To be involved in rodeo, one learns to love the open road.
For many of the cowboys and cowgirls at the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo, Mitchell is another blip on the map. They pull their campers and trailers into the rodeo grounds the day of their scheduled competition and they are gone in less than 24 hours. Some are only there for a couple hours.
For cowboys like Joe Day, a team roper from Waco, Texas, it involves months on the road competing in the Great Lakes Circuit, but the money makes drives like his 100-mile trek from Hartington, Nebraska to Mitchell and a subsequent 450-mile drive to Pretty Prairie, Kansas to compete the following night worthwhile.
“It’s a job and that’s basically what it is,” Day said. “We don’t work 9 to 5. That’s what it is. Of course, we have a lot of money invested, but we can make a lot of money in one period of time.”
For some during the summer, rodeo is a part-time venture. Stephenville, Texas native Jimmy DeLeon found his way to Martin, South Dakota after a friend at Tarleton State invited him to visit and he decided to enter a rodeo.
The 23-year-old has competed in steer wrestling for 18 months, but DeLeon has aspirations of competing professionally once he finishes his Master’s degree. So this summer, DeLeon has competed in two or three rodeos per weekend in the Badlands Circuit, while working on a ranch in Martin during the week.
DeLeon traded places with Day, arriving in Mitchell Friday afternoon after competing in Hartington the night before, but the real journey begins immediately after the second night of the Stampede Rodeo, when he returns home to Texas to join another circuit.
“There’s a few more rodeos down there to finish the year,” DeLeon said. “I just want to go back, get some practice before school starts. I haven’t had the year I wanted, but I’m just excited to be able to do this.”
While all of the miles might deter some, it is alluring to many cowboys and cowgirls, even those competing part-time. Mitchell was the lone stop this weekend for barrel racer Bobbi Grann, who competed Thursday and immediately returned to Sheyenne, North Dakota the next morning.
Grann is a part-time rodeo performer this year, competing in the Dakotas, Montana, Nebraska and Wyoming due to her current horses. She is currently training horses, waiting to find one that has enough power to be successful on a circuit.
“I like going full-time if you’re winning and things are going well,” Grann said. “But it can get really tough if you’re in a slump or things aren’t going well.”
Traveling is a popular hobby, and those in rodeo may visit hundreds of cities during their careers, but they only see a glimpse.
“It’s pretty much get in there, rope, spend the night and we’ll have to leave to go somewhere else,” Day said.