. It began with each member of the team goading their horses into the trailer driven into the center of the arena. They then dashed from the front of the trailer to the back, riding their horse out of the trailer and toward the herd of cattle. After searching through the herd for their designated cattle, the team would have to rope it and load it into the trailer along with two rider’s horses. With a four-minute time limit, teams had to work together in a quick and concise way to hunt out the proper cattle with enough time to properly rope it. Upon the events completion, the judges, Mark Barcus and Tim Millikin, added up the scores and prepared to announced Boot Heel 7 as the day’s winners. While the top placing teams went home with more money than they came with, especially with the $200 per team entry fee, the prize was not a priority for anyone competing.

“We do this because we’re friends and we get together. If we happen to win, it’s a little cherry on top but we get here for the camaraderie and fun,” Hladky said.

The ranch rodeo was organized by Elaine and Gene Daly of Glendo and all of the proceeds from the day went to the Glendo Future Farmers of America Association.

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