Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

By Daniel Thompson
Reporter 

And the curtain falls; a look back at the faces of this year's fair

 

Jacob Misener

The annual Catch-a-Calf competition saw three local youth successfully capture a calf. Here, Tyler Harroun looks up as he puts his calf in a headlock.

The Kimball-Banner County Fair is a time where the focus rests on the different showmanship events, the efforts of the 4-H and FFA kids, and, of course, the rodeo which fills residents with wonderment as they watch man and beast clash in the arena.

However, very few ever learn the story of the people behind the scenes that spend hours, days, and even years gathering the experience to give the public such a fine spectacle to behold: the funny clown, the man behind the voice in the announcer’s booth, the rodeo queen who charms the crowd with her smile, and the bull rider who risks personal safety to give residents a good show.

See the Funny Little Clown

Without his makeup and colorful clothes, no one would ever think that Scot Allerdings spends many of his weekend nights running around an arena playing jester for crowds amidst the chaos of the rodeo.

“I’m the guy that entertains the crowd throughout the rodeo. I do comedy. I have a few acts that I do sporadically throughout the rodeo performance,” Allerdings said.

Though many laugh at his antics, rarely does anyone think about one of the biggest purposes that the rodeo clown serves within the makeup of the event.

“During the bull riding, not only do I throw comedy out there, but I also have a barrel which serves as a little island of protection for the cowboys when they get thrown off a bull or something or the bull fighters who are trying to distract the bulls can come to my barrel as another measure of protection,” Allerdings said.

This isn’t a job that Allerdings just happened to fall in to. It’s something that he’s been heading towards most of his life, step by step.

“I grew up around rodeo. My grandfather did almost every event in rodeo, and my father also rodeoed. As I grew up, I rode a few steers, and in high school, I made the transition and started riding bulls and rode them into college. College is actually where I started to make the transition into the cowboy protection and bull fighting end of it. One step just kind of led to another over the years,” Allerdings said.

Allerdings, who has been working as a rodeo clown for the past five years, has become well aware of the dangers of the rodeo over the years and the precautions that must be taken in order to ensure the safety of all involved.

“There is definitely the danger factor out there. That’s why we have to just put our trust in god and trust each other out there to help out and work together so we can keep everybody as safe as possible. If somebody’s getting into a little bit of a bind, one of us can hopefully go and distract the bull and pull him away to help everybody out,” Allerdings said.

The bull riders, bull fighters, and Allerdings do not only depend on each other but also on the effectiveness of the safety equipment in their stock.

“The bull riders wear protective vests and helmets. The bull fighters wear some pads to protect especially their vital organs. I have a steel barrel that’s padded inside and out so I have that protective measure too. We try to take as many precautions as possible,” Allerdings said.

However, even with every possible precaution taken, there is no way to anticipate what will occur when introducing a raging bull into the setting, leaving injuries to be a common part of the job.

“I get hit in the barrel a lot. Those bulls will come hit some times, and it’s a carnival ride from there once they start tumbling me. When I was working the cowboy protection as a bull fighter, I got hit on several occasions. I helped out a few weeks ago and had one of the bulls get me down a little bit and roll me down on the ground a little bit. I’ve had my fair share of injuries over the years,” Allerdings said.

As Allerdings puts it, these injuries aren’t seen as mistake on the job as it would be at most places of employment. Rather, they’re a sign that you’re doing exactly what needs to be done.

“If you’re doing your job, it’s going to happen especially from the cowboy protection standpoint. That’s something we’re willing to do. It’s kind of like firemen willing to put themselves on the line to go into a burning building. We’re willing to put ourselves on the line out there for the cowboys to try and keep them as safe as possible,” Allerdings said.

Through the blood, the bruises, and the inevitable pain that will result from a hit from a bull, Allerdings still happily puts on his clown garb, finding strength to face the danger of the arena for the simple reward that all good clowns strive for: to make people smile.

“I love doing my job, because it helps keep the cowboys safe and allows them to continue going down the road, but I also love entertaining the people in the crowd, especially the little kids. When you put a smile on someone’s face and make them laugh and give them something to enjoy, that’s priceless,” Allerdings said.

