Rodeo a time for ‘doing something just a little crazy’

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 28, 2014

With no experience, but plenty of courage, Woodleaf’s Judah Safrit came to Cleveland’s 5L Rodeo on Friday hoping to ride a saddle bronc for the first time.
He had wanted to try riding the bucking horse for several years, and had finally turned 18, making him old enough to give it a shot.
“I wanted to get out and try it,” he said. “My mom was afraid I might get hurt. It was partly about the adrenaline and doing something just a little crazy.”
Robert Messer, originally from Zachary, La., travels the rodeo circuit every weekend.
“This is my full-time job,” he said. “I have traveled as far away as Homestead, Florida, to compete in bronc riding. This is how I make my living, and if you are winning, it is a good thing. I am here to win tonight.”
Cowboys and cowgirls in the rodeo events all compete for first place and the top money in each category. Money won counts toward their points, especially for those that have their eyes on the Southern Rodeo Finals later this year in Asheville.
They all have about five months remaining to qualify in various bucking livestock and timed events.
Messer rode first, staying on the bucking horse for the required eight seconds. He was awarded 73 points for his ride, good enough to win.
Safrit was one of the last to ride. He had to borrow a long sleeve shirt to meet the requirements to participate.
Safrit lost his place in the saddle quickly, and as he fought to hold on, his hand became tangled in his rigging. As the horse continued to buck, Safrit was dragged around the arena until finally his hand came free.
“Awesome, an adrenaline rush, but a big accomplishment,” he said. “I am definitely going to do it again.”
Allen and Sharon Livengood, organizers of the 5L Rodeo, were kept busy throughout the event making sure that things ran smoothly. They both are experienced competitors, with Allen taking top honors on Friday night in the calf roping event. “This year, our rodeo has Southern Rodeo and International Pro Rodeo competitors,” he said. “That should mean more quality participants and competition in general.”
Rodeo experts refer to the Mt. Ulla/ Cleveland area as the Stephenville, Texas, of North Carolina.
Stephenville is known as the “Cowboy and Cowgirl Capital of the World.” A high concentration of serious competitors have helped make the 5L Rodeo a growing success.
Veteran rodeo competitor David Rummage of Mooresville said, “All around this area are quality cowboys and cowboys. Some of the best ropers in the world are here. Seeing them out here makes me want to pin on a number and get back out there myself.”
Local competitors included Cole Hartsell, a 15-year-old West Rowan student. Cole’s mom, Tammy Harris, said Cole began riding at 9 days old.
“I took him along strapped to me on a trail ride,” she said. “At 4 years, he was riding sheep. Cole has been competing in team roping since age eight. It is a good way of life, keeping him out of trouble, and teaching responsibility. If he gets thrown off, then he knows to get back on. The pain will go away.”
Stepdad John Harris said, “There is no offseason, so he is taking care of his horse and training just about every day. There is a big demand for rodeo. Just look around here tonight. There is a varied demographic of people here.”
Cole competes just about every weekend with plenty of support from the Harris family.
Others were out for the first visit to a rodeo. Amy Moran of Mocksville brought her 2-year-old daughter, Aubrey, and 5- year-old son, Colton.
“We saw the signs about the rodeo. They were everywhere,” she said. “The kids like the horses, but I am especially looking forward to the bull riding. One thing that I like is that kids are safe here.”
Dr. Andy Gardner, veterinarian and regular roper himself, said, “This rodeo is a great thing for the community. The crowd is huge. It really is the social event of the year. We know so many people here. People I work with, and others that I rope with, everyone seems to be out tonight.”
Good weather continued throughout the event, even though clouds threatened from the start. The 5L Rodeo is a family event, with plenty to interest those of any age. The action continues tonight at 8 p.m., with lots of new cowboys and cowgirls. Any returning competitors from Friday night will compete in different events tonight. The 5L Rodeo is on Redmond Road near Cleveland.