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Pagosans live the rodeo life

This past weekend as Pagosa Springs celebrated the Fourth of July, rodeo competitors and fans alike turned out in droves to the Western Heritage Event Center and the Red Ryder Roundup Rodeo arena despite menacing evening skies and uninspiring temperatures to enjoy barrel racing, bull riding, calf roping and other classic Western events at the Red Ryder Roundup Rodeo.

While some of Pagosa’s rodeo competitors are relatively recent inductees into the rodeo world, many belong to age-old rodeo families and have been competing in the sport since they were kids.

Katelyn McRee is one such young lady. McRee, who just completed her senior year at Pagosa Springs High School, began riding at age 3. Since then she has become a strong competitor in barrel racing, pole bending and breakaway and team roping, with barrels being her best event. Last weekend McRee competed in the barrel racing contest.

After carrying her through Friday’s grand entry, in which she proudly carried the American flag, McRee’s barrel horse, Mister, was ready to run and to, “just get it over with,” as McRee said. And like the solid cowgirl/barrel horse team they are, run they did; McRee, on Mister, won the weekend’s overall open barrel race, as well as a buckle and prize money.

A solid competitor, McRee plans to continue rodeoing in college at Adams State University in Alamosa, Colo., next fall.

Like McRee, Cody Snow has been in and around rodeos since he was just a toddler. Snow, 18, is a local bull rider as well as a wrestler for Pagosa Springs High School.

Snow was first introduced to stock riding at the age of 4, when he began mutton busting. Unlike so many of the Red Ryder Roundup’s sheep riders, Snow did not dissolve into a puddle of tears upon completing his early romps with the feisty sheep. Instead, Snow liked the challenge and soon moved up to calf riding, from which he graduated to steer riding and, finally, bull riding. Since then Snow has suffered a range of injuries which he casually characterizes as “pretty standard” including a broken clavicle, a number of broken ribs and a handful of concussions.

A senior next school year, Snow plans to continue his rodeo career in college and hopes to go pro, possibly as early as next year.

When asked about his thoughts on his opponents for Saturday’s bull riding competition, Snow acknowledged, “There a few good guys out here.”

Discussing how he felt he would perform on his bull, Swagger, provided by stock contractor W/A Buster Webb, he stated, “We’re gonna try to get’r done.”

Snow’s ride on Swagger resulted in a re-run, the only one of the night. Despite a second attempt at a qualifying ride on the bull Bell-Air, Snow failed to do as he had hoped. Better luck to him next time.

The bull riding event is traditionally a fan favorite for the skills, athleticism and good ole-fashioned cowboy guts it requires, but fans were treated to only one qualifying ride the entire weekend. Justin Howlett of New Mexico completed his just barely eight-second ride atop Shazzam, Saturday night, earning a notable score of 84 points and winning the overall bull riding competition. .

Without a strong showing in the bull riding event, fans turned to the jokes and baggy pants of rodeo clown, John Hetzal of Queen Creek, Ariz., for their entertainment for this portion of the night. Hetzal elicited little more than a chuckle from rodeo regulars, including Chris Monroe, a bullfighter pulled into the arena to participate in one of Hetzal’s bits. His jokes, however, as old as the Red Ryder Roundup itself, 63 years that is, were thoroughly enjoyed by visitors to the rodeo world including this weekend’s many tourists.

McCree and Snow may have started on the rodeo circuit early, but incoming Red Ryder Roundup queen for the 2012-2013 season Morgan Schaff has them beat. Schaff has not missed a Red Ryder Roundup Rodeo since she was a baby. Like her mom and her grandfather before her, she has been a regular participant and attendee her whole life. Schaff is a fifth-generation member of the Archuleta County community, where the family has resided for the last 103 years.

Schaff described the Red Ryder Roundup queen competition, in which she was this year’s only contestant, as an “awesome experience.” She recalled with a laugh the excitement of losing not one, but both of her stirrups in the riding portion of the competition, and getting extra points for the feat. Schaff’s favorite part of the experience, however, was the speech in which contestants must speak on a topic of their choosing for an allotted amount of time. Her speech was titled “All About Me.”

Though Schaff normally competes in barrels, her horse, Dan, is currently suffering from an injury, and until he recovers, she, too, will be sidelined.

Schaff sported a shiny blue western shirt and white queen contestant sash Friday night, the day before she was crowned. She looked more than ready to represent the Red Ryder Roundup as an example of Western spirit and to take on the many responsibilities the rodeo queen must manage, responsibilities which outgoing queen Cheyan Rice, 16, has handled so well this past year.

At Friday’s rodeo, Rice, an Archuleta County resident and cowgirl, was responsible for a number of tasks, including leading the grand entry in full Western performance dress and helping round up steers in the steer wrestling event.

Like his younger rodeo peers, rodeo has been a part of Ryan Montroy’s life for as long as he can remember.

Montroy, 23, a native Pagosan and graduate of Pagosa Springs High School, competed last weekend in the team roping and saddle bronc riding competitions and tied for second and third in saddle bronc, an event which he has been participating in for nine years now.

While many of the Red Ryder Roundup’s riders merely aspire to earn their pro card, Montroy earned his Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) card three years ago. Since then he has spent much of his time traveling on the pro-rodeo circuit, but says, “I still call Pagosa home.”

On his performance so far this season, Montroy says he had his shoulder rebuilt earlier this year so, “Things have been a little slow.” Despite this setback, Montroy remains committed to his career as a professional cowboy. He plans to continue to rodeo for as long as he can, saying, “It’s a lot better than a real job.”

Young as these kids may be, they have each proven themselves to be dedicated to the sport of rodeo and to the continuance of their Western heritage, a dedication which the Western Heritage Event Center, the Red Ryder Roundup Rodeo and the residents of Pagosa Springs hope to experience and enjoy for many years to come.

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