Rodeo family affair for steer wrestlers

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico

Silver City on Thursday, Clovis on Friday, and Window Rock, Ariz., on Saturday. And Mexican Springs for a quick break.

That’s one of the patterns most summers for the Bates family, who made their annual stop at the Pioneer Days Rodeo on Friday night.

The trio, who all competed in steer wrestling, are Ben Bates Jr. and nephews Brandon Bates and Michael Bates Jr. The two younger Bates are cousins to each other.

The rodeo at the Curry County Events Center, concludes at 7:30 p.m. today.

Known as “Big Ben” in the steer wrestling circle, the 51-year-old Ben Bates spends what time he can at rodeos when he gets a break from maintenance work in Mexican Springs, about 20 miles north of Gallup. Though he said his nephews are the pro rodeoers, he’s by no means inexperienced in what they all call a family sport of rodeo.

“My dad was in it, my family was in it,” Ben said while Brandon prepped their horses.

Over in a stairwell of the events center, Michael was getting set for one more competition. He said there’s a lot of discipline in the sport, and there’s a bigger desire to prove yourself at each new level, from junior rodeos to high school to his time at New Mexico State to his professional career.

“You get to go out, you get to train your own horse and your training shows,” Michael said. “You get to compete with professionals.”

Though the three like the Pioneer Days Rodeo, none had an experience they could take to the bank, with all three taking a no time.

They were quickly on the road to their next competition, hoping for an elusive Bates sweep.

“We cheer each other all the way,” Brandon said. “We hope we can all win; it makes it a lot sweeter.”