I thought I had put aside politics last Saturday when I took a little time out for some fun. Harry Shill, longtime resident of the Payson area and one of the last rodeo cowboys around, asked me to judge a bull riding contest. This was something I hadn’t done before, but I decided, what the heck? I’d give it a shot. Judging a bull ride would be like watching some old cowboy top off a couple of broncs so I told Harry, “Sure, count me in.”
When I arrived at the arena, I saw Harry had done a bang-up job getting everything arranged. He had painted his chute gate and had even built a little shaded stand so the onlookers would be out of the sun.
Barry Beach, grandson of old-time Payson cowboy Chili Beach, was the other judge and Alva Bishop, grandson of A.T. Vaughn, an early Star Valley rancher, was the gate man. An added highlight was Rockin’ Ron Gibson of KMOG Radio fame was there to do the announcing. Everything was in order for a first-class event.
Harry had raised his own bull for this show and he looked like a tough one. Harry called him “Wooly Booger.” You would have to see ol’ Booger to catch the total drift, but the name fit him like a glove. “Here he is folks,” boomed the resonating voice of Rockin’ Ron, “Wooly Booger, sired by Ferdinand out of a camel, raised on diesel and meaner than a two-headed alligator.”
I saw Harry rosen his bull rope and get set to ride. Barry and I had our eyes glued to the gate. Alva was tensed and ready to jerk the gate open when Harry gave the nod. This meant a lot to Harry and none of us were going to fail him. Cowboy up fellers, let’s start the dance!
I saw Harry nod to Alva to open the gate. That bull came out of that chute like a bullet out of a .30-06, a pure explosion! He ducked and spun, swung his head, kicked up, slung snot for 360 degrees while Harry rode him like a grandma ridin’ a rockin’ chair. The people in the stands were cheering him on and Harry performed like the champ he is.
Now the total score possible for a bull ride is 100 points. Half of that total is based on the bull and how difficult he is to ride. That was my job — to judge the bull. He had power and speed, lots of kick in the back end and drop in the front end. The other 50 points are based on the ability of the cowboy — that was Barry’s job. He was looking to see if Harry had good control, good body position.
I have to say it was easy to judge this bull ride because “Wooly Booger” lived up to his name. I gave 45 points to the bull because not only did he buck like a snake crossing an ant den, he did a body roll about six feet in the air! Barry also handed Harry 45 points. Not only was Harry’s performance great, but he spurred the bull, too, earning “style points.” Harry pulled off a 90-point ride. When the whistle blew, Harry jumped off ol’ Wooly Booger, landed on his feet and tipped his hat to the crowd. Harry had put on a few years, but hadn’t lost any style.
Then we were almost jerked off our feet when Sharron Shill (Harry’s wife) jammed the pickup in gear, popped the clutch and jerked the float forward so we could pull off another ride for the folks up the road.
Sad to say, Harry’s float did not take first place in the parade, in fact, it didn’t even place, so I figured I hadn’t left all the politics behind that Saturday. No disrespect to the winning entries, but things have come to a pretty pass in Payson when the only rodeo-themed float in a rodeo parade is not even recognized. I don’t know who judged the floats, but 40 years back they’d have been driven off Ox Bow Hill with a foot tied up. Still, we won’t let bad decisions ruin the fun we had.
Harry’s float represented Payson’s Sixth Annual Rodeo Reunion, which will feature a tribute to Eddie Conway with a barbecue and visit at 12:30 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 15 at Rumsey Park, ramada 4.
The Cowboy Golf Tournament, honoring Sambo Haught will start at 8 a.m. If you are interested in the golf tournament, call Harry and Sharron at (928) 476-3334.
Como Siempré, Jinx