Rodeo weather broke through last Wednesday, with clear sunny skies and a bone-dry arena floor.
That wasn’t the case Saturday.
Winter came back for the weekend with no regard for the sunny skies and warm breeze that usually mark rodeo season.
While bull riders like to find themselves loosening up behind the gates under a warm setting sun, they were instead blanketed by cold, wet snow that filled the arena right as the first chute rattled open.
For rodeo operator Phil Wilson, Saturday was the first time in the 10 years he’s been at the helm he can remember snow dominating the show.
“I was trying to watch team roping, and at one point I couldn’t see the team ropers hardly,” Wilson said. “Everyone I talked to was a bit soggy and a whole lot cold.”
Wintry conditions are especially difficult for cowboys on bulls and bucking horses. Wet, cold rosin on the riding hand doesn’t do much to help maintain a grip. The usual loose, button-down shirts were covered with winter jackets, and chaps were left in duffel bags to avoid having them caked in mud.
Even so, six bull riders made time, with Payton Nelson taking the win with an 82, and saddle bronc rider Blaine Mathews took his third win of the season with a 75.
Outside the resolve of the competitors, what impressed Wilson most was the resolve of those in the grandstands. Even as the temperature dropped and snow added a layer of difficulty to the spectator sport, fans remained.
“They were a hardy bunch,” Wilson said. “Stayed for the whole thing.”
One cowboy sure to not make the trip on Saturday night was Victor, Idaho’s Cade Cooke. The bareback rider took his first ride of the year in Wednesday’s performance after sitting out the first two weeks on account of the weather.
“I am a fair weather guy,” he admitted Wednesday. “I don’t usually come unless I know it’s going to be nice out.”
The defending year-end champion picked up where he left off a year ago, claiming the Wednesday night victory with a 79 earned atop bucking horse Little John for $223.20.
As one of the first guys to climb into the chutes, he watched from behind as younger brother Cooper Cooke took a crack at usurping him at the end of the bareback flight.
Cooper Cooke came away with a 76 atop a bucking horse named Yardwork, and older brother staved off getting bested by his younger sibling.
For now, anyway.
“I’ve never been beat by him,” Cade Cook said. “So it will be different when he beats me.”
A year ago Cooper Cooke finished third in bareback, but he has returned to the rodeo this year at another level.
Including the opening week, he has won bareback twice and also claimed a victory in the first saddle bronc go of the year.
He said his goal is to get the saddle this year, and it could be inevitable as his older brother picks and chooses when he’s going to come across the pass to get on a horse.
“He’s gotten a lot better in one year,” Cade Cooke said. “Now it’s a pretty heavy competition.
“Last year he didn’t ride quite as good; he wasn’t as comfortable. This year he’s an animal.”