standing in the orange chute
waiting for the gate to open --
champion breakaway roper
On our way back from the Fall Festivals in Keosauqua and Bentonsport, we stop at Big Bend Livestock Arena, where a rodeo roping practice is going on.
A woman on a pinto is waiting for a bunch of steers to be unloaded into a chute, waiting to be released.
As she waits for the next calf to be released, she answers questions about rodeo competition. She's training her horse for breakaway roping, a competition with one calf and one rider, where the rider chases down and rope the calf around the neck as quickly as possible. The calf has a head start and is not tied down in the end, hence it “breaks away.” Breakaway roping, and roping of any sort, is hard to do and even harder to master. This woman is a champion breakaway roper.
I also learn the terms for team roping: header and heeler. The man watching beside his horse is a champion heeler. During heading and heeling competition, one partner ropes the steer's head and turns it to the left, then the heeler ropes the hind legs. Thus trapped, the steer goes down.
One man wields what looks like a giant pink fly swatter to urge the calves through the chute.
Each calf wears a horn wrap, a cloth headgear around its neck with the horns protruding, normally worn during competition to prevent rope burn and the risk of horns breaking.
However, as each calf reaches the head of the chute, the rustler removes its horn wrap. Didn't know enough to ask why.
A young boy practices roping a wooden "steer" with horns and four legs.
Fence shadows mark the passage of the sun as we head home.