Years ago, one of the punkin ‘rollin’ rodeos we tried not to miss was great fun. We hauled our horses and ourselves, and my mom brought dinner because everything stopped somewhere around noon for contestants and audience to enjoy “dinner on the ground.”
The arena, only used once a year, always had a good stand of grass — and weeds. Sometimes a local person who owned a tractor and blade drove over it, but if it didn’t get plowed nobody worried about it.
The race track surrounded the arena, and its total distance was probably 1/4 of a mile. That was plenty long enough for horsemen and horsewomen to run their horses several different distances. When my younger brother was about 6 years old, our parents entered him in a short-distance race riding a small pony. I still remember his horse — in the lead — coming to the finish line in front of the grandstand. I also remember my brother’s face — a study in concentration. I’m not sure if he was trying really hard not to fall off or what, but he was totally surprised when told he’d won. I think he got a blue ribbon. Those deals weren’t full of money.
Of course, after the grownups made a big deal out of his victory he suddenly developed a cowboy swagger.
Under the grandstand several metal bathtubs filled with ice held beverages — some of them of the adult variety.
Those adult beverages played a large part in a few of the horse races. There were pony expess races, where a baton was passed from one rider to the next, with three horses/riders per team. If the baton was dropped during the exchange they had to stop and retrieve it before continuing the race. If a rider had maybe too much to drink the baton exchange got really difficult.
In the relay races, the start was in front of the grandstand with a outrider in the arena shooting a pistol in the air when he felt the riders were semi-lined up. Other members of the relay team held the second horse on the backstretch. The rider jumped off his first mount and onto the one his partners held and took off. A few wrecks happened during those mount changes, of course, some of them looking suspiciously not like accidents.
The last mount switch was back in front of the grandstand. That horse had to go all the way around the track, a much longer distance, so the most thoroughbred-looking of the team’s three horses ran this last leg.
The team’s rider usually was the smallest, lightest-weight guy. One team had a rider who weighed maybe 130 pounds and could really ride. The problem: he could really drink as well. At the last mount swap in front of the grandstand he had almost caught up with the last place horse. Not realizing he was almost a lap ahead, he spurred his mount, a great little bay mare, and passed all the other horses again!
Heck of a race — enjoyed by all.
Glenda Price has been a contributing editor to New Mexico Stockman magazine since 1982. Contact her at: