The boy clutched his father’s hand and eyed the gate wearily. Bangs and rattles echoed from the metal as the dirty, matted animal inside tried forcing the fence down. The child was getting nervous, sweat pouring from his head. As he was lead inside and placed carefully on top of the sheep, his hands gripped the wool on its chest tightly and he took a deep breath. Then the gate fell, the sheep bolted, and the boy squealed happily as the animal shot across the arena. He was now a mutton buster.
He, like many other children, had the opportunity to ride a sheep in the Diamond H Rodeo’s fourth annual Family Buckaroo Rodeo as part of Health Days Saturday.
For $10, parents could sign their children up to ride sheep and compete for prizes. Children of all ages, races, and backgrounds weighing less than 60 pounds then got the chance to hop aboard their mount and experience the life of a rodeo star for as long as they could hold on. The winner, Johry Marchello, went home with the high score of 97 and a big belt buckle to go along with it. Many of the children were simply happy to have tried to ride a sheep.
“Mutton bustin’” wasn’t the only event held at the rodeo. Any child near the arena was invited to come to the center and barrel race on the backs of stick horses. After another round of mutton busting followed the barrel racing, two goats were then let into the arena and children had the opportunity to show their roping prowess and attempt to rope one of the two animals.
Anyone 14 and younger, or around the age of 14, then had the chance to wait patiently as a calf was let out into the arena. That calf had numbered pieces of duct tape stuck to its hide, and the minute it was let on the run, the children were let loose to run and try to pick themselves up a number. The numbers corresponded with prizes, such as coupons and swim passes.
The event ended with women ages 18 and older chasing down a much bigger cow for a chance to snag an Alpine Cleaning $90 shampoo package in the form of tape on the animal’s tail.
Following that run, the crowd was entertained by a four-man team calling themselves the “Epic Annihilators” that chased down a wild cow, attempted to rope it, had two members dragged through the dirt in the process, but finally milked it for the title of 2011 Wild Cow Milking Champions.
Elaine Hebdon, who announced the events and helped with the organization of the rodeo, said that her favorite part is seeing all of the families together and giving every child the opportunity to get involved. Diamond H Rodeo is one of the few in the valley that provide such an event, which is open to everyone who wants to be involved, and to her, it is a unique and gratifying experience.
A family effort itself, the Diamond H Rodeo series was organized by Wayne Hebdon, Elaine’s son, and his family has helped to keep it alive. Diamond H rodeos are usually held in Lewiston, due to the lack of proper shoots for bulls in Smithfield.
Elaine, however, is grateful for the city and the efforts that they give to make the Health Days rodeo a success. “They’re so good at doing what they can,” she said.
Alpine Cleaning sponsored the rodeo while the Hebdons organized and executed the events. Volunteers from the community also offered their service to help announce and prepare contestants for their activities.
Following the rodeo, members of the audience were invited to sign a petition to get proper shoots and trappings put into Forrester Acres so that Diamond H can hold rodeos in Smithfield. The Hebdons, who are Smithfield residents, believe that doing so would give Smithfield City the chance to experience rodeos and it would be an extra draw for the city.
Many boys and girls who had the opportunity to ride sheep, rope goats, and catch cows left with smiles on their faces. It is the hope of Diamond H affiliates that those smiles will continue and that Smithfield may one day be able to do more with rodeos.