The 2018 Chief Joseph Days Ranch Rodeo did not disappoint this year’s crowd, which appeared to be a record-breaker at the Harley Tucker Memorial Arena. The ranch rodeo is the kick-off event for the CJD Rodeo, an event sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

The difference: While the main rodeo features professional rodeo athletes from all over the country, the ranch rodeo stays truer to cowboy tradition by featuring real traditional duties of everyday working cowboys and cowgirls.

These contestants aren’t packing up and heading to the next rodeo after the performance; they head back to the ranch to continue their work-a-day lives.

Events included team doctoring, team branding, ranch bronc riding, free-range roping, team sorting, ladies’ steer roping and team roping. A dozen teams participated.

The sun was warm and the arena dusty for this year’s event. Last year it poured rain.

Watching the ghost images of horses, cattle and riders flitting in and out of clouds of dust, it wasn’t difficult to imagine the unbroken line from these modern-day cowboys back to the old traditions of the buckaroo.

The biggest surprise of the event saw the three consecutive championships of the Quail Run Ranch team, led by Barrie Qualle, come to an end at the hands of the Rudy’s Smiling M Ranch team, who won the team branding, doctoring and roping events.

“It was a long tumble,” Qualle said with a smile after the rodeo. “These young guys are getting tougher.”

The Circle P Ranch finished second and Yost Quarter Horses took third.

Shawn Morehead, of La Grande, led the Smiling M team and also walked away with the Jim Probert Top Hand Award, which netted him a pair of spurs. Also on the team were Bo Patzke and Damion Patton. Probert competed three times in the rodeo in the past while Patzke and Patton said it was their inaugural rodeo.

The latter two reside in Pendleton and Enterprise respectively.

All three said team practices are rare, and it was blind luck that they got together as a team. They intend to compete next year, and each team member thanked Qualle for their win. The team earned $2,040 to split and a belt buckle each.

Karen Raminha, who purchased the team, walked away with a $1,681 check.

“It’s more money than I spent,” she said. “I guess I’m real happy.”

Local cowboy Wyatt Warnock won the ranch bronc riding, edging out Tyler Osborn, 70-69.

“They were pretty nice horses,” Warnock said. Asked how he practices, Warnock replied, “I’ve got some horses of my own that buck a little bit.”

Although Megan Cobb won the ladies’ steer roping, local cowgirl Anna Grandi got the nod for Best Cowgirl. She said she’s competed in the rodeo a number of times and this was her second win.

“This is better than the first one,” she said. “This time I got a pair of new spurs.”

The Chief Joseph Days main rodeo is July 24-28.

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