It was much like everyday life on a Flint Hills ranch at the rodeo arena just east of Council Grove.
But, there were cowboys from the Flint Hills and well beyond gathered for competition at the 26th annual Santa Fe Trail Ranch Rodeo, sponsored by the Morris County Youth Rodeo Association.
Sixteen ranch teams from throughout Kansas and Oklahoma participated in the action before filled bleachers and parking space overflowing with spectators both Friday and Saturday evenings.
Despite a much-appreciated shower at 7 o’clock starting time Saturday, the 25-minute postponement never deterred crowd spirit nor that of the competition.
Each ranch sported four cowboys mounted on their best horses making a total of 64 riders in the two-performance competition sanctioned by the Working Ranch Cowboys Association (WRCA).
Ole Mac Rodeo Company, owned by Don Reno, Nowata, Oklahoma, supplied bucking horses for the ranch bronc riding that kicked off each performance.
Additional events, all representative of the daily work done by the cowboys on the ranches they represented, were calf branding, cattle sorting, stray gathering and wild cow milking.
When scores from all five events conducted at both performances had been totaled, Scribner Ranch/Haywire Cattle Company, a combination team from El Dorado, was recognized as the winner, earning the opportunity to participate in the WRCA World Championship Rodeo during November in Amarillo, Texas.
Presented especially designed trophies from Alexander Artworks of Council Grove, plus a payback check, the winning team members and alternates included Daniel, David, Doug and John Scribner along with Andy and Randy Jones.
Second place team was the KW Cattle and Diamond E Ranch composite team from Fort Scott and Redfield.
Best local showing was the third place finish by 2i Feeders of Allen, with Clint Bohner, Grady Gibb, Jason Gibson, Jared Phillips and Adrian Vogel represented as team members.
Fourth place ended in a tie between the team representing 4L Ranch and C-Bar Cattle Company of Latham, and the Buck Creek/Lonesome Pine Ranches of Chase County.
Tie was broken with a horse race-foot race won by the 4L Ranch and C-Bar team, represented by Council Grove native Lee Hart.
Other 4L and C-Bar members dividing the fourth place check were Gene and Junior Calvin, Jason Dierks and Justin Lawson.
Connor Grokett, and Bud, Frank and Troy Higgs, along with Randy and Sammy Jo Peterson comprise the Buck Creek/Lonesome Pine team.
A Junior Ranch Rodeo Saturday morning was won by the Buck Creek/Lonesome Pine Ranches team composed of Makenzie Higgs, Sammy Jo Peterson, and Carlee Potter from Chase County.
The second place junior team composed of Shyanne Allen (Council Grove), Colton Potter, and Trent Burd represented the Rocking P Ranch.
Top Horse Award went to Little Tee J Paul, a gray gelding affectionately known as Juice, and ridden by Calvin Kendall of Erie, who represented the Beachner/Lazy B Ranches team, which placed ninth at the rodeo.
A bronze statuette, sponsored by the American Quarter Horse Association, was presented to Kendall, and that recognition will be permanently embossed on the horse’s registration papers.
“Juice is an all-around ranch horse who earns his keep here,” affirmed Kendall. “When there’s work to be done in the pasture or the arena, Juice doesn’t let us down.”
Looking after the cow operation for Beachners, Kendall uses Juice during calving season, at branding time to pull calves to the fire, keeps tabs on the herd throughout the year and assists other ranchers when there’s work to be done on horseback.
“I got Juice as a green broke two-year-old and have been using him ever since. He’s 10 now,
It’s not the first time the gelding has been recognized as the top entry in a ranch horse competition, but the previous awards were not sanctioned for American Quarter Horse Association recognition, making this time most significant.
Competing in a handful of Working Ranch Cowboy’s Association rodeos annually, Kendall also goes “to ten or so local ranch rodeos a year.”
Sometimes, another of the three broke geldings on the ranch is ridden, but usually it’s Juice “because he’s dependable,” said Kendall, who also has a couple of younger horses in training at this time.
Sixteen-year-old Cody Kendall was also listed on the Beachner/Lazy B Ranches team at Council Grove and often rides Juice when his dad isn’t on him. “Cody competes in junior rodeos in calf roping and team roping. Juice will do whatever needs done whoever is in the saddle,” Kendall credited.
In a Council Grove rodeo-related-raffle to fund scholarships presented annually by the Morris County Youth Rodeo Association, Les Magee of Greeley won a ranch saddle handmade by Matt Hunn of Hunn Leather Products, Inc., Augusta.
A Western Trade Show with vendors from a wide part of Kansas as well as Colorado was an added attraction at all of the rodeo performances.