It seemed only right that the Energy Town Pro Rodeo started Thursday afternoon at the Cam-plex Morningside Park with something that dates back a couple hundred years.
They call it the true cowboy event because it’s something hard-working men have done every day working cattle for hundreds of years. The steer roping featured four of the top 25 steer ropers in the world and a guy that won a round at Cheyenne Frontier Days.
“This is about being a true cowboy” said Cody Lee, of Gatesville, Texas, who ranks second in the PRCA world standings. “Your horse is on its own, out there tied on. You have to be well mounted and work as a team. This is how you work the cattle every day when you’re on your own.”
Cowboy Vin Fisher Jr. of Andrews, Texas, ranks fourth in the world, and just smiled at the idea of participating in the original rodeo event.
“Saddle broncs is obviously the classic event of rodeo, but to me steer roping is the cowboy event and what rodeo originated from,” he said. “What I really love about it is that it has a lot of history.
“I don’t know if there’s more technique than other roping events. But you got to get off leaving your horse wide open, expecting him to bring that steer right to you. That’s a lot to ask out of a horse. That’s such a determining factor in steer roping is how well you are mounted.”
Lee isn’t ranked second in the world for no reason.
He made the all-night drive from Dalhart, Texas, and won the first two rounds in the steer roping Thursday.
But a little bit of trouble with his horse and a time of 25 seconds in the third round left the door open and that was all Chet Herren of Pawhuska, Okla., needed to win the average by the narrowest of margins.
Herren was as steady as Mississippi rain. His best effort was fourth in the opening round, but he totaled 46.7 seconds on three to claim $1,699 in aggregate prize money.
Lee was just seven-tenths of a second back. He finished second in 47.4 for a $1,406 paycheck.
Wyoming also was well represented.
Troy Tillard of Douglas earned $1,113, totalling 49.3 on three head to finish
third. Tommy Moore from Midwest was fourth and Ty Tillard of Douglas finished fifth.
On the road again
“I’m still trying to figure out a way to get my horse on a jet,” Lee said with a laugh. “We drove all night from Dalhart, Texas, to be here.
“I’ll tell ya’ what, it’s a whole lot cooler up here than it was down there. This is a great rodeo.”
Fisher Jr. made that same drive from north Texas. His first steer kicked loose, which took him out of the average, but he ended up winning the third round with the fastest time of the day in 10.4.
“I love it here. I came up and actually won the rodeo last year,” Fisher said. “It was in memory of Bobby Harris’ mother (Jayne Harris). I won a belt buckle and it was a neat rodeo.
“Wyoming is a cowboy state and they have a long, rich history of steer roping. So I love coming to Wyoming because you know you’re going somewhere where they enjoy it.”
Gillette cowboy Lee Isenberger didn’t win a fist full of money, but he could look over in the stands and see his son and four grandchildren watching. That’s something money can’t buy.
“It means a lot to me to rope here in Gillette. That’s one reason I’m on the committee, to keep the steer roping going in my hometown,” said Isenberger, who posted two no times and a total of 27.0 seconds. “Look around here, there’s Bobby Harris, there’s three Mills’ that rope, myself, (Gillette College coach) Will LaDuke. There’s actually about 10 steer ropers right here in the Gillette area.”
LaDuke, competing in steer roping for the first year, posted no times.
The annual Energy Pro Town Rodeo continues at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday with two full rodeo performances at Morningside Park. Slack also will start at 9 a.m. Saturday.