By Eric Butler, Freedom Correspondent
Sugar and spice and everything nice, as the saying goes, are what little girls are made of. But you can’t blame some of the young cowgirls at the High Plains Junior Rodeo Association Finals for having a little bit of ingested dirt as part of their composition.
That’s especially true for the girls competing in traditional male rodeo events, such as those where riders attempt to stay on board a bucking animal.
At the HPJRA finals, which continued Wednesday at the Curry County Mounted Patrol Arena, two girls are among the eight trying for top honors in the 8-and-under calf riding.
Although one of the young boys claimed that the girls were “no good” because they didn’t stay on the calves as long, a lack of information may be at the root of such an opinion.
Entering the finals, which continue through Saturday, Tristyn McDaniel of Clovis and Saige Bell of Corona actually led the age group with 32 and 31 points, respectively. The two are also prime candidates for high placing in the girls all-around category, which Saige headed with 289 points, entering the final week of competition for the association.
Saige’s father, Dan Bell, said that being crowned all-around champ was a motivating factor for his daughter to climb about a bucking calf.
“It was in Alamogordo, where she decided she was in the race for the all-around and she needed the points. And she had the courage to get on one,” Bell said. “Sure, her safety is a big concern, but she wears a helmet, a protective vest, a mouthguard and then the chaps to take the licks. We give her all the protection we can.”
In the Wednesday night performance, Saige was thrown immediately as the calf left the chute. Only her football-like helmet saved her from eating more dirt than she did, although the 9-year-old did immediately reach back to grasp her lower back while still on the ground.
That ride was a bit of an anomaly for Saige, who admits that she and Tristyn do engage in a little kidding of the boys when they do come out on top.
“Sometimes we mess around about who won it and all that,” said Saige, who admits only to a small amount of fear.
“Only in the chute before I go,” she said. “It’s fun whenever they buck and you’re in the air.”
A 6-year-old Clovis boy, Shad Mayfield, had Wednesday night’s best ride and earned 61 points for his effort.
Shad’s father, Sylvester Mayfield, postulated one reason girls don’t continue to compete in bucking events — such as steers, broncs and bulls — beyond his son’s age level.
“Well, you know, they get hurt a lot easier than the guys,” Mayfield said. “It’s not really a girls event, but they let them do it until they get to be about 12.”
“I don’t know. It’s in the rules — it’s not even an option,” said Dan Bell, who isn’t exactly anxious to see his daughter be the one to break this barrier. “I don’t think most people could stand watching a girl get on a steer. They’d be impressed, but if one got hurt it wouldn’t be good.”