Low-key rodeo still kickin'

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There's no one in the grandstands watching, the prize money is barely enough for a meal deal, and the top three finishers aren't even announced; but a lack of fame and fortune doesn't deter local ropers and wranglers from attending the Black Mountain Junior Rodeo Series.

"This is just a good deal to come to," said Chaunce Criswell from Baggs, Wyo. "I came to almost every rodeo last summer, but I've been pretty busy so this is my first."

Criswell had a top-three performance in the breakaway roping, but his goat tying didn't go so well.

"The goats I tie at home just lie there," he said. "I'm not used to the aggressive goats here, but it makes me better."

Making cowboys and cowgirls better is what Lorrae and Lewis Moon had in mind when they founded the series four summers ago. Looking out on the arena full of horses and riders, Lorrae said she couldn't have imagined a better result.

"This really has become what we hoped," she said in between announcing times and who was up next. "It's great to see the progress of all the little ones out here and the fun that everyone has."

At that moment, a cowgirl galloped her way through the barrel racing course.

"That little girl (Rae Kohpay from Savery, Wyo.) had to be led by someone around the course at the beginning of the summer," Moon said. "Now she's doing it by herself, and you can see more confidence."

Thirty-five to 40 junior rodeo enthusiasts attended Wednesday night's rodeo at the Moffat County Fairgrounds. Taelor Stagner, Kaycee Stagner and Nate Moon were hanging out together during barrel racing.

"This is about the only time I see my friends," Kaycee said. "We're all so busy in the summer it's hard to hang out."

While social time is a top priority, Kaycee said she can tell the difference when she attends a competition in the middle of the week.

"I can tell that I've been going consistently because my horse is in a better rhythm," she said. "Weeks I miss, it's different."

Lorrae said this is the time in the summer when there is a competition every weekend. Some of the riders come to get a ride in before the big money competitions at the end of the week, and others come just to learn.

"The little ones really get a lot out of it," she said. "Sometimes this is their first taste of competition."

The series is completely self-funded with a $5 entry fee for every event if the competitor is a BMJRS member -- it's $25 to join -- and $8 for a nonmember. The officials are volunteers, which allows for half the entry fee to be paid out each night and the other half to go toward nightly expenses and end-of-the-year prizes.

The end-of-the-year prizes go to any member who attended nine of 11 rodeos during the summer. In years past the awards have included a belt buckle and a saddle blanket. This year's prize is in the planning stages.

The rodeo usually lasts two to three hours, whatever it takes to run 35 participants through five events: breakaway roping, goat tying, barrel racing, flag racing and pole bending. It will run every week through Aug. 18, the Wednesday before Moffat County school starts. For more information, call the Moons at 824-9568.

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