The Saratoga Sun -

By Liz Wood 

From the Hip: Adrenaline rush for all at Platte River Rodeo

 


After last weekend’s rodeo, I have a new respect for bullfighters and rodeo clowns.

The first time I went to a rodeo was in 1996 at Cheyenne Frontier Days. I was told that once I had seen that rodeo, I would be bored by all the others.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I didn’t go to rodeos very often when I moved to Saratoga and if I did, it was to volunteer in the sorority, or with the cub scouts and I didn’t actually see the rodeos.

Since working at the Saratoga Sun, I have gone to quite a few rodeos.

I really didn’t pay much attention to the clowns or the bullfighters, until this weekend.

Maybe it was because they became actual people to me, instead of someone out in the arena trying to distract an animal.

I would laugh at the jokes, be grateful I wasn’t picked for the pranks and watched the clowns as they would dive into their barrel.

This weekend, I met Tim Pope. Friday night he was putting on his clown makeup and I asked if I could take photos of him. He agreed. As I was taking his photo, I asked his name. “Do you have a daughter named Maddie?” The reply was yes. I had taken photos of her a couple years ago at a 4-H horse show in Saratoga.

When the rodeo started, I sat on the ground in front of the bleachers to get the best angle.

Tim worked as a rodeo clown for 35 years before retiring. He now works at the A-Bar-A ranch and volunteers to help the Platte River Rodeo Association.

Kyle Magee, of Torrington, was the bullfighter this year. He was a young man and has been a bullfighter for six years.

Friday and Saturday, the bulls were mean and mad. It was Kyle’s job to ensure the riders safety.

Usually, there are two bullfighters, Kyle said, but this weekend, he was performing solo. He said having one bull fighter increases the percentages of a wreck. Friday and Saturday attendees were witness to a couple of those wrecks.

After the rodeo Saturday night he was dripping with sweat. As he was dabbing his wet skin with a towel, he talked about how much fun it was to do his job. “I love it,” Kyle said. “Nothing compares to it.”

I have never thought of getting thrown in the air by a mean bull fun, but this guy does.

Kyle said he enjoys the camaraderie of the cowboys, clowns and bullfighters.

Saturday night, Kyle had used Tim’s barrel as a shield for one ticked off bull. The more Kyle teased the bull, the more the crowd cheered and the madder the bull got.

I asked Tim what he thought of being used as a shield. “I loved it,” he laughed.

I asked Kyle how long he had known Tim. “I just met him tonight,” Kyle said. “He was good to work with.”

Now I am really impressed. If you were at the rodeo Saturday and saw what I saw, you know the big white bull was stomping his front leg inside Tim’s barrel. Imagine putting that kind of trust into someone you just met.

I had the advantage of my 300 mm lens and could see Tim in the barrel. I would have been panicking. He was all curled up, and appeared calm.

Kyle’s work made for some great photos Friday and Saturday night. But more importantly, I learned to appreciate the work these men do to protect the rodeo participants when they are in a jam.

 

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