Fans expecting wild and wooly action at Sunday’s performance of the 125th Annual Payson Rodeo had their expectations turn true.
Most of the excitement occurred in the saddle bronc riding when one wild horse threw his rider head first into the air. The unseated cowboy flew a few yards ahead of the bucking horse and landed head first into the Payson Event Center grounds sending groans and gasps through the startled crowd.
Although many believed the New Mexico cowboy, Dean Daley, was surely injured from the fall, he rose and walked out of the arena to the applause of the appreciative crowd.
Only two riders later, another saddle bronc rider — J. W. Todd of Carlsbad, N.M. — had his horse twist, turn, stumble and collapse under him.
The bronc appeared to fall on top the thrown rider, which sent another round of moans of concern through the crowd.
Among the first to reach the cowboy, who was laying head first — apparently unconscious — in the dirt, was the Justin Boots Sports Medicine Team.
Although an ambulance entered the arena to evacuate the fallen rider, he gingerly rose to his feet and was escorted away, apparently without any serious injuries.
Todd was eventually awarded a reride and stay aboard Special K to a score of 72 and a fourth-place finish in the go-around.
The ride helped propel Todd to the average championship with a score of 154 on two go-arounds. For the win, he pocketed $584 in prize money.
Although the two bronc riders didn’t enjoy a day to write home about, Marana’s Joe Parsons, a veteran of the pro rodeo circuit, who qualified for five National Finals Rodeos, turned in a banner rodeo performance.
At the conclusion of the two days of action he was crowned the all-around cowboy for winning a rodeo high $1,935.81 in prize money.
In the aggregate of the team roping, he hooked up with his son Joseph Parsons, a former Marana High School basketball standout, to finish third overall.
In the tie-down roping, Joe Parsons won the first go-around in 8.6 seconds, which was the second fastest time of the rodeo.
A third member of the family, Cutter Parsons — Joe’s brother — finished third in the first go-around.
The Parsons family, which has long competed in Payson, is all about rodeo.
Emily — Joe’s daughter — is a barrel racer in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association. Another daughter, Erin, was the 2002 Arizona state high school all-around champion and is bound for New Mexico State on a basketball scholarship.
Neither Emily nor Erin competed in Payson.
The patriarch of the Parsons family is Charlie Parsons, 69, a rodeo cowboy with vast professional experience.
In the barrel racing, Mandy Sproul of Benson turned in the quickest time of the August Doin’s — 17.82. Sproul has plenty of Payson connections being the niece of former Julia Randall School teacher Penny Conway. Sproul also has team roped in past years with her cousin, Kyle Conway, Penny’s son and a former Longhorn football star.
Sproul and Penny hooked up after the Payson competition to travel to Camp Verde where the duo finished first in the team roping in an all women’s rodeo.
“I’m the header, she’s the heeler,” Conway said.
Many of the small-town Arizona fans who attended the rodeo performances adopted Wyatt Hancock as a favorite partly because he hails from nearby Taylor.
Hancock won both bareback go-arounds and the aggregate title.
In the first go, he rode 86 Standing Tall to a score of 78 and in the second go he scored a 72 on Knock Out.
C. J. Aragon and Chon Miranda were also event winners.
Aragon, of Tucumcari, N.M, took the steer wrestling with a time of 7.7 seconds.
Miranda claimed the bull riding title posting an aggregate score of 149.
His best tally of the two goes was a 79 on My Time.
Among the most accomplished cowboys to compete in in the rodeo was team roper Rube Woolsey of Casa Grande. Woolsey has competed in numerous National Finals Rodeos, the George Strait Classic, Dodge National Circuit Finals, National Western Stock Show in Denver and Pendleton Roundup.
He also qualified for the College National Finals in 1990 and ’91 and the National High School finals four years earlier.
He now works as a teacher helping younger ropers perfect their skills.
In Payson, Woolsey and Tom Bill Johnson finished fourth in the team roping aggregate.
Rodeo contractor Jerry Honeycutt called the Payson Rodeo a complete success saying the competition was fierce and the audiences larger than some past years.
Honeycutt should know about the August Doin’s, he’s been attending Payson Rodeos for more than two decades. Old-timers remember him as a very young boy running fancy-free around the former rodeo grounds at Rumsey Park.
“I was only about 7 or 8 years old then, but they were among my favorite rodeos,” he said.
“I loved that place (Rumsey Park); I followed my dad around doing whatever chores I was asked to do.”
His father, Roy Honeycutt, was the contractor for many local rodeos before retiring and turning over the reins of the Colorado-based family business to Jerry.