Now the work begins

The 2009 Pendleton Round-Up is history. Now the work begins.

The work, of course, is the even bigger 100th anniversary of the Round-Up. After all, it?s just around the corner ? Sept. 11-18, 2010.

Actually, the work on 2010 Pendleton Round-Up began more than a year ago. Just ask Round-Up Association President Randy Severe or Centennial Chairman Tim Hawkins. Both men, as well as other board members, and their spouses, have been working on making next year?s event the most memorable rodeo ever.

For the Round-Up board, and especially all the Round-Up volunteers, the months and days will somehow simultaneously crawl and fly by ? much like the 8-second ride experienced by cowboys on the back of a bucking bronc or an ornery bull.

Hang on and Let ?er Buck!

It was a picture perfect Round-Up

After inviting my best friend, photographer Joe Duty of the Wise County (Decatur, Texas) Messenger, to take pictures of the Round-Up for the East Oregonian (as well as the Messenger), I wondered if it would be just another rodeo for him.

I talked to him on the phone and he groused about being required to wear a cowboy hat in the arena. That wasn?t a good start, so I was concerned. Still, he bought a hat before he left Texas. Cost: $24. It was a straw hat no self-respecting cowboy would have been caught dead wearing. In fact, I swear it was a wannabe cowgirl?s straw hat.

But it got Joe into the arena. He took advice from EO photographer E.J. Harris and grabbed the required red vest from Round-Up volunteer Bill Miller.

After the first day of the rodeo, I asked Joe about the Pendleton Round-Up.

?This is the best rodeo in the country,? Joe said in his unvarