By BECKY THOMAS
Shootdogging, mutton busting, goat tail tying and dummy roping. To the untrained eye, these words sound like nonsense. For young children with a heart for rodeo, they spell fun and a potential stepping-stone to a career in professional rodeo.
The second annual Cheney Pee Wee Rodeo is coming up, and kids from across the region are practicing their skills.
Most of the events at the rodeo are amended versions of traditional rodeo events. Shootdogging is like bulldogging—in which a horse-mounted competitor chases down and ties up a steer—but simpler. Most kids aren't ready to jump from a running horse, so they just run out of the gate after the steer. And there are simpler events for the youngest kids—goat tail tying is exactly what it sounds like. Little ones chase down a goat and tie a ribbon around its tail for time.
Mollee Gray and Amanda DeGraff are most excited to use their rodeo royalty titles as a good excuse to interact with the youngsters competing in the Pee Wee Rodeo. One of their main goals as Pee Wee Rodeo queen and princess is to encourage kids to continue in rodeo. Rodeo can be a great outlet for kids, they said.
“They're here, they're working with animals and people, working together and having fun,” Gray said.
The Cheney Pee Wee Rodeo is Sept. 15 and 16 at the Bi-Mart Arena. The rodeo began last year as another event to host at the arena as well as a way to build interest in rodeo among children. Anyone 18 years old or younger can enter.
“People come from all over,” Gray said. Last year they had between 60 and 70 contestants, and they're hoping for more this time around.
The Pee Wee Rodeo titles are the first for both Gray and DeGraff. The girls participated in a pageant similar to the Miss Cheney Rodeo pageant at last year's Pee Wee Rodeo.
Gray has a bit of family history in rodeo royalty. Not only was her mother a former rodeo queen, but her older sister Connlee is the 2012 Miss Cheney Rodeo. Mollee, 13, said her sister was her inspiration for seeking a title herself.
“I just kind of took after her,” she said. Gray has always ridden horses, and a trip to rodeo camp last year solidified her interest. She now competes in goat tying.
DeGraff didn't seek out the rodeo. A “city girl” growing up, she moved to Medical Lake last year and joined the equestrian club. Her older sister Kristany had also been rodeo royalty, and she had organized the Pee Wee Rodeo pageant last year. Of course, she encouraged her younger sister to enter, and she won the princess title.
DeGraff said she has gained a second family from her involvement in rodeo. While it can be a big commitment, she said she will seek future rodeo royalty titles.
“It's the best of both worlds,” she said. “You get to be your girly self and you get to play in the mud.”
Gray and DeGraff are looking forward to welcoming people to the Bi-Mart Arena, and they hope to contribute to keeping the Pee Wee Rodeo around for years to come.
Contestants can find entry forms online at cpwra.sharepoint.com. Entries must be postmarked by Sept. 7. Both days of the rodeo open at 10 a.m., with free admission for spectators.
Becky Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.