A chance to catch up with friends at stock show

Keith Brumley

Keith BrumleyColumnist

I’m headed for the Stock Show8212;and I don’t care how cold it might be. As the song goes, “I’ve got a heater in my truck and I’m off to the rodeo . . .”

This is the Black Hills Stock Show in Rapid City: conceived by SDSU alumnus Jim Sutton, son of James Sutton and second generation of “Sutton Rodeos”, who incidentally has provided the rodeo stock for the Jackrabbit Stampede since . . . well8212;forever.

I was a freshman in high school when I climbed on my first bareback horse, one of about seven Jim had lent the Lemmon High School rodeo team to use for practice horses and it was there, in 1970 when I managed to hang on long enough for what would’ve been a qualified ride. For good or bad the joy alongside the adrenaline rush was enough to sustain me over the next 9 years.

I shifted focus in 1979. I took work as a timber cutter the next winter in the Bear Lodge Mountains near Sundance, Wyo. That’s when I attended my first stock show. I remember seeing Lynn Weishaar, SDSU alumnus and auctioneer extraordinaire. I said hello. Lynn asked what I knew. I was feeling a bit sorry for myself, not making much money and feeling very much alone.

“You’re breathing aren’t you?” Lynn had a way of putting things in perspective. “You’re still healthy?”

The logic inferred was airtight. The bareback horses hadn’t crippled me. So quicher bitchin’.

Since then I’ve been going to the stock show about every-other year. I showed a couple of stallions one year for Roger Hirsch, top-notch cattle buyer and all around wheeler dealer. I sold saddle horses there for a couple of years at its related horse sales, but mostly I’ve gone to catch up with old friends and to see what’s going on in the world of horses, stockmen, and cowhands. I see it as kind of a convention for those who’ve grown up in the Northern Plains tradition of the west. One year I covered the Great Plains American Indian Rodeo Association rodeo there8212;ending up with a South Dakota Hall of Fame story about Tator Ward, one of this region’s most talented saddle bronc riders.

In all, I can’t say that I’ve ever been disappointed at the Stock Show8212;except that as it has grown, it has become more commercial and less community oriented. That, however, is the way it goes for most successful events and I suppose the only way around that is to keep the idea of community within oneself. Many of my friends still show up. The horse sales in conjunction with the equine events are still considered one of the premier showcases for the best horses and trainers in the region. The BHSS PRCA rodeo is one of the best indoor shows anywhere.

There are also all the other attractions: stock dog trials, cattle shows, AQHA horse shows, ranch horse competitions, ranch rodeos, team roping, reining, and barrel racing competitions. Then there are the bull ridings, reined cowhorse events, veterinary workshops, art displays, and a trade show that can’t be beat8212;not to mention the fashion show. Yes folks, there is indeed something called western fashion8212;and it can be as trendy as any. The last time I paid any attention to it, “horse bling”8212;derived from the hip-hop culture–was competing for supremacy with the neo-traditionalist movement toward slick-fork saddles and silver inlaid spurs. I personally go for the slick-forks and the inlay. Always have and always will8212;except those slick-forks saddles leak more than when I was younger. They also keep making the saddle horns closer to my belly with every passing year8212;and that’s annoying.

So there it is. If you’re even a little bit “western” the BH Stock Show is the place to go. It can toss off those winter blues, dispel some of the anxieties associated with the upcoming calving and foaling season, and even allow one the chance to get “western chic.”

As for me, I’ll just say hello to some folks I haven’t seen in years. If I happen to run into Lynn, I’ll let him know I’m still breathing.

Keith is an SDSU alumnus and current journalism graduate student. Reach him at [email protected].