Ken's Journal
No. 4 - Summer 2004

Cheyenne Frontier Days, Cheyenne WY - 07/25 - 07/30/2004
Days 29-34 on the road. Part I.


Moab UT to Cheyenne WY - 454 miles through some of the most beautiful parts of our country. Thirty-two miles north of Moab on US191, you hit I70. Take that east some 350 miles to Denver then take I25 north the rest of the way to Cheyenne.

I70 passes by such towns as Parachute, Rifle, Silt, Glenwood Springs, Eagle, Avon and Vail. This stretch of I70 has some of the most amazing engineering to be seen on any interstate. I70 shares many narrow canyons with the Colorado River, the Union Pacific railroad and, strangely enough, a paved bike path - perhaps built as a concession to the local tree-huggers. In many places, the canyons are so narrow, the eastbound lanes are on grade, while the westbound lanes are elevated on piers and are over the eastbound lanes in places. In one narrow stretch, the eastbound lanes cross to the other side of the river and tunnel through the rock cliffs.

Some 30 miles east of Vail, I70 starts a 10 mile climb from an elevation of 9,000 feet that culminates in a crossing of the Continental Divide at an elevation of 12,500 feet. After a short descent, I70 dives through the mile long Eisenhower Tunnel and starts the long descent to Denver, some 45 road miles away.


So what is Cheyenne Frontier Days? Well, besides 9 days of Professional Rodeo, there's several parades downtown, free pancake breakfasts, one of the largest carnivals I've ever seen, nightly entertainment including a couple nights of Professional Bull Riders and name Country Western stars like George Strait, Randy Travis, Amy Dally, Brad Paisley, Chris Cagle, Keith Urban, Trick Pony, Kenny Chesney . . . . There's also an Indian Village featuring Indian dancers, drummers and singers from the Wind River Reservation, a chuck-wagon cooking competition, and a Western art show and sale. The big draw for most, is of course, the rodeo.


Dress in your best western finery 'cause everyone's looking at you!


The horse on the left is part of a team pulling a wagon-load of tourists on a tour behind the chutes. What are the chutes? Those are the pens on one side of the arena where the cowboys board their rides - buckin' broncos or bulls. What's behind the chutes? There's a complex of modular pens, gates and passageways where the hundreds of wild horses, bulls and steers needed for nine days of rodeo are confined and managed before and after their premier appearances in the arena. The steers on the right are waiting their turn to try to elude some cowboy's rope.


Cowboys checking out their rides - and vice versa. The drawing for your ride used to be done with two hats - the cowboy's names in one and the bull's names in another. A name is drawn from each and the match is made. Now it's all done by computer, but still, after the drawing, there's time enough for the cowboy to contemplate his draw!

So how do you get on one of these things? Very carefully and in a very confined and controlled situation. This is a bucking chute. Cheyenne has ten bucking chutes lined up on one side of the arena. Each chute has three gates. One longwise opening to the arena and two narrow-wise - in this picture, one behind the bull and one in front of him leading from chute to chute. This particular one is the end chute I believe. To load the chutes, the bulls or horses comes in through a gate on the right and pass through to the next chute until they get to where they belong. This cowboy is rigging his rope - what he holds on to when he rides.

And the ride is on! Riding must be done with one hand only. The rider will be disqualified for touching the animal with his free hand or being bucked off before completing an 8 second ride.

Out of a possible 100 points for a ride, some are allocated to the bull - for how good a ride he gives (the more nasty the better) - and the rest are allocated to the cowboy - for how good he rides. An excellent ride would be a score in the 90s, very good in the 80s and acceptable in the 70s. If the bull gives a poor ride, which results in a low score, the cowboy may be given the option of a re-ride or to keep the lower score he's given.

There were 160 contestants entered in this event. The top 15 will compete in the finals on the last day of the rodeo. Last year's winner took home $16,000 for his efforts.

This cowboy just got a no-score. You can see one foot above the back of the bull and the other under his chest. The guy in the red shirt and split jeans is a bull-fighter - sometimes called a rodeo clown. His job is to distract the bull once the rider comes off and can get away safely. ââ

As he's shown doing in this picture. A bull-fighter needs stamina, speed and some clue as to the nature of an angry bull. He also needs a hell of a lot more guts than I have! When a rider comes off a bull, the angry bull will most often go after the cowboy because he's the closest person around. The bull-fighter's job is give the cowboy time to get out of the way. The "brave" ones will also try to snatch both ropes off the bull. The front rope is the cowboy's and is his "handle" while he's on the bull. The rope in the back is the bucking strap - pulled tight when the gate to the chute opens, that's what makes the bull buck. The bell on the front rope is required - I have no clue why.
  Another wild ride.

Bull-1, Cowboy-0

So how do you get off one of these things? If you're not thrown by the bull and make your 8 seconds, the manner of exit is up to you - you just choose a gentle moment and let go!! If you're very skilled, or lucky, you land on your feet running!!

Next, CFD Part II.


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