Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2012
Written by Stephen L. Garrett for UNC Health Care
I have never seen a rodeo before. I wasn't even aware of how popular the sport is in the southeast, even though I am a native Carolinian. So I wasn't sure what to expect as my co-producer Nathan Clendenin and I trekked southwest from Chapel Hill to a small rodeo arena outside of Siler City last week.
When we arrived, we met Angela Overman, RN, who is a nurse manager in G.I. surgery at UNC Hospitals. She was busy prepping her horse for an afternoon of practicing the sport of team roping. Angela's two children, appropriately dressed in bluejeans and belt buckles, practiced lassoing a plastic steer (and each other), while her husband went to round up a group of real steers (cows to you and me) from behind a large steel fence. A few spectators and other rodeo participants arrived as Angela began to explain to Nathan and me how the afternoon was going to play out.
I admit, I enjoy the occasional hamburger, but still, I found myself worrying about the safety and comfort of animals involved in a full contact sport like roping. But Angela explained that steers train just like horses and riders. The steers wear horn protection and only have to endure short bursts of activity. In fact, the goal is for the team ropers to capture each steer as fast as possible and then quickly release it. I was actually surprised at how unimpressed the steers really were with everything. And after each run was over, it was back to cud-chewing and hanging out with their steer peers.
As Angela explained, team roping grew out of the necessity to brand cattle in the historic West as they roamed over wide-open fenceless areas. Since cattle tend to mingle, each ranch needed a way to determine who owned which animal. You can imagine cowboys chasing after the cattle with lasso in hand - capturing one and then searing the mark of their ranch into its hide with red hot wrought-iron. Eventually, someone decided to make a competition out of it, and that developed into the modern sport that Angela enjoys today - minus the branding!
Angela has been competing in rodeos in North Carolina, across the Southeast, and as far west as Wyoming for more than 14 years. She often competes as a team with her sister or her husband for prize money, belt buckles, or new saddles. Her children have even taken a strong interest in rodeo and she proudly recalls how her son recently won his first belt buckle.
Well, enough from me. Why don't you saddle up and have some fun learning more about team roping. And if you want to see a real live rodeo - North Carolina has many to offer throughout the year and across the state.