Bulls and Beads Gilpin County Rodeo!

What it takes to put on a good show

By Jaclyn Schrock

Oh the thrills of muttons, broncs and bulls at our very own free Bulls and Beads Gilpin County Rodeo! 2019 We had better weather than some of the previous bull riding going back to the 1990’s. Moving the fair and rodeo to mid-July this year, rather than mid-August may have helped avoid the heavier rains often found later in summer. Rain or shine, Gilpin packs the stands to watch the ones who take great care to stay on for the 8 second ride of the feisty bulls and bucking horses, as well as quick out of the gate sheep with young’uns’ holding on a best they can.

Rodeo has been a tradition in the west, using skills that were originally practiced while ranching. Horses needed to be broken so they could be trained for riding- the bucking broncs competitions. Bull riding became a challenge of bragging rights. Animal breeders in the Eastern US originally used racing as a competition. As the west was settled, those races became barrel races, and others we saw in the Gymkhana on Sunday.

Where cattle are bred for milk or beef, bulls are needed, and their temperament has been capitalized for rodeo-bull riding competitions. Just to help draw in the young ones to the thrills of riding these specialized animals, mutton busting became a safe and fun initiation into adrenaline thrill of riding the bigger animals. Gilpin County Fair brings the historical ways to our lives today.

In the beginning of rodeo, common herd animals were used for roping, branding, herding cattle into a box car and even wild cow milking competitions, simulating the ways cowboys must respond if a momma has lost her calf or somehow been disconnected from the little one. The professional cowboys of ranches all across the west still must be experts at the skills of their profession: monitoring grazing (for dangerous plants and critters), watering, mending fences, caring and riding horses, trucks and/or ATV’s, herding goats, sheep, horses and cattle, tending flocks and/or caring for the young, roping, castrating, and branding and milking as needed. Many ranches are still primarily family operated, but some require hired hands as well. Everyone needs to have a little fun at times, so Ranch Rodeos tend to be for the professional cowboy who competes using their ranching skills as armatures, so enjoy the armature Ranch Rodeos with those professional skills.

Pro Rodeo uses animals that are bred for rodeo competition. Each animal has their own reputation which is how the cowboy chooses his ride. If the animal behaves in certain ways which makes riding them more challenging, the score for the animal increases the score for the rider who has succeeded in staying on the animal or the 8 second ride while following rules for his and the animals safety.

The Pro Rodeo cowboy often began riding on the ranch, and may have turned to making the rodeo circuit an exhilarating way to earn extra money. Professional cowboys choose their animal with care for each event they ride. It takes a very focused, and dedicated individual to compete in professional rodeo. We are entertained and on the edge of our seat as these brave souls attempt what is such a challenge.

Two riders did make the full 8 second ride on the bulls this year. Sadly, one rider made 7.8 seconds before touching the ground so did not score – oh so close! Many of the bull riders did not get more than a 2 or 3 second ride before the big animals lost the rider who can only hold on with one hand. Some of the broncs gave long hard rides, and others were bucked off quickly.

The animals themselves at our Bulls and Beads Rodeo are provided by JD Ford. He and his family have a long history of breeding and caring for animal athletes, including daily exercise. Some of the animals at our rodeo were from his stock, while others he contracted with other providers to bring Gilpin County the unpredictable rides of rodeo. Having a long history with rodeo, he has recently made it possible for 40+ aged bull riders to take to the arena again. Last year and this year, he has encouraged the mini-bulls to have a taste of the fun. 14-17 year olds may select smaller bulls to ride for 6 seconds as they grow into an age of pro bull riding.

The announcer, David Shanahan, is a great resource for the audience. He is familiar with the previous records of the animals, as well as the riders and cowboys handling the animals in and out of the arena. We saw how challenging it could be to get the rider safely off the animal and to the ground, if they had not been bucked off. Three “pick-up” men helped retrieve the riders, as well as guide the romping bulls and broncs back through the gate to a pen. Our pick-up men were Scott West, Mark Anderson, and Mark Boots. They often had to chase down the running beast to either rope and pull or use their horses to trap the bull or bronc to get them back through the gate.

Our Gilpin County rodeo grounds had been prepared by Gilpin County Maintenance Department which did most of the preparation of the rodeo and fair grounds this year. Larry Sterling, has been instrumental in each year rodeos have been in Gilpin. He has been responsible to not only build our rodeo grounds, but also, coordinate the events with his team of stock gate keepers and animal handlers. He said “this year was smooth sailing.”

One thing that made it much easier to facilitate getting the right animal to the right gate for their ride is chip technology. Now, it is much easier to know where the animal is they need next in the lineup, and specifically which animal it is that is requested. He was pleased all went so well this year.

Sterling also appreciated our Gilpin Ambulance Authority. One clown got pushed around, but recovered in time for the after party at Roy’s Last Shot where awards were given. Two other riders received injuries after falling off and being stepped on. One hip was relocated and another had a bad gash on a leg. Only one rider had to be taken down the hill to a Denver hospital to be treated for injuries. Our best wishes and prayers go out for a speedy recovery to all those who got banged up.