The Voice

He’s the voice that you hear pervading through the air as the American flag enters the arena, the man who lets you know which rider is about to burst through the slots onto the dirt on top of a bucking bull, and the man who informs the crowd should a rider get injured.

His name is Doug Mathis, of Cleburne, Texas. His job as a PRCA rodeo announcer may seem easy to those who only encounter him for a night or two when he’s in their town. However, the duties of the job lead Mathis all over the nation, keeping him away from home for weeks on end.

“Night before last we were in Sterling, Colorado before that I was in Yuma, Colorado before that I was in Carson, Iowa, week before that we were in Burlington, Colorado, week before that Cody, Wyoming; it’s an every week thing. When this is over with, I get in a bus and head to Douglas, Wyoming. It’s a never-ending cycle,” Mathis said.

With all the traveling and the experience gained over the years, Mathis has learned not to stick to the same routine at each performance and treat each crowd the same as the last.

“They’re all different. You pick up on what you’re doing just like any entertainer that walks on stage can pretty much read a crowd after a while. You play to 10 just like you do 10,000. You give them all of it and do the same everywhere you go,” Mathis said.

Though one would assume that after going to a multitude of rodeos each year and following the format of the production sheet would make the job seem monotonous and the thrill would fade with time, Mathis holds the same level of excitement for each rodeo, because of the unpredictable nature of it.

“It’s formatted now, but the thing with rodeo is that it never is the same. You can’t control what an animal is going to do. You can’t control if somebody’s going to get hurt. You don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s what makes it exciting: it’s always different,” Mathis said.

This unpredictable nature of the rodeo can often lead to injuries that unfold for the whole crowd to see. When it comes to these situations, Mathis has one simple rule when he’s holding the microphone in his hand: be honest.

“There’s a lot of guys who will try to talk about something else and kind of put on icing on the cake, if you will. Don’t do that. You tell them exactly what they’re seeing and explain to them this is a sport just like football, baseball and basketball. People get hurt there, and people get hurt here. It’s just the nature of the beast,” Mathis said.

In his off time, Mathis lives with his wife on a 37,000 acre ranch in Cleburne where he has 65 head of cows. However, during the summer months, he and his wife rarely see home.

“We’re gone from about the middle of May until the middle of September. She’s a school counselor so she just flew back home to start school so she’s back at the ranch. She stays with me most of the time in the summer,” Mathis said.

After the summer season, Mathis may get a month or two off before December rolls around, bringing with it the PRCA National Finals that take him back on the road again.

“I’ve done the interviews for the PRCA National Finals out in Las Vegas for 15 years now. I get to spend 22 days out of the month of December in Las Vegas which is really a treat. It’s a different time, and you get off just in time to spend Christmas at home,” Mathis said.

Though many would see a long Las Vegas trip to be a reward for hard work and months of constant traveling, after 15 years, Mathis would be fine with cutting the annual trip a little short.

“Everybody says Vegas for 22 days should be great, but after 15 years I tell them that’s about 20 days too many. Two days is good with Vegas. But it’s good. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s a great job,” Mathis said.

Mathis brings with him to the announcer’s box a deep knowledge of the different aspects of the rodeo from many years working as a bull rider before becoming a rodeo announcer.

“I grew up on a 37,000 acre ranch in Texas and started riding bulls. I rode bulls for 13 years, put myself through college on a scholarship riding bulls, and got my pro card,” Mathis said.

However, an injury cut Mathis’ bull riding career short and forever changed the trajectory of his life.

“I had a letter of intent signed to play baseball for the Texas Longhorns. Cleburne is kind of a small town so you play football, basketball, baseball, and rodeo if you’re apt to. I did just about everything you could do, and it turned out that I had a little bit of talent for a lot of it. I got hurt at state finals in bull riding so they nullified my letter of intent in my senior year,” Mathis said.

Though most people would be devastated by the turn of events, Mathis’ faith has kept him from being discouraged and helped him to enjoy the journey that the aftermath of his injury has led him on.

“God has a plan for everything, and that was it. Doing this, that was it,” Mathis said.

