The tiny agricultural community of Umapine produces cattle, wheat, apples, grapes and rodeo queens.
As far as the latter goes, it was a bumper crop this year.
Umapine residents Taylor Ann Skramstad and Meredith Moore won state rodeo queen titles this summer. Skramstad, 23, is Miss Rodeo Oregon. Moore, 15, is Miss Teen Rodeo. The pair will spend the whole of 2019 serving as the face of Oregon rodeo.
The two young women honed a rock-solid friendship preparing for competition.
“We’d text each other trivia questions,” Moore said. “She’d come over to my house and we’d practice our modeling and speeches.”
They hashed out clothing details, perfected their horsemanship skills and grilled each other during mock interviews.
“We totally grabbed the bull by the horns,” Skramstad said.
They met up again this week at Tate’s, a store/restaurant combo near Umapine’s lone four-way stop. About 300 people live in the unincorporated town about eight miles northwest of Milton-Freewater. As the rodeo royalty settled into chairs in the restaurant, Donna Tate called out to them from behind the cash register.
“Congratulations, girls,” Tate called. “We are very, very proud of you.”
Moore and Skramstad grinned at each other and thanked Tate, then teamed up to tell the tale of preparing for their respective competitions. Moore credited Skramstad for acting as a mentor, calming nerves and instilling confidence. Skramstad said she honed her own skills as she advised Moore.
Moore’s mother, Andrea Moore, said she remained in awe of the pair’s tenacity.
“They worked hours and hours and hours,” Andrea said.
The drilling and planning paid off.
Judges rated contestants on a diverse list of skills during the two competitions. At the four-day Miss Rodeo Oregon pageant, Skramstad and her three fellow contestants took written rodeo knowledge tests, gave prepared speeches, answered judges’ questions, demonstrated horsemanship, signed autographs, modeled, did mock media interviews and participated in local rodeos. Skramstad said she wasn’t bothered by nerves.
“Each night, I slept like a rock,” she said. “I always joke that if I was more laid back, I’d be dead.”
Skramstad’s adrenaline level spiked a bit, though, upon learning she had won the crown.
“They announced my name and it sunk in for about half a second,” she said. “Then I started crying.”
Moore, who is a sophomore at Weston-McEwen High School, wasn’t quite as calm during her competition in July. She remembers texting Skramstad from her hotel room, “Taylor, I’m freaking out.” She relaxed a few days later when the crown was set on her head.
“I could breathe,” she said. “A huge weight came off my shoulders.”
Both women have rodeo and ranch experience, which they say will help them serve as ambassadors to the sport of rodeo. Skramstad competed in barrel racing, breakaway roping, goat tying and team roping for Walla Walla and Blue Mountain community colleges. Moore competes at the high school level. Both grew up on horses.
They have ambitious plans for the future.
Skramstad plans to finish her agricultural science degree at Eastern Oregon University and enroll in law school at Willamette University. She dreams of eventually advocating for agriculture and Eastern Oregon as a state legislator.
Moore hopes to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy and then Air Force flight school, where she’ll learn to fly bombers.
But, first comes a year of representing Oregon rodeo. They will travel far and wide, attending parades, rodeos and other events. Skramstad will compete for the Miss Rodeo America title in December of 2019.
The job brings awesome responsibilities.
“I am the face of rodeo,” Skramstad said. “I am expected to know just as much or more than rodeo contestants.”
“I am helping engage a new generation of rodeo fans and competitors,” Moore said. “A lot of kids nowadays don’t get the whole rodeo experience. I’m helping instill in them the western way of life.”
The women must spend time fundraising for a portion of their expenses, so they are searching for sponsors, whose logos will go on the sides of the rodeo queens’ horse trailers. Jackpot ropings, wine and dessert raffles and other such fundraising events are in the works.
After official trips, they will return home to Umapine. Both women say they wouldn’t trade their speck of a town for a larger one. The community, they say, is close-knit and supportive.
“Our community is just a family,” Moore said. “It’s small, but connected. We have each others’ backs.”
Contact Kathy Aney at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0810.