The Ingomar Open Rodeo

I’m ashamed to admit it, seeing as how I’m a local and all and I should be tougher than this, but I seriously overheated in Ingomar this past Saturday.  It was the day of the annual Ingomar Rodeo, and because social events in Ingomar don’t come along too often and also because Beau — being the youngest, most able-bodied man within a 17-mile radius — is becoming a member of the Ingomar Rodeo Club by default, of course we had to be there.

Our friend Tiff was competing in the breakaway and team roping events at the rodeo, so we had the chance to hang out with her and her family, too.  Here are her kids and my kids (below) climbing on some old building foundations near the arena.  The flowers pictured just cracked me up.  Where in the heck did they come from?  Why are they growing right there?  How are they even alive?  (After all, Ingomar is not exactly hospitable to plant life.)  Now, if they were growing close to the outhouses at the Jersey Lilly (lovingly referred to as the Heifer Pen and the Bull Pen), I could understand on account of fertilizer and moisture being readily available.  But these flowers are across the street from the pens, sprouted up right next to an old tin building.  It’s a mystery to me.  I’ll have to ask Boots and June about them next time I’m at the Lil.


Being at the Ingomar Rodeo is the same as being in Ingomar.  The arena is right in the middle of town and the kids who come for the day just kind of roam the dirt streets, the dirt noodles under their chins growing more defined with every pass.  Ingomar is a true ghost town in most ways — there are far more unoccupied buildings than occupied.  So kids are popping in and out of abandoned tumble-downs all day long; then skipping over to the old Ingomar gym to shoot hoops; crawling up and down the stairs of the closed-down, two-room schoolhouse (now converted into the Bunk ‘n’ Biscuit:  Only Place to Sleep in 100 Miles); and frequently opening and closing the door at the Jersey Lilly (which now has central air), wishing to trade sweaty, crumpled dollar bills for bags of chips and cans of pop.

My own kids personally prefer going to the playground across the street from the arena to actually watching the rodeo.  (Of course, they’re too little to go to the playground by themselves, so that means I spend the day at the playground, too.)  But there are a lot of older kids who participate in the kids’ events at the Ingomar Rodeo.  I had to smile when I saw this little cowgirl with the colorful hair getting ready to ride:


What makes Ingomar an “open” rodeo is that you don’t have to hold any sort of membership card — NRA, PRCA, etc. — to participate.  Anybody and everybody can enter up.  I think a lot of people come to participate in the Ingomar Rodeo year after year just because it’s an annual tradition.  Because Ingomar is a fun place to say you’ve been and because the rodeo is a good reason to go.  Ingomar, normally home to 12 people, grows about 30-fold on the day of the rodeo.  Cars like this pull into town:


Retired world-champion bareback rider Deb Greenough is the announcer every year, and he’s actually very good at the job.  And this year’s National High School Finals Rodeo saddle bronc champion, Sage Newman, can usually be found in the back pens loading bulls; his family’s roots run deep in Ingomar.  (My son, Asher, is wondering when he’ll be old enough to ride a junior bull.  His Dad and I are thinking 31.  If his physical fitness goes the way ours has, by the time he hits his 30s he’ll feel old and stiff and slow enough that bull-riding won’t seem like such a good idea anymore.  Is our plan logical or cruel?)

Yep, the crowd at the Ingomar Open Rodeo is a nice mix of rodeo royalty and folks come right out of the hills pulling rusty old ranch trailers.  Fancy living-quarters trailers park between crumbling shacks on the big day, and the two donkeys that roam loose in Ingomar all months of the year pester high-dollar horses that stand tied to their trailers wearing face masks and bell boots.

The nice thing about having a living quarters horse trailer, of course, is that it probably comes complete with a generator (which is good, because there aren’t exactly a lot of electrical outlets in Ingomar) and an air conditioner (which is good, because it’s very hot in Ingomar at the end of July).  It’s nice to have a place to get out of the punishing sun.  In fact, that’s probably No. 1 on my list of…

Tam’s Tips for Not Overheating in Ingomar

  1. Take your living-quarters trailer and/or camper, complete with generator and air-conditioning, and stay inside it.
  2. If you don’t have a trailer or camper, take a canopy and set it up by the arena and stay under it (this will be my personal low-budget approach from now on).
  3. Either way, take a cooler and fill it with water bottles and ice and drink the water.  You can never take too much water to Ingomar.  We locals are thankful for every drop.
  4. Wear long sleeves and a hat.  It’s no accident that traditional cowboys and cowgirls cover up; any barrier between your skin and the sun is helpful.
  5. Never let your kids know that there is a playground in town.
  6. If they do discover the playground and manage to talk you into taking them to it, never let the baby go down the slide for the first time… because that’s all she’ll think about the rest of the day… and it will all end with you telling the 5-year-old, “NO, we can’t go to the street dance, because I have a terrible headache and I want to go home and take off my clothes and lock myself in the cool, dark closet before I puke on somebody’s boots here.”


See you in Ingomar next summer — last Saturday in July!

© Tami Blake

6 thoughts on “The Ingomar Open Rodeo

  1. Ya, I knew what day it was, and happy to be home in the shade and fan- ablowing a little cool air at me!!! The older I get, the less I can handle the ‘intense’ heat…. Good writeup, am sure the ghost of Bill Seward was overlooking, as well as a few more Sewards, and assorted others….


  2. Thanks for the article. It gave me a little taste of rodeos, Ingomar, and Montana. The rodeos everywhere were hot and dusty. Ingomar always seemed deserted, but the school was alive and well with 13 students. Their basketball team were out rivals. Melstone was the place I called home and these pictures and article brought me right back home. Montana has many flavors and this one I love


  3. Your flowers are the highly noxious weed , spotted Knapp weed that thrives anywhere even in rocks. Someone should carefully pull those up and put them on a bag and burn them.

    It was too hot for me to go to Ingomar this year.


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