Riding for glory
HAWLEY, Minn. - Eight cowboys traveled hundred of miles for thrill of the few seconds they spend in the saddle and the hours they spend with their toughest competitors, who also are their closest friends.
Thirty minutes before the Hawley Rodeo started Friday night in the small city about 20 miles east of Moorhead, the young men sat on their saddles in the grass, talking about girls and joking around about what happened last weekend.
Minutes before the competition began, they picked up those same saddles and competed against one another in the classic rodeo event - saddle bronc.
Each contestant saddled up and tried to stay aboard a randomly chosen bucking horse for eight seconds.
They say rhythm, coordination and horsemanship help them stay their course.
"You try to stay in time," said Levi Wolf, 25 of Dickinson, N.D., who has been competing for about six years.
Unlike some of the contestants in other events, these men do not spend time riding their horses around the ring or testing their lassos.
After 10 years of competing, Justin Jacobson, 24, of Bowman, N.D., has a simple way to prepare for the competition: get dressed.
But many of the cowboys, like Jacobson, have gained some skills they need to remain competitive back home on the ranch. They spend their weekdays raising cattle and riding horses.
Like the nearly 80 contestants who competed Friday night, they spend their weekends on the road, gaining experience. They travel about 500 miles each weekend, participating in usually three rodeos, to achieve the ultimate: winning money.
"It's a part-time job for us; it keeps us out of trouble on the weekends," Wolf said as his competitors laughed.
They put a lot of money into the sport in entry fees and gas, but they do not always get the same in return.
The lifetime achievement for rodeo contestants is the day they earn $1 million. Achieving that goal takes more than 15 years of practicing, recovering from many injuries and spending thousands of miles on the road.
The Hawley Rodeo annually draws thousands of people to watch these cowboys and the nearly other 180 contestants compete. Featuring seven events, the 45th Annual two-day rodeo is the largest event in the city of about 1,900 residents.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dawn Peake at (701) 241-5557