HEBRON, Maine — Rodeo cowboys have been streaming in all week to where Redneck Rodeo organizer Harold Brooks has turned a gravel pit into a small amphitheater, with bleachers to hold 2,000 people and room for 2,000 more to set up lawn chairs.
Tickets were selling fast. Brooks said he had sold far more tickets than he did before the Redneck Olympics last year. “It’s a full-fledged rodeo,” he said. It’s sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the largest and oldest rodeo-sanctioning body.
All-American Rodeo, a rodeo stock contractor, has set up the ring for Saturday and Sunday’s events. John Karlin, who sets up the rodeos, said he expected six to 10 bareback riders and eight to 10 bull riders.
“We’ve got a real decent showing,” Karlin said. Many of the riders have never been to Maine, which he said is a draw. “These guys like seeing the country.”
Michelle Morris of Litchfield, Miss Rodeo Maine 2012, said she was glad to have a rodeo she could drive to. “It’s kind of a nice change.”
As a rodeo queen, she competes in 12 states, but never Maine. She said rodeo queens are mostly public relations for the rodeo, but she does compete in barrel-racing events in a different rodeo league than the one that’s sanctioning this weekend’s event.
Morris said she was riding before she could walk. “I can probably ride better than I can walk.”
Wacey Cody of San Angelo, Texas, said he’s been doing rodeos for nine years, since he was 16. He tours the country doing bareback and saddle bronc riding at rodeos when he’s not in his college classes.
Cody said the thrill of riding a bucking bronco is hard to explain. “Like going 100 miles an hour, but everything’s in slow motion,” he said. Staying on the horse requires a lot more than skill, he said. “If you have the desire in your heart, that takes up a lot of slack.”
He said he’s never been seriously injured, but Karlin said a serious injury in the rodeo ring means more than it does in other sports. An injury that could sideline a football player for the rest of a game is par for the course here, Karlin said.
“They fall here, they keep going,” he said.
Professional riders are staying in Hebron. Brooks rented out the Grange Hall and has provided meals for the cowboys, who travel from rodeo to rodeo and pay to enter each rodeo event.
Brooks said the best part of holding the rodeo is talking to the cowboys over dinner at the Grange Hall. They’re appreciative of the warm welcome, and told him it’s not common to see such hospitality.
Mike Morris, a saddle bronc rider from Crockett, Texas, said everyone in Maine has been hospitable. Morris, who isn’t related to Michelle, said he’d never been to Maine. “It’s pretty country. Good food,” he said. Morris is traveling with his wife, Brittany, a schoolteacher, and their sons, Elijah Jeralds and Jeremiah Woodrow.
He said they’d been on the road for three weeks. With 15 years of riding under his belt, Morris said he eventually wants to teach. He said his older son, 1½-year-old Jeremiah, had already ridden a horse.
While he spends summers traveling from rodeo to rodeo, Morris said his winters are spent back in Texas, riding horses and building fences and barns. “Cowboy stuff,” he said, smiling.
Tickets are $20 per day or $45 for the weekend, including camping. They’re available online at redneckmaine.com.
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