Handling livestock at the Pendleton Round-Up can be a dirty, thankless job, but that hasn’t stopped the Grimes family, of Athena, from volunteering decade after decade.
Dave Grimes, who works in the agriculture department at Blue Mountain Community College, has spent more than 50 years behind the scenes at the Round-Up with his wife, Donna. Together, they have three sons — Thomas, Chris and James — who have each put in approximately 30 years of volunteer work.
As longtime members of the livestock crew, they’re the ones who make sure the right animal gets to the right cowboy inside the stadium.
“We just enjoy it,” Dave Grimes said before Saturday’s rodeo. “When it’s Round-Up time, it’s time to go to town and go to work.”
In fact, Round-Up is usually one of the few times the entire Grimes clan is able to bring everyone together in the same place at the same time. However, this year Thomas was unable to come home after he recently started a new job as vice principal and athletic director at Rogue River Junior-Senior High School across the state.
It is the first Round-Up Thomas has ever missed in his life.
“I’m emailing him every day and sending him pictures,” Donna Grimes said. “I’m trying not to torture him. I know he wants to be here.”
That left Chris to work the east end of the arena, while James manned the west end roping chutes. Before each rodeo, the livestock are numbered, tagged and assigned to the cowboys competing in each event, which means everyone must communicate closely. All together, they may do up to 1,000 runs over the course of the week.
James said he still gets chills when that first cannon goes off Wednesday, signaling the show is about to begin. He said 106 years of Round-Up history is closely tied to many local family histories, and he is proud to follow in that tradition.
“It just gets into your blood,” he said. “It’s a tradition of service.”
In addition, Chris Grimes also rode into the arena Saturday during the Grand Entry, carrying the U.S. Marine Corps flag. He first started volunteering at the Round-Up when he was 8, and whether in school as a kid or at work as an adult, he said he’s always taken Round-Up week off — no exceptions.
“We all eat, breathe and sleep the Round-Up,” he said. “I just love it down here.”
Not only is the Round-Up a gathering of family, but Dave Grimes said it’s also the one chance to catch up with friends they’ve met over the years from across the country, whether it’s the cowboy from Idaho, the judge from Louisiana or the rancher from Texas.
“We’ve become friends with people from all over the place,” he said. Donna Grimes said it’s been a good experience, and they’ve been fortunate to work with many great directors. She said returning every year to Round-Up is difficult to understand, until you’ve done it as long as they have.
“It’s just a huge reunion,” she said. “You either get it, or you don’t.”
Contact George Plaven at email@example.com or 541-966-0825.