In conjunctive celebration with Payson's World's Oldest Continuing Rodeo, kindergartners from Payson Elementary School sat privy Wednesday morning to three Arizona High School Rodeo extraordinaires.
"It's really fun to be a rodeo queen," said Miss Arizona High School Rodeo First Attendant Queen Ashley James. "Boys can be rodeo kings," she added. "But you don't get the pretty crown." James' crown sat atop her white cowboy hat.
Payson High School seniors Trevor Haught and Jason Lister accompanied James to Cathy Stevens and MaryAnn Runzo's kindergarten classes. The two classes sat in Stevens' room, where she declared the week's letter -- "C" for cowboy and cowgirl -- on a wall.
Haught brought his Arizona state bareback champion trophy saddle, of which he now has two. Haught won last year as well and ranks seventh in the world.
Item by item, Haught and Lister lifted paraphernalia out from their large black duffel bags.
"What got rodeo started was ranchers and different cowboys from different towns, they'd get to talking about who had better horses, who could ride better," Haught said. A cowboy's natural inclination toward competition eventually spurred the event into becoming the modern rodeo.
Bronc riding, Lister's specialty, is classic rodeo, he said. His equipment "is dang near the same as Trevor's." But, Lister said, he wears spandex shorts to avoid straining a muscle.
"I'm surprised they admit to that," whispered a bystander.
In bronc riding, one must keep balance while holding a single braided rope thread through one's pinky and index finger. Such a grip provides better traction than if the pinky were not involved, Lister said.
For bareback riding, Haught showed the suitcase-like handle he straps onto his horse, shoving his hand into a white glove he must inch through the handle. The tight grip helps him stay on the horse.
"I broke a lot of bones," Haught admitted when asked. His nose cracked a couple times, as did an ankle and his shoulder.
Lister then demonstrated goods for the more practical aspects of riding on the range. One can store water in a packet on the saddle, wear special stirrups to protect against brush and wear silk bandannas. A wet bandanna during the summer keeps a cowboy cool, while a dry one during the winter traps warmth, Lister said. Dust transcends seasons.
"Us new cowboys, we have sunglasses, too," Haught told the kindergartners, who are quite possibly the future cowboys and cowgirls of Payson.