Neil Call can remember his first ride at a rodeo. It happened in 1996 at his hometown rodeo, the Ride-n-Tie Rodeo in Craig.
"That ride didn't last too long," he said.
Saturday night, eight years later, Call returned home to win the bareback bronc riding competition.
Wes Hertzog won his first belt buckle more than 40 years ago at one of the early Ride-n-Tie rodeos, back when the boundaries of the arena were formed by trucks and their lights illuminated the cowboys. Hertzog, a world champion in the Senior Pro Rodeo, returned to Craig for the weekend and finished third in the saddle bronc riding.
"I didn't have a horse with enough spunk tonight," he said with a sense of disappointment. "At least it is nice to be home."
After the Ride-n-Tieless summer in 2002, both local cowboys were glad to have a stop in Craig again during their rodeo seasons.
"It's good to have the rodeo back here again," Hertzog said. "I've won a lot of money here over the years and it had always been a part of my season."
Call, who came up from a rodeo in Gunnison Saturday afternoon and was heading to Cheyenne, Wyo., Sunday morning, was also glad to have the chance to ride in Craig again.
"It's nice to see that they are building it up again," he said. "It is something that has happened here forever and it is part of Craig. I'm glad to see it back."
While the program for the rodeo listed it as the 56th annual Ride-n-Tie, there could have been an asterisk noting that the streak of rodeos was broken last year. This year, Heather Martin and a committee of locals who wanted to see the rodeo again, put it together.
"I think it went pretty well considering the short amount of time it took," Martin said. "The people who really came through for us were the small businesses of Craig."
According to Penny McCoy, a former organizer of the rodeo, the funding from the county has been decreasing each year. She said in order for the rodeo to continue the money from the community must increase.
"You can't attract a lot of competitors without the money," Martin said. "Now that we've started up again, that will be our goal next year."
Call said he hoped he would see more than four competitors in bareback next year.
"It could be made more attractive for cowboys to come," he said. "But that takes the commitment of prize money."
As the rodeo came to an end, cowboy Clint Walker sent everybody home with the only eight-second ride of a Southwick Rodeo bull for the weekend. The climactic finish brought an ovation from the crowd and it was something Roger hoped would be a sign for the future of the Craig tradition.
"Craig needs the rodeo to remember its heritage," she said. "If it dies, so does a part of the town's history."
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or at dpressgrove@craigdaily press.com.