Ranch circuit a reminder of rodeo's humble beginnings

FORT WORTH—Rodeo had humble beginnings in the Old West during the late 1800s when ranch cowboys congregated in a community and competed in riding and roping events that represented their work.

But as the years passed, rodeo evolved into a very competitive athletic sport and became a way to earn a living for professional rodeo cowboys and cowgirls who frequently hop on airplanes and travel fast and far to rope in big prize money. Today, rodeo athletes train very hard both in the gym and in the practice pen, similar to the way football and basketball players regularly work out in order to stay sharp. Today, it’s very difficult for a typical ranch hand to go head-to-head against a typical 21st century pro rodeo athlete.

That’s why I’m a big fan of today’s well developed ranch rodeo circuit. It features working ranch cowboys and cowgirls who compete against each other. They don’t have to rope against Trevor Brazile who has earned 25 gold buckles on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit.

Clay Timmons, who competes in ranch rodeos for the Pitchfork Ranch that’s near Paducah and Guthrie, said a typical rodeo cowboy has an advantage over a ranch cowboy at a modern day rodeo (that features events such as bareback riding, bull riding, and steer wrestling).

“You’ve got guys and that’s all they do,” Timmons said of cowboys who compete in rodeos full-time. “They practice and that’s all they do.”

He said ranch cowboys “know they can’t compete” against full-time rodeo competitors at a typical rodeo. So, ranch rodeo is the answer for ranch cowboys who have a hankering to drive into town and ride against each other, similar to the way ranch cowboys went about it in the late 1800s at rodeos in communities such as Pecos and Canadian.

The organizers of the Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo understand the significance of ranch rodeo very well. The 2020 Stock Show began its 23-day run Friday with a Ranch Rodeo performance, which is representative of the way that rodeo began in the late 1800s when ranch hands held contests to see who could bust a bronc the best or rope a steer the fastest.

The FWSSR’s Jan. 17-18 Ranch Rodeo featured events such as stock sorting, which requires a team of competitors to ride into a herd and separate three designated calves and drive them to a designated area. The other events were ranch vet, double mugging, wild cow milking, bronc riding and barrel racing.

“These aren’t professional rodeo athletes,” said Matt Brockman, the Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo’s spokesperson. “They’re darn athletic, there’s no doubt about that. But they’re not going up and down the road trying to win a world team roping title, or a saddle bronc riding title. They go home after this thing [the FWSSR Ranch Rodeo] is over and they go produce the beef that gets put on our plates and they’re proud to do that. They certainly don’t mind being called weekend warriors because their full-time job is tending and caring for cattle and putting beef on our plates.”

When the Fort Worth-based Ranch Rodeo concluded its two-day run on Saturday night, the Tongue River Ranch of Paducah clinched the team title.

“We do the same stuff out in the pasture, sorting cattle and roping cattle, and doctoring and moving stuff,” said T.J. Roberts, the Tongue River Ranch's foreman. “We just get to come to town and do it in front of a lot of people that would make you nervous.”

He was joking about getting nervous. It’s become very apparent that the Tongue River Ranch has an accomplished ranch rodeo team that can ride and rope well under pressure. During the Working Ranch Cowboys Association’s 24th World Championship Ranch Rodeo in Amarillo in November, the Tongue River Ranch finished second in the title race, as the reserve world champions, behind the Colorado-based Jolly Ranch and S&L Cattle, which clinched the 2019 world title.

The 2020 Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo concludes Feb. 8 with the final round of the FWSSR's PRCA rodeo. For ticket information on the 2020 Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo, visit fwssr.com or call 817-877-2420.

PBR update

On the Professional Bull Riders circuit, two-time PBR world champion Jess Lockwood snared the title at last weekend’s Unleash The Beast tour stop in Manchester, N.H. He earned $39,980.

Lockwood, who clinched the world titles in 2017 and 2019, turned in scores of 86.5, 90.5 and 92.25 (in the final round) during the Jan. 18-19 show in Manchester.

Lockwood is ranked No. 1 in the PBR’s 2020 world standings with 275.5 points. Joao Ricardo Vieira is ranked No. 2 with 261. Kaique Pacheco, the 2018 world champion, is ranked No. 3 with 258.