BRAWLEY, Calif. – Heart beating wildly, crowd cheering madly, Trevor Smith climbed over the bucking chute and carefully balanced his weight on a two-ton, half-crazed-bull. His gloved hands quickly worked the bull rope that would allow him to maintain balance. As his name was announced over the loud speakers, Smith, like any bull rider, was focused on an adrenaline rush to get him through the next eight seconds.
The chute flew open and the two-ton bull bolted straight out the gate. Holding fast to the bull rope, Smith held on, the crowd roaring, but still he couldn’t hear them. He hit the ground hard, and never looking back, ran to safety. The ride that felt like an eternity, in reality lasted about three seconds.
Bull riding has been one of the main events at the Brawley Cattle Call Rodeo in Southern California’s Imperial Valley for over 50 years and has always attracted scores of fans. Bull riders come from as far away as Japan to ride in this rodeo. The yearly rodeo takes place over a three-day weekend every November.
But bull riding is far from the only crowd-pleasing event at the Cattle Call Rodeo.
At this rodeo there are nine different sports played out in three hours, not including the all-time favorite “Mutton Bustin’,” as well as the glitz and glam that is the Royal Rodeo Court.
Since 1960, the Brawley Cattle Call Rodeo has been part of the California Pro Rodeo Circuit. Because of the timing of this rodeo – the second weekend in November – Brawley gets to see a lot of big names in the rodeo industry. Sportsmen qualify for national competition once they win $1000 in prize money by riding in rodeos.
But out of all the rodeos around California, Nevada and Arizona, what puts the Brawley Cattle Call on the map?
“It’s the facilities and the community,” explained Flying “U” President, Cotton Rosser. “I have been supplying livestock to rodeos around the West Coast for over 50 years and I have never seen a nicer or safer facility. And Brawley is one of the hardest working communities.”
Rosser said he has met and remained friends with many rodeo fans over the years. The Brawley rodeo should really be called “The Homecoming” because everyone from college students to retired farmers comes back home to Brawley to see their hometown rodeo.
Trevor Smith, a 26-year-old-bull rider, agrees. “I think out of all the rodeos I have been to this one is definitely the best one. It has a better turn out, it sticks to time lines, has better-quality livestock and participants with big names in the rodeo world. It has personality.”
Smith, originally from Brawley, says that when he tells other riders that he’s from Brawley they know he means the Cattle Call Rodeo.
“Brawley has really good volunteers working behind the scenes and things are really smooth while at most rodeos things get a little hectic and people can be obnoxious,” Smith said.
Phillip Rutherford, whose father was part of the original Cattle Call committee, said there are hundreds of people who volunteer during Cattle Call weekend. “People don’t realize just how many people and organizations come to help out – such as the Boy Scout troop, the Explorers and some years the local 4-H groups.”
Rutherford said these organizations, and other volunteers, help with traffic control, seating, passing out programs, and helping to get things organized back stage. He also said that all revenue collected from the rodeo goes back into paying for the upkeep of the rodeo grounds. “That’s why this place is so nice and the facilities are so up to date. Just a few years ago we got brand new bucking chutes.”
One of the more celebrated events at the rodeo is the Cattle Call Queen and her Court. Junior Queen, Anna Archer, of Brawley, laughed as she described the community behind the queens.
“When we’re about to ride into the arena random people will run up to us and start wiping off our boots or straightening our hats,” Archer said. She went on to explain how her ‘arena outfits,’ which can get awful pricey, were practically all borrowed from other girls who had run for queen in the past years.
From shirts to boots people around Brawley had chipped in to help her have a great experience without spending too much.
Two other events at the Cattle Call Rodeo call for volunteers – the all-time favorite “Mutton Bustin’” and the Sunday afternoon family day. In the “Mutton Bustin’” competition, children ride sheep until they fall off. A local family provides the sheep and volunteers help to get the children up and on for their exciting ride.
Every year at the rodeo, an area is set aside with plastic bullheads and hay bales where children can practice roping a makeshift steer. Teenage volunteers show the steering ropes to little cowboys and cowgirls in the making.
Justin Spieler, 16, from Brawley, doesn’t remember how long he has been roping but he loves it.
“I like coming out here to help and it’s not hard work at all, it’s really fun,” Spieler said.
And as the dust finally settles after Sunday’s rodeo, riders pack up and take off to their next destination. Volunteers begin to clean up and formulate plans for the next rodeo. And people around the valley congratulate each other on a job well done.
For additional information, check out www.cattlecallrodeo.com