Bull riders deliver a spectacle

One of the items on everybody’s “Bucket List” should be a visit to the rodeo.

Perhaps not to take part as that is really asking for problems, but attending the event as a spectator as these skilled athletes risk life and limb for the chance of collecting a little pocket money and earning points to add to their total for the season. Recently the CRCA Finals were held at Gracemere’s Austadium, attracting more than 5000 spectators plus, of course, the best cowboys and cowgirls from around our region.

But while the action is frenzied inside the arena, The Morning Bulletin also took a look around the back of the chutes and had a chat to some of the people who make things happen on show day.

A rodeo is not just those competing, there are the stock contractors who rear the right kind of animals for an event, the judges, general stock hands, athletes who provide protection for the fallen cowboys, ambulance staff and even those from other sporting organisations who are manning stalls as a major fundraiser.

Many of these people travel around the state and maintain their common interest – the sport of rodeo.

Few would disagree that those involved at a rodeo wear a standard uniform of leather boots, denim jeans a chequered shirt and the obligatory Akubra hat, but while they share similar, sensible work attire and maintain a similar passion for their sport, they also retain a relaxed professionalism.

Behind the scenes stock contractors go about their work.

Apart from Brian Duggan, there are many other successful bull contractors who provide booking beasts for these events; one is Dysart’s Fred Kleier

Duggan said Kleier had only started in the last three or four years, but could already claim a number of quality bucking bulls.

Kleier has the bull Easy Going, which won the classic at the Great Western recently, among his herd and a couple of promising young bulls.

“Red Bull looks pretty handy,” said Duggan.

When it comes to horses the name Busby is always up there.

The family of contractors of high-quality horses for rodeo – especially in the Saddlebronc section where Mathew Busby is a handy competitor finishing in the top three for that event in 2008.

With the minutes ticking down to showtime you could be forgiven that panic, even a controlled urgency would be in order.

Not with these cowboys.

Sure a few steers get moved from pen to pen and horses get shifted around, but to the casual observer everything appears to be on auto mode.

That should be of little surprise as working with stock is the livelihood of these people and is as natural to them as crossing a road is for us city dwellers.

Consequently the show started on time with no avoidable delays and with as little fuss as possible.

Once the action begins it is not just the cowboys and cowgirls competing who are the centre of the action.

Each cowboy is given as much protection as possible whether riding horses or bulls.

Darryl Chong is one of the best around and at Gracemere he was there trying to distract angry the bovine which was not happy to merely throw its would-be rider skywards, but then went out to inflict pain on the stricken individual.

In the horse section the work done is equally impressive with guys like Shane Iker, who, when not collecting buckles in his own events, as a pick-up man is out there collecting cowboys and their excited horses after the Bareback and Saddlebronc events.

Less dangerous is the judging, but to a mere observer the keen gaze of people like Ray Charles and Darryl Baulch, founding CRCA president in 1990 and current president, is something to admire.

Brad Mulvihill’s is one whose life centres around animals, but the Rockhampton stock agent’s interest in assisting behind the scenes at the rodeo is due to his 12-year-old son Ben.

“He loves it,” Brad said.

The young cowboy rides poddies and was asked to compete at Gracemere.

“He goes to the training schools run by Brian Duggan,” he said. “Next year when he is 13 he wants to do the CRCA circuit.”

While Ben does “his thing” Brad helps with loading the chutes and ensuring the right bull goes to the correct chute.

“I just go along and help Dug (Duggan) out,” he said.

Brad did a bit of bull riding himself, but never pushed his son into the sport.

However, he is happy Ben is learning under the watchful eye of Duggan.

“He really is good for the sport, he is making it more professional,” he said. “The young fellows all admire him.”

With the show barely underway, the stall holders get into their work producing food for the swelling crowd as young cowboys “do their stuff”, riding the young beasts in the Steer and Junior Bull Ride events.

Incongruously, the smell of barbecued beef wafts across the arena as if to serve as a warning to the performing bovines that should they fail to impress as a bucking bull on the rodeo circuit then their future at such events could be in the form of a tasty meal for a hungry cowboy.

One of the stall holders at Gracemere was Des Upton who attends the CRCA finals as a money raiser for the PCYC Boxing Club.

Upton said his club raised money from other sources such as “100 Club” and from hosting boxing tournaments.

The money from the stall at the rodeo is one reason he is still able to transport young boxers to competitions around the state.

“It’s hard raising money from raffles all the time,” the affable Upton stated.

“We want to keep it going it’s a good money-raiser.”

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