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Open Range: Ingenuity usually trumps adversity

Barrie Qualle is an all-around working ranch hand, author and ranch rodeo enthusiast. He lives in Wallowa County.

Published on January 10, 2018 10:06AM

I stole this rodeo story from Rickey Green.

Rickey was a top notch heeler and a magician with a rope. When the National Finals were still in Oklahoma City, Rickey and his partner were out of the average and just roping for the go-round.

His header had to be fast and failed in a desperate long throw. Now the chances for a check were gone so Rickey, for the fun of it, spun a big ocean wave loop out in front of his horse, brought it back and around the back of his horse and then sailed it onto the horns of the steer.

His horse turned off as Rickey took his dally. Unfortunately Rickey in his haste had neglected to cinch up and when the rope came tight, his saddle jerked to the side and splattered Rickey. Rickey jumped to his feet and flashed two “v” for victory signs to a standing ovation.

Back when cowboys still drove cars and pulled two horse trailers. George Richards, Ronnie Darnell, Matt Silveria and Rickey had split first and second in the first go-round at Caldwell back in the day you could go twice in some rodeos.

They didn’t get their next steer for three days so the four of them decided to leave one rig in Caldwell and jump in together and go to other rodeos.

They loaded Ronnie’s head horse and Matts heel horse and took off for three days of rodeo. So they rodeo for three days and the morning they head back for Caldwell, they get word all they have to do is catch to win the average.

About six hours out of Caldwell, the Grand Prix stops dead in the road, blows the tranny. The bad news: it is a three-day fix and they need to be in Caldwell in five hours. Ronnie starts to calculate, if the average pays $800 a man and they can win first and second just by catching, they can each put up $250 a piece and buy a car. They take off running through used car lots looking for a car with a trailer hitch in their price range. They find one with a boat trailer hitch and the deal is made. They hook up to the horse trailer and have four hours to make a five-hour drive to Caldwell.

Two hours down the road, flames erupt under the hood. People stop to help and the horses get unloaded and the trailer is pushed back from the inferno. They tied the horses to the fence and began asking for a ride to Caldwell. They talk to an old couple with a motor home heading for Oklahoma and convince them to assist.

The old man is purring along at about 55 mph, his wife has made the boys sandwiches and they are still an hour from Caldwell. Rickey explains the urgency of speed and pretty soon they are cruising at 85. The old man says, “hang on boys.”

They end up winning second and third in the average and clearing a few hundred discounting the torched car. They got their checks, jumped in Rickeys car and headed back to the horses still tied to the fence along the highway.

That’s why cowboys love Rodeo. That’s also why ranchers don’t want their daughters dating rodeo cowboys.


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