John F. Russell: Putting a little ranch in the Fourth |

John F. Russell: Putting a little ranch in the Fourth

— You've just got to love the Mountain Valley Bank Ranch Rodeo in Steamboat Springs.

It's a Fourth of July tradition, which is fitting because it's just about as American as the red, white and blue of the American flag, the taste of grandma's apple pie and the pageantry of a holiday parade.

I've been to a lot of professional rodeos in Steamboat Springs, and though I enjoy them, I'm not about to trade in my Nike tennis shoes for a pair of Tony Lamas. Throughout the years, I've discovered it's entertaining to watch a professional cowboy or cowgirl rope a calf, race around a barrel or ride an angry bull for eight seconds, but nobody is going to mistake me for a cowboy.

But Steamboat's ranch rodeo brings something a little different to the table, and its appeal has nothing to do with bucking horses, raging bulls or full-time cowboys looking to make some cash. It has a lot more to do with our heritage.

The ranch rodeo includes a lot of those things, but it is about promoting a love of the Western lifestyle and spotlighting a few of the great families that have made ranching in our mountain valley a way of life for generations.

On Friday night, I watched a few of those families race around an area trying to brand a calf, pen a cow, tie down a steer and milk a wild cow. It's a bit overwhelming at times, a bit comical at other times. It seems that every time a team enters the arena it brings a new sense of excitement, wonder and admiration from the people sitting in the stands.

Maybe it's more entertaining when the cowboy racing around the arena is a local banker, or the guy you take your car to when it needs to be fixed. Maybe it's because you know the competitors are not out there doing it for the money, but for the love of ranching.

There is no question that most of the competitors in the ranch rodeo know what they are doing; a lot of the competitors were born on ranches and have spent more than their fair share of time on the back of the horse.

And like the professional cowboys, these athletes ride into Brent Romick Rodeo Arena every year focused on winning the event at hand. But what they accomplish is much more rewarding than a paycheck or a belt buckle.

They reminded us all, even a city slicker like me, just how important ranching and the Western lifestyle is in Ski Town USA.

Yes, it's true that I will never be mistaken for a cowboy. You will never catch me riding a horse across a rodeo arena or roping a calf or climbing on the back of a bull. I'm lucky if I can tell them apart.

But I have a new respect for the ranchers in our community, and what they do every day, in part because of events like the annual ranch rodeo.