The Cowboy Way: Weekend Ranch Rodeo’s the real deal, and the money raised helps kids who really need it

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Apr. 12, 2007 - A bumper crop of working cowboys will flood the Civic Center Arena Saturday, a competitive cast that rodeo and cowboy fans won't want to miss.

Courtesy Photo

Steve Douglas and  Dane Dickerson (horseback) show off their ranching skills during last year's Sulphur Springs Ranch Rodeo, an all-day event presented by Texas Heritage Association. The Ranch Rodeo, which returns to the Civic Center Saturday, raises money for both the Make-A-Wish Foundation and CASA.

The 3rd Annual Sulphur Springs Ranch Rodeo will be an all-day event presented by Texas Heritage Association to allow 10 real working ranch teams to show off their skills in five competitions. All proceeds benefit Make-A-Wish Foundation of Northeast Texas and Lake Country Court Appointed Special Advocates for children, better known as CASA.

"The American cowboy still lives and breathes right here in East Texas. These cowboys are the real deal, earning their living from the back of a horse, tending to livestock over all kinds of terrain in all kinds of weather," said Susan Lennon, Texas Heritage Association member. "Ranch Rodeo features events that simulate real ranch work. This format of rodeo is action-packed and wildly entertaining."

This year's event is dedicated to the memory of Steve Douglas, a loyal supporter of Sulphur Springs Ranch Rodeo who died in February as a result of a motor vehicle crash. Douglas served as captain of the M&D Cattle Company team from Emory, which has participated in SSRR since it began.

"He was a strong competitor. He'd call me or my husband every year after it was over and tell us he loved it and would be pleased to be invited back," Lennon said.

The other members of Douglas's team opted not to participate this year out of deference for the recent loss of their captain. Instead, Glenn Cattle Company of Dike will be entering a team captained by Dustin Ragsdale of Dike, with Colton Glenn, Ryan Glenn and Dexter Sumpter as team members who will all be riding in memory of Douglas. Arm bands will also be worn as a show of respect.

At least four of the teams include members who earned distinction for their skills in 2006-2007. All three teams which tied last year for first place — Pogue Cattle Company of Sulphur Springs, Triangle Cattle Company of Wildorado and Rafter A Ranch of Detroit — will again be competing. That also includes 2006 SSRR Top Hand and Triangle captain Tim Spiva, whose parents live in Winnsboro, and Pogue Cattle team member Leon Ely whose horse Tex was named SSRR 2006 Top Horse.

This year's rodeo performance also features B&S Cattle of Terrell, champions of the Fort Worth Stock Show Ranch Rodeo 2007, and La Mejor Cattle of Seymour, the Texas reserve champions of the Working Ranch Cowboys Association Finals. Other favorites include teams from the  WS Horses of Brashear, C Bar Ranch of Terrell, D&B Cattle of Mount Pleasant and the BAR SR of Broken Bow, Okla.

The ranch teams will begin competing at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in a variety of events, including cattle sorting, mugging, team branding, wild cow milking and bronc riding. Tickets are required for admission to the rodeo arena to see the team showdown, and may be obtained for $8 at the door or $7 in advance at the Civic Center box office, Circle E Western Store in Sulphur Springs or Potts Feed Store in Emory. Children 6 and under will be admitted for free, as will sheriffs and deputies.

Those interested can also participate in an "Open Feedlot Sorting" event at 10 a.m. Saturday. Entries will be taken prior to the event. For entry information, call 903-243-3941.

A "Cowboy Trade Show" featuring all types of Western products begins at 10 a.m. in the Civic Center Exhibit Hall. Some of the vendors participating include Beck Boots of Amarillo, maker of custom cowboy boots, Mike's Hats of Longview, Texas Ranch Outfitters of Quitman and Overton Custom Spurs of Seymour.

At noon there will be an authentic chuckwagon lunch served for $10 per plate. The menu includeschicken fried steak, beans, potatoes, bread and peach cobbler.

"You've never had chicken fried steak unless you've had it cooked in a Dutch over," Lennon said. "It's wonderful. It makes you think of how they were eating on the Chism Trail."

This year's Top Hand spurs will be made by Jayson Jones, an the cowboy craftsman will also be performing live, including "Partner in His Plan," which recently debuted on KSST as well as Paris radio stations. 

�"He's an awesome fiddle and guitar player," Lennon said. "That song epitomizes cowboy life, their faith in God, the life of a working ranch cowboy. It really tells who and where cowboys get 'it.' It's not in stores but will be available at the trade show."

�While ranch rodeo is formatted to show off real cowboys' everyday skills, it also serves a much more important function � raising much-needed funds for organizations which help neglected and abused children.

Sulphur Springs Ranch Rodeo is strategically scheduled during April — Child Abuse Awareness Month — to generate awareness of child abuse and to highlight the need for prevention while providing a fun family outing and a venue for ranch hands to show off their skills.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants wishes to children between that ages of 2 1/2 and 18 who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition to enhance the human experience with hope, strength and joy. The Northeast Regional Office grants wishes to children in 30 counties in Northeast Texas. Some wishes in progress right now include a wish to meet Steven Spielberg, wishes to go to Walt Disney World, and a wish for a laptop computer.To find out how to help make wishes come true as a wish-granting volunteer, call 903-597-9474.

Lake Country CASA is working to make sure abused and neglected children in Rains, Hopkins, Franklin, and Titus Counties have strong advocates at their sides; however, there is an urgent need for more volunteers. Lake Country CASA is helping make a positive impact in the lives of these children by training volunteers to speak on behalf of their best interests and, essentially, be their voice in court. CASA volunteers become well acquainted with each child’s unique situation and present a recommendation for placement, ensuring that judges are equipped to make informed decisions. For more information about CASA, call the Lake County CASA office at 903-885-1173.

To see photos from last year’s performances, go online to www.theranchrodeo.com.

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