All Hail the Queen

Local residents have seen Katelyn Sughroue of Barley, Nebraska everywhere in the past year. She’s the one waving from atop her horse at the front of every parade, riding around the arena carrying the flag, and walking around with her rodeo queen sash dangling from her shoulders with a smile stretching from ear to ear.

According to Sughroue, attaining the coveted queen sash comes after going through a grueling audition process.

“We have a try out, and you have to do two different horsemanship patterns: one on your horse and one on a competitor’s horse. You also have to go and give a speech and have tons of interviews on anything from horse parts to political and personal interviews. It’s a long day but a fun day when you try out,” Sughroue said.

However, attaining the title seems like a rather easy feat when considering the responsibilities that follow.

“We just really try to get people interested in it and really just try to keep the youth involved in rodeo. We travel anywhere from parades and rodeos, and we’ve been to Cheyenne and just about everywhere. There’s a lot of traveling with it,” Sughroue said.

Most people would find the duties of the job to be very taxing and time consuming, but they don’t seem to faze Sughroue at all.

“I kind of just love the life so I do everything I can in it. The hectic, busy and crazy life is just kind of the life I love,” Sughroue said.

Though Sughroue didn’t pick up the rodeo lifestyle until she was in the eighth grade, she has immersed herself into all aspects of the lifestyle since and held many titles throughout her short career.

“This is my third rodeo queen title I’ve had. I’ve been doing rodeos and a lot of barrel racing. I’m going into college rodeo now down in Hays, Kansas. I plan on doing this for the rest of my life,” Sughroue said.

According to Sughroue, though she enjoys being the Kimball-Banner County rodeo queen, the rules in place don’t allow for her to have a second term.

“Our title only lasts a year. Once you have the queen title, you can’t run again, but if you have the princess title you can go for the queen. They kind of treat it as two different titles. So I can’t come back,” Sughroue said.

Though her time as queen has been relatively short, Sughroue will hold the experience dear to her heart for years to come.

“It’s been such an honor to represent these guys. I just love traveling and seeing all the youth. This community is so welcoming. It’s really been a blast,” Sughroue said.

The Bull Rider

The anticipation of the gate opening increases with each passing second as the bull kicks against it violently, waiting for its time to throw the man on its back onto the dirt ground.

The man on top, Cory Morgan, has been riding bulls for the better part of the last decade. Though he’s gotten plenty of rodeos under his belt, Morgan hasn’t forgotten the feeling of his first ride.

“The first time it’s terrifying. You strap yourself to a tornado. That’s about what it’s like,” Morgan said.

Morgan’s turn in the profession started with a simple suggestion from a former high school coach.

“Probably eight or nine years ago, I ran into one of my baseball coaches who was a bareback rider, and he asked me if I wanted to ride bulls. I said sure, and I went to a rodeo bible camp and got started into it and just went on from there,” Morgan said.

Over the years, Morgan has suffered his share of injuries while on the job.

“I’ve had my fair share of concussions. I broke my back in high school state finals about six years ago,” Morgan said.

Many would certainly quit after sustaining such a serious injury. However, Morgan just shrugs it off.

“It’s a living. Sometimes you get in bad spots, but you come back. It all works out for you,” Morgan said.

It’s only in the past few years that Morgan has started to take it easy and participate in few rodeos, spending most of his days closer to home in Carpenter, Wyoming.

“This year, I’ve only been to two, because I’ve kind of slowed down a little bit. I got hurt so I took some time off. About a year or so ago, I probably went to about 30 or 40 going to about four or five a weekend. You spend a lot of time in your car,” Morgan said. “I usually try to keep it within a 500 mile radius of my house. The people you travel with make it fun though. I got a pretty good group of guys to travel with so that makes it worth it.”

After hearing about Morgan’s broken back and slew of injuries, one would assume that the reason behind his limited involvement would stem from a concern about his health. However, the real answer is a bit less dramatic than that, according to Morgan.

“I’m a pipeline welder. That’s what I do during the week. That’s why I haven’t been to very many rodeos this week. I used to do it for a living, but then I got married so I had to grow up and get a real job.”

 

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