After some exhilarating polo, the expanse of groomed grass becomes an old time rodeo ground at the annual Don King Days south of Sheridan, Wyoming. Don King Days is held in honor of Don King, renowned saddle maker and founder of Kings Saddlery.
In the early days, rodeo events were simply friendly contests between neighbors. They may have been held on any good sized piece of flat, open ground. Horses, wagons, and buggies- and later automobiles- formed a barrier to contain the wild stock and provided perches for the spectators. Don King Days maintains the tradition with the action taking place on the open polo grounds. From time to time, the stock tries to make a break for it and goes snorting through the crowd. Heads up! But generally, steers and horses alike, prefer the company of their own kind and head away from the spectators to where their counterparts are held by mounted cowboys and cowgirls.
The steer roping and bronc riding don’t follow modern rodeo rules. Steers are pushed out of an alley by a “pusher’ who is often a very young cowboy or cowgirl. The roper chases the steer; heads it; then “trips” it to the ground; jumps off his horse and ties the feet of the steer. A time is scored if the steer remains tied for six seconds.
This form of steer roping mimics the kind of roping done during the open range era. Often times a cowboy had to catch and brand a wiley two or three year old steer by himself without benefit of corrals or chutes.
The bronc riding likewise takes place out in the open. The method for getting the bronc saddled and mounted differs quite a bit from the typical modern rodeo. A crew of men on horseback -called pick up men-surround the bronc which helps the bronc stay calm. A saddle is placed on the bronc’s back by one of the riders. The bronc rider uses one of the broke horses as a short of shield to get the saddle cinched. He then crawls over the back of the pick up man’s horse and lowers himself down onto the bronc. The pick up men then back away and let ‘er buck! The bronc rider has to stay on until the buzzer and receives a score based on the difficulty and finesse of his ride. It’s a nice change from the usual rodeo events and even more fun when the bronc starts heading your way!