Broncos were bursting in air making for an explosive Fourth of July Ranch Rodeo at Council Grove.
For one of the coolest Independence Day celebrations in recent history, action was proclaimed “hot” by true working cowboys, and the relaxing bleacher-filled spectators, for actually two days of Santa Fe Trail Ranch Rodeo excitement, determining a champion ranch rodeo team.
Kickoff performance opened with ranch bronc riding, and action climaxed Saturday, with wild cow milking, true work done on ranches throughout the Flint Hills, down through the Osage Hills of Oklahoma, which were represented in the identical five events, presented each evening.
“We had 11 teams representing that many ranches entered, with real life working cowboys, not more than four in the arena at a time, from each operation, in one of the fastest, most crowd pleasing rodeos we’ve had since hosting the first ranch rodeo in the state of Kansas 28 years ago,” said Clay Wilson, president of the Morris County Youth Rodeo Association (MCYRA), rodeo sponsor.
Sanctioned by the Working Ranch Cowboys Association (WRCA), headquartered in Amarillo, Texas, the rodeo was attended by Mandy Morton, manager of that active organization, and she mingled throughout the crowd discussing WRCA activities.
While firecrackers were cracking before Western action began, and while barely dusk at conclusion, Friday skylines were aglow with rockets and similar explosives semblance of battles gaged to bring the freedom reflected in the opening flag presentation, and national anthem, and most apparently felt by everyone in attendance.
Bruce and Jim Gant and Wilson, as MCYRA directors, were flag bearers proudly presenting the nation’s brilliant red, white and blue colors, along with the Kansas flag, and WRCA banner. Jeanine Bacon gave an inspiring rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner,” Friday, and Morgan Poole’s performance of “the most beautiful song on earth” set tone for a climaxing Saturday rodeo finale.
Although the arena had been sprinkled prior to both evenings’ grand entries, there was still inkling of dust after the last cow was milked Saturday night. But, it had settled when the dual team of Broken H and H Cross Ranches from Bourbon County, with locations at Uniontown and thereabouts, collected the championship payback stipend, and each cowboy team member received a unique trophy made by Alexander Artworks of Council Grove.
With Cliff Hall as team captain, the Broken H-H Cross team featured the Hall family: also Brock, Doug, Hank and Sage, along with most capable ranch hand Bruce Beeman, and Kathy Beeman was applauding arena-side.
Winning ranch rodeos is nothing new for members of the top team, which by tallying points from the two performances, automatically qualified to compete in the WRCA’s 19th World Championship Ranch Rodeo, a competition most of the team’s working cowboys have been contestants at previously.
En route to the top honor, Broken H-H Cross split first in the bronc riding Saturday night, and was first in team sorting Friday night. The group placed second in stray gathering and wild cow milking Friday, and also ranked second in calf branding on Saturday. Those high placings in all five rodeo events is legitimate proof of all-around working cowboys, doing what they do for a living every day of the week.
Second place team was the Lonesome Pine Ranch from Cedar Point in Chase County and also featured family. Bud Higgs was captain with his children star quarterback Troy and daughter Mackenzie, along with dad, Frank, as team members, along with Jess Coirier and Chris Potter.
Lonesome Pine Ranch was first in calf branding and stray gathering, Friday, and first in team sorting, and split first in bronc riding, Saturday. The team ranked second in bronc riding, team sorting, and wild cow milking, Friday, as well as being second in stray gathering, Saturday.
Arndt and Bailey Ranches team from Chase, Greenwood and Lyon counties was third overall with Mike Arndt as captain, along with Mike Arndt, Wes and Richell Bailey, in addition to Glen Collinge and Josh Lilley.
Top Horse Award, presented by Mandy Morton on behalf of the American Quarter Horse Association, trophy sponsor, went to Ty Swiler, who rode his six-year-old roan Quarter Horse gelding, while participating as a member of the Beachner Brothers Livestock team from Chanute. Permanent record of that achievement will be placed on the outstanding gelding’s registration papers.
A Youth Ranch Rodeo Saturday morning attracted five three-youth member teams with the Sugar Chaps team composed of Makenzie Higgs, Carlie Potter and Piper Vogel, from Chase County, placing first in team penning and calf branding en route to the championship.
The local Wilson Ranch team of Captain Cole Wilson, Blaine Fillmore and Jim Gant was second, while topping the ribbon roping, and ranking second in team penning.
The Buchman Ranch threesome of Wyatt Buchman, Shyanne Allen and C. Wilson was third place team, rating second in calf branding.
Of special significance for the Independence Day rodeo was dedication of the new Fallen Cowboys Memorial as part of the patriotic flags always flying at the north end of the arena during Morris County Youth Rodeo Association functions.
Designed by Alexander Artworks, featuring native Flint Hills stone and the MYRA insignia, the unique commemorative now includes Merle Flinn, Bob Hensley, Larry Larson, and Jack Wilson. All now deceased had been longtime supporters and workers for the longtime community rodeo group. Ample space allows for additional memorials.
A Western Trade Show was a special attraction for rodeo attendees both nights featuring seven vendors with everything from homemade pie to saddles, trailers, art, jewelry and toys.
Twenty sponsors for activities of the Morris County Youth Rodeo Association were recognized with special arena fence banners, and publicly announced several times during each performance, for making the activities of the group feasibly possible.
“We greatly appreciate the generosity of our sponsors. Without their support, our events simply would not take place. We take pride in putting on quality events at the Morris County Youth Rodeo Association Arena, and that is made possible with the efforts of our volunteer board and our sponsors,” Wilson credited.
Upcoming events hosted by the Morris County Youth Rodeo Association include the annual Youth Rodeo, August 2, and the annual Invitational Fall Ranch Rodeo, October 5.
Information about the Morris County Youth Rodeo Association is available at www.mrcoyouthrodeo.com.