By Eric Butler
CLOVIS — A cowboy’s work still has to go on even when it rains. Naturally then, the rodeo does also.
The first full night of the 33rd annual Pioneer Days PRCA rodeo went off on Thursday evening at the Curry County Mounted Patrol Arena — even if it wasn’t all as planned.
No traditional parade of officials and rodeo queens took place before the competition, but a steady rain had stopped by the time Australia’s Lance Kelly went into the chute as the first bareback bronc rider.
“There’s nothing more fun than a rodeo in the rain,” announcer Bill Pulhamus proclaimed over the loudspeakers. “And someone’s got to be the first in the mud.”
Kelly, however, had no plans of being that person. The Queensland-native finished with a score of 71 — good for second behind Shad Chaloupek of Amarillo.
Although the rain had stopped, the resulting quagmire was certainly still a factor.
“The conditions didn’t really bother me that much. You do feel it with the hand in the rigging,” Kelly said. “You know how it is when your hand gets cold and you hit it — and it hurts like a bugger. It never hurts during the ride, because you don’t have time to think about it, but afterward you can feel it.”
Kelly was much more concerned with the weather’s effect on the horse he drew.
“During the ride, horses can sense; they can feel the ground beneath them if it’s a little wet,” Kelly said. “So they don’t give it all like they want to. They’re cautious.”
Another rodeo takes place every year at the same times as this one — at Garden City, Kan. — and some of the competitors had that rodeo on their minds as well.
The Australian rider said he paid an entry fee for both rodeos and only chose to compete in Clovis when the horse he drew gave him a better chance for a good score.
After the steer wrestling, won by Scott Shuldberg of Phoenix with a time of 5.8 seconds, a Melrose competitor also was thinking of Garden City — at least more than the mud.
“I’ve been muddier,” said Jim Bob Allen, who took his steer down in 16.8 seconds, but broke the barrier coming out of the gate. “It’s just part of rodeo.