At the Rodeo: The Wild West | AspenTimes.com

At the Rodeo: The Wild West

Allyn Harvey

Ruby Meade was supposed to go mutton bustin’ Thursday night, but given her greenhorn status at the rodeo she probably made the right decision to wait a week or two.Ruby, 5, made her debut at the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo held weekly on Thursday evenings at the Gus Darien Arena outside town. And although she declined to jump on the back of a woolly sheep and hang on for dear life (and lots of applause), there was plenty of interaction ‘tween Ruby, the competitors and the animals.When she showed up, some of the most familiar names in ranching in these here parts were warming up for team roping. Team roping is a two-person, two-horse, one steer sport. The horses and cowboys line up behind a chute with a gate and a steer inside. The gate opens, the steer runs, the cowboys ride in chase and try to lasso the steer around its head and back feet. Most of the time it only takes eight seconds for the steer to win.But first things first once the rodeo starts – and that means bull riding. If Ruby was paying attention at the start of competition, she likely saw a handful of cowboys get tossed around by giant bulls. Only one or two actually hung on the full eight seconds necessary to earn a score.But even if Ruby wasn’t watching then, she checked those massive bulls out up close and personal-like and petted a horse or two when she went to the back of the arena where all the competitors keep their animals. After more team roping and some steer riding (bull-riding lite) it was finally time for some mutton bustin’. About a dozen aspiring cowpokes lined up for their big moment in the dust. One by one the young’uns put on the helmet and protective vest and climbed aboard their charge, squeezing as tight as humanly possible with their legs and grabbing all the wool their little hands would hold.As soon as they were ready, the rodeo hands would let the sheep loose and in every instance save one the beast took off running with a child clinging to its back, or sometimes its side. Most children fell off inside three seconds, but a handful made a go of the ride, getting all the way across the arena before a rodeo clown pulled them off. Nice.Even behind the tears of the youngest, least successful riders there was a smile hinting at another ride next Thursday. They better all watch out, ’cause Little Miss Ruby might be there, too.