It takes a teamwork mind set to keep the rodeo working. It has so much to do with the riders, but now we see some of the others included in the process of having rodeo. Most of the names mentioned above have worked together for years. We get to enjoy the benefits of their willingness to work through the hard spots. There is one more key element of every rodeo – the clown.

Our barrel hiding clown, Eric Myrick has been a part of the Gilpin Rodeo team for many, many years. He comes to us each year from Fort Lupton, Colorado. His last event he clowned at this year was Adams County Rodeo. It is a natural position for him, because he really loves to make people laugh. Even though his primary concern is the safety of the animals, the riders and himself, especially on the bull riding events, he has a microphone to dialog with the announcer so the audience has much to laugh at, while waiting to get the next animal and rider ready.

Myrick has been traveling to rodeos for 30 years. No one who knew him in 1989 ever would have guessed he would take this path in life. He claims to have been a long-hair rock and roller. As a heavy metal man he just wanted to find the next rush. Bob Ford was one who guided Myrick to the opportunity of riding a bull. He wildly jumped at it for the adrenaline rush. After his first ride, or rather fall, he was hooked. He tried at least 15 times to ride a bull and fell off more than he rode. He has hit his head a lot, so says some crazy things, sometimes.

Making people laugh is one of Myrick’s greatest joys. Being a rodeo clown lets him stay with the rodeo, being right up front with the near misses and thrills, while clowning to keep the main thing always up front in rodeo. In Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Arizona or New Mexico, helping the riders, animals and him be safe and laughing is the best rush for him now. He may have to duck into the barrel to avoid being charged or stomped that is part of the excitement. Talking with the crowd and the announcer makes everyone laugh and enjoy the ride. Even while the pick-up men are working to get the arena ready for the next rider, Myrick is able to be right there, and helping everyone enjoy the rodeo.

Myrick is doing his part to keep rodeo fun, by supporting a young rodeo clown from Wyoming. Kolbi Hesky, is 18 and the niece of the recently passed Uncle Donny. Her mother and brother Donny have been ranchers around rodeo in Colorado and Wyoming for decades with the Bob Tilley family who had been bull riders in the 70’s. With this long history in the family, funny girl Kolbi was invited to join Myrick for the 2019 Gilpin County Rodeo. Kolbi stayed closer to the crowd to entertain, while Myrick stayed near his barrel in the arena during the bulls and broncs.

The people who bring the rodeo to Gilpin County look forward to gathering for a memorial lunch before the afternoon rodeo. JD Ford announced this is the third year to have gathered for the Bar W Slash reunion and thanks Gilpin County for the time and place to gather. He explained the reason for the annual celebration here is to recognize and honor those impacted by this rodeo family. In 1987 a father and two sons started a rodeo company in Golden, Colorado. They serviced all the Front Range of Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Arizona. They brought the Elizabeth Stampede up to what it is today, and many other area rodeos as well. Bob, Scott, and Steve West are the founders of Bar W Slash.

“Kids could watch heroes ride at Bar W Slash. Walking into their barn, boys were taught honesty, integrity and what the word “try” really meant. Boys walked out as men. Some still walk as heroes and have become legends.”

For the third year, the Bar W Slash Reunion chose to recognize memorable animals and riders. The big bay horse that went to national finals; 8 Todd was voted legendary horse of the year. Legendary bull was W7 Copenhagen Stinger, three times in National Finals and in the 10th round with other incredible massive beasts, he is well known for his exemplary character, giving riders the highest scores ever. Legendary cowboy #2 was Bob West who passed away after the first year of the company. So legendary bull rider #1 was Gary Wood, who still rode bulls at the age of 52. Gary Wood’s longevity as a bull rider from the Bar W Slash barn also won him Senior Bull Riding Champion.

The purple carriage brought six legendary recipients into the arena to be recognized and given their awards following JD Fords announcement. To give back to the next generation, Bar W Slash gave an opportunity for the mini-bull riders.

This and last year, Bulls and Beads had three rodeo competition events: Bull Riding, Ranch Bronc Riding, and mini-bull riding. Mutton Busting had four different times to enter and winners were determined each time to recognize who stayed on the sheep for the longest ride before landing in the soft sand of the arena.

Winners of the rodeo included:

Mini Bulls

River Mossberg of Cheyenne, WY, 76 pts, $225.

Dalton Willis of Cheyenne, WY, 70 pts, $135.

Misual Lopez and Gio Oleck, 67 pts, $45.

Ranch Broncs

Colton Thompson of Brighton, CO, 79.5, $820.

Cody Miller of Morril, NE, 79 pts, $615.

Tyler Williams, 76 pts, $410.

Colton Miller, 73 pts, $205.

Open Bulls

Brian Larson of Erie, CO, 76.5 pts, $2,880.

Cory Price of Colorado Springs, CO, 70 pts, $1,920.

Many thanks go out to Roy’s Last Shot for hosting the after party for the 2019 Gilpin County Bulls and Beads Rodeo.

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