Mystique still surrounds modern cowboys

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A piece of the Wild West lives on in Northwest Colorado.

The Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series returns for another summer, bringing cowboys from throughout the country to the Yampa Valley for an entertaining riding and roping show.

Cowboy K.C. Jones, a two-time all-around champion from the Steamboat series, still sees a mystique in the modern-day cowboy.

"The pioneer and the cowboy had such a big effect on our country," the Wyoming native said.

Jones plans on making another run at the all-around title handed out at season's end. He will compete in team roping, tie-down roping and steer wrestling when he can.

"You love it or you wouldn't do it," Jones said of the cowboy life. "I will make the first one. There might be a break during the Fourth (of July), but I will be back."

Jones, now 38, lives four hours from Steamboat, but four hours is nothing in cowboy time.

"Ideally, when you go to rodeos, you go to one in the morning, afternoon and night," he said. "If I'm going to be gone from home, I want to do as many as I can."

Jones isn't the only returning champion planning who will compete in Steamboat rodeos, which are sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

Local saddle bronc rider Andy Kurtz wouldn't miss the chance to ride in front of the hometown fans.

"You can't beat the crowds in Steamboat Springs anywhere," he said. "I think it's because the crowd is locals who love it or it's tourists or people from out of town who love the idea of this Western thing at a ski resort."

Kurtz is hoping to repeat as the Pat Mantle Memorial Saddle Bronc Riding champion. At the season's end, the top six saddle bronc riders from the summer face off in a single ride to determine who gets the $2,000 prize money and a Winchester rifle.

"That's a good tradition to shoot for," Kurtz said. "That's special to me. ... Here, even if no one I know is there, the hometown person always gets the cheers,"
Kurtz's rodeo season began in January. He's already traveled much of the West for rodeos this year.

"I put at least 40,000 miles on my truck, but I fly to some and drive with others to some," he said.

Now 26, Kurtz grew up on a ranch near Steamboat dreaming of being a cowboy.
"It's every little kid's dream," he said. "I know I would have kicked myself if I wouldn't have tried."

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