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When it comes to Western heritage, nothing like rodeo

November 10, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — The world of the rodeo cowboy is one mixed with the rush of competition coupled with taking part in a sport that highlights the country's Western heritage.

It is a heritage the Imperial Valley is very much a part of through its cattle industry, which dates to the early 1900s, and through the Cattle Call Rodeo.

On Saturday afternoon, thousands filled Cattle Call Arena here as the 45th annual Cattle Call Rodeo got under way.

Cheers echoed loudly through Cattle Call Park and its surrounding neighborhoods as contestants showed why many of them are ranked the best in the nation.

Jack Childress, 53, of Pine Valley sat in the grandstands with his grandsons, 10-year-old Kyle Peterson, and 5-year-old Austin Walker, watching the rodeo.


Childress said he comes to the rodeo every year and is a serious fan of the sport.

He noted that the rodeo is the first competition of the year for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys' Association, which makes this weekend's rodeo a key event.

His grandsons said they just like the horses.

"I ride them with my grandpa," Austin said while watching a saddle bronc rider attempt to stay on his mount for the required eight seconds.

Bob Whyte said he is a big fan of the Cattle Call Rodeo, attending it for 20 years.

A San Diego resident, the 81-year-old Whyte said he likes the Brawley rodeo more than the national finals rodeo in Las Vegas.

"This is by far the best rodeo," he said. "This is a real rodeo."

The Cattle Call Rodeo is real for the contestants, too.

Cody Wright, 24, traveled from Milford, Utah, to take part in the saddle bronc competition.

Wright said he grew up around the world of rodeo. His father competed and Wright said he has enjoyed both watching and competing since he was a youth.

"It's a rush," he said, adding there is nothing like a good ride. "It's a natural high."

Like Wright, Shawn Morehead, 25, of Corinne, Utah, grew up around rodeos and ranching.

"I grew up cowboying," said Morehead, who said he admired those rodeo cowboys he used to watch and he knew he had to join the sport.

He said the life of a rodeo cowboy is good because of all the traveling involved, meeting new people, and — of course — the winnings aren't too bad.

On Saturday there were two rodeo competitions; one that started at 2 p.m. and the second that started at 7. Today the rodeo gets under way at 1 p.m.

Saturday's competition was special, in particular, for Travis Fowler, a former Holtville resident.

Saturday was Fowler's birthday. He turned 35.

Saturday was also the day when, in front of a hometown crowd, Fowler won the afternoon calf roping event with a time of 9 seconds.

Fowler was raised in Holtville, graduated from Holtville High School and went on to study at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

He never returned to live in the Valley.

After graduating from college he was offered a job with Keithly-Williams Seeds, a company based in Holtville but with an office in the Santa Maria area. Fowler went to work in Santa Maria and he has lived there since.

But every year he comes home to rope in the Cattle Call Rodeo, one of 35 to 40 competitions he takes part in a year as a California circuit rodeo cowboy.

"Definitely, I try harder at this rodeo than any other," Fowler said shortly after his victory.

He said it's important for him to put on a good show here because so many of his friends are watching.

And Fowler has succeeded on the circuit. He is ranked fifth in California.

Each year the Cattle Call Rodeo is put on by members of the rodeo committee, who work year-round to organize it.

Committee members said the rodeo is an important tradition in the Imperial Valley, one that dates back 45 years and one that they will continue to work on to insure the rodeo is part of the Valley's future.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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