ENTERPRISE — This year’s Wallowa County Stockgrowers Ranch Rodeo on Saturday, Aug. 15, at the Wallowa County Fairgrounds arena was a bright spot in a summer otherwise made bleak by COVID-19 cancellations.

More than 60 local contestants participated in events tailored for everyone, from youth cattle sorting to women’s steer-stops. Rancher and former Joseph Charter School Vocational/Ag teacher Dave Yost celebrated his 65th birthday and served as judge for several events.

“It was a really good rodeo,” Yost said. “Kinda warm weather, but a lot of good work out there.”

The competitions in the rodeo, like most ranch rodeos, were based on everyday ranch events. They included a branding competition that used water-soluble paint as the “brand,” cattle sorting events in which nine head of cattle had to be sorted from one pen into the next in numerical order by three riders in a 2-minute time period. Women competed side by side with men in all events.

The ranch horse competition, which scores both the “cowy-ness” of the horse and skill of the rider in controlling movements of a steer, including the option of roping the animal and bringing it to a slow, controlled stop and is always a favorite. This year, Cody Ross won the event, which was determined by vote of both cowboys and spectators.

Among the favorites, rock-jack building drew only four contestants, but competition was fierce. Wyatt Warnock finished building his jack first by less than a minute, but judge Dave Yost awarded the blue ribbon — and $500-added prize — to Devin Patton and second to Clancy Warnock on points for a slightly better construction in just a few seconds longer time. Wyatt Warnock earned a very close third place.

The working ranch dog competition brought contestants and their dogs to the arena. The objective was for the dogs to guide three head of young cattle through a course that included putting them into a short alley and then out an open gate, turning them around a set of barrels, and then moving them into a pen, all in just 5 minutes. If the rider used only whistles or verbal commands to give directions to his or her dogs, and didn’t have to assist the dogs on horseback, an extra 10 points was added to the score. Dave Gordon and his border collie took first with a time of 3:38, and Tate Winters and his red border collie scored a time of 4:36.

The most memorable — and frustrating — moments of the ranch dog event came when a loose third stock dog decided to “help” Cody Ross’ two border collies. Even though Ross was given extra time after the stray was corralled, his now-distracted dogs never really got back on track.

Still, Ross later said he was having a “… nearly perfect day.”

The relay race and horse race were the only two events not in the everyday work schedule of a ranch. But what good is using the fairgrounds if you don’t take advantage of the racetrack? The relay involved three team members, with the first two trotting and the last part at a full-out gallop. The team of Bretta Wentz, Ray Beard and Alexa Beard won the relay event.

The horse race is just that — a full–tilt gallop around the full length of the track. This year, only three riders participated.

It was a close finish with Basey Dawson winning by about a length over rapidly closing Bubba Brockman. Mark Dawson was third on a fast gray horse that swerved off the track after crossing the finish line. Dawson bailed off his mount and took a while to recover from the incident.

“I’m just fine,” he said, refusing help from paramedics and a ride in the ambulance. “I’ve been in wrecks a bunch worse than this one.”

All-around cowgirl went to Lexi Osborne. All-around cowboy was a tie between Greg Seufer and Bryan Temple, who teamed up on several events.

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