I’ve coined a term to describe people like me who just keep on putting on an event every year, shamelessly hounding folks for sponsorship money: stupidconfident. I mean, you have to admit, it takes a certain kind of naive fortitude to annually beg for money to put on an event which the world could just as well do without — money which could, in reality, be better spent on funding, say, children’s cancer research.
Yet for 11 years now, over and over again, I have tapped out a letter each spring asking potential sponsors for money to run the Custer Ranch Rodeo. My letters usually start with something corny, like, “Hard to believe it’s that time of year again…”
And it IS hard to believe it’s spring once again. I haven’t even finished wrapping up last year’s ranch rodeo, and here it is, time — actually past time — to start on another one. And though sometimes I wonder why I go through the work every year of organizing the Custer Ranch Rodeo — because it’s not as though people stand in line to thank me when it’s over, and I’m sure not making any money for our family doing it but in fact losing money — the best time of year is this time of year, when folks get spring fever and start calling, wondering what this year’s date is. That’s when I get excited all over again. And when I start looking back at photos from last year.
And when I do that, I realize that all the rounding-up-of-sponsors I do contributes to a fun day for lots of folks.
Like the kids who participate in the boot race:
(Somebody told me once that if you ever want somebody to give you money, just show ’em pictures of kids.)
(So here ya go.)
My sister, Sue Gallo, took all the photos in this post unless otherwise noted. All photos are from 2016 — our 10th anniversary event.
Kids of unknown origin.
The Custer Ranch Rodeo got its start in 2007. At first it was a fundraiser for the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame. But the Custer Arena was falling down around us as we rodeoed, so we switched to raising funds for the arena. Arena improvement has been a slow, arduous go… but I am extremely pleased to announce that by this year’s June 24 event, the old fence on the north side and in the southeast corner of the arena will be completely replaced with new continuous fence panels and top rail… thanks to the donations of many local businesses and families.
Enough about money — how about some pictures of the day?
First, there’s the branding event:
There’s team penning:
There’s wild cow milking (three members of the Fink Quarter Horses team wait here for GO!):
And there’s the trailer race:
After the ranch rodeo winners are announced (last year’s top team was Fink Quarter Horses, the top cowboy was Garrett Severe — above left, and the top cowgirl was Sarah Verhelst — two pictures down), we host an open-to-anybody ranch bronc ride with the help of Stockman Bank. It’s usually dusk by that time. Luckily the arena has lights, and two of them actually work:
Probably because I myself am female, the Custer Ranch Rodeo emphasizes the participation of cowgirls. Each 4-person team at Custer must have at least one female member OR at least one male member. We differ from other ranch rodeos in this way; most others require a woman as a fifth, almost tagalong, member. But at Custer, ladies, there’s no standing around looking pretty holding a branding iron! Our cowgirls are expected to rope, ride hard, and wrestle calves just like the guys do.
And we do host some impressive cowgirls:
Sarah, at left above, has won our top cowgirl award many times.
You’ve probably guessed by now that not just any cowgirl can participate at Custer because of my insistence, through the rules, that she must ride hard, rope, and wrestle like the guys. Yes, folks, I have created such an elite set of ranch rodeo rules that I have excluded myself from being able to participate in my own event.
It’s just one of many jokes life has played on me.
Still, I like to think of what we’re doing at Custer as ranch rodeo for purists.
We Blakes have grown many friendships in the last 11 years through the ranch rodeo. First of all I must mention Bob ‘n’ Clint, gluttons for punishment who just keep coming back year after year to volunteer. (Volunteers are always welcome!) Bob ‘n’ Clint consistently help us get the heifers to and from the arena; they set up and take down panels; and they calmly answer my numerous panicked screams for help throughout the day, like, “BOB! Why isn’t the sound system working?!” and “CLINT! Why aren’t the porta-potties here yet?!”
Three cheers for these two for putting up with me and my bewildered husband for all these years.
Toby, too, helps on the committee (along with his dad, Dave):
And many other folks who must feel sorry for me answer my pleas for help each year at ranch rodeo time.
Verg, above, comes down from Butte Camp to work the back pens.
Martin has judged for us for many years now. He is a rock.
Lee Perrin, longtime Mayor of the Custer Arena, takes tickets every year.
While Lee’s wife, Marion, times for us in the crow’s nest (Tami Blake photo).
My mom “gets stuck” taking care of my babies while I, usually having screeched into the ranch rodeo organization finish line about two minutes and several dollars short, spend the day wandering around the arena grounds in a daze, answering the important questions folks like to shoot at me with blank stares and “Uhhhhhhs.”
KC Verhelst, top cowgirl Sarah’s husband, is so good to pick up for us every year during the bronc riding. I don’t bother to pay him because his talent is inestimable. *grin*
Joe picks up, too, on ol’ Dirty Sally.
The S Ranch team.
(By the way, that’s me in the unflattering pink t-shirt above. Many times I have wondered why I didn’t change out of that shirt into something a little more appropriate before the ranch rodeo began last year. I think I’d actually slept in that t-shirt, in the camper, the night before.)
The Duttons. Cutest couple ever!
The Severes. Cutest siblings ever! (They’re the three at right; that’s Will, at left, rounding out their team.)
Jason. (Tami Blake photo.)
Brent from the Circle B.
And, of course, there are the folks who come to watch, like my 91-year-old grandma with her camp chair and her leopard-print hat… (?)…
… and the random passersby who stop in to watch a little ranch rodeo action (this was a group of men on a pastors’ retreat; wonder if they felt out of place in their shorts?).
And always, always, the sponsors to thank: like RaeAnn Svedberg Insurance for the Top Cowgirl Award (Tami Blake photo)…
… and Pine Coulee Bulls for the First Place Team jackets (Tami Blake photo):
Then there’s Shirlee, who comes to watch every year and who takes and shares awesome photos like this one, above, and the four below.
The PV crew usually enters a team:
And the PV Ranch donates use of the cattle. (Thank you, Mr. K. and Mr. C.!) Those free cattle… they are the single perk for having been born here on this corporate ranch and having bled for it and cried over it for 34 years now.
And since I’m well acquainted with bleeding and crying, I think I’ll continue on with the business of ranch rodeo production… for another year at least!
© Tami Blake
Thanks for the great pics, Sue Gallo!