Former law enforcement officer, ex-Payson justice of the peace and one-time pro rodeo cowboy Ronnie McDaniel could only scratch his noggin in bewilderment as he watched the bull riding unfold over the course of four performances of the 127th World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo.
It was the inability of any of the 22 bull riders to complete an eight-second ride and earn a score that created such puzzlement Aug. 19 to 21 at the Payson Event Center.
The shutout of the cowboys is known in rodeo parlance as a “ground split.”
On Monday following the rodeo, longtime rodeo boss Bill Armstrong mulled the occurrence saying, “I can’t remember it ever happening.”
McDaniel agreed, saying it is very rare in the sport, but recalled being involved in a ground split in 1962 at the Cattle Call Rodeo in Brawley, Calif.
The former bull rider, who spent much of his younger years competing around the country on the rodeo circuit, can’t put his finger on the cause of ground splits saying it’s a combination of some really good bulls coupled with poor luck on the part of the cowboys.
While the shutout originally appeared to be a blow to cowboys hoping to pocket prize money, it eventually turned into a real plus.
With the ground split, the $5,248.75 in prize money, which included entry fees and added money, was divided evenly among all the entrants.
Normally, cowboys only get paid for staying aboard rough stock, but at the Payson Rodeo they were financially rewarded after getting bucked off.
“Strange, isn’t it,” McDaniel asked.
While the bull riding turned into a test of wills, which the bulls won, some pro cowboys were at the top of their game.
Bill Snure was the most successful, winning all-around honors and $3,570.07 in prize money.
Snure, from Douglas, was first in the tie down roping with an aggregate time of 26.32 seconds.
In the team roping as a header, he joined forces with Trey Miller to take first in Go-round 1 in 5.3 seconds.
In the team roping’s aggregate scoring, Snure and Miller were second at 14.22 seconds.
Wickenburg cowboy Dean McIntyre finished second in the all-around standings, winning $2,127.42 in the steer wrestling and team roping.
The cowboy’s best showing was in steer wrestling where he was top gun with a time of 11.62 seconds that included a winning time of 5.6 seconds in Go-round 1.
In May, McIntyre also won the steer wrestling championship at the Gary Hardt Memorial Rodeo.
While most of the cowboys were enjoying a rodeo Armstrong is calling one of the best ever, fans kept on the edge of their seats in an action-packed show that was a brand above the rest.
The Saturday night performance, Armstrong said, “was standing room only.”
In addition to the traditional events highlighting the rodeo, fans were kept hootin’ and hollerin’ by the comedy specialist act of Mark Swingler who has been one of the PRCA’s top five rodeo clowns.
His YMCA routine, which once was featured in the National Finals Rodeo, has been nominated for the PRCA Comedy Act of the Year.
Mutton bustin’, an event in which children age 5 to 7 tried to stay aboard wild and wooly sheep, was also a crowd-pleaser partly because most riders made quite a splash when they were bucked off into several inches of arena mud.
“A good rodeo, one we can all be very proud of,” Armstrong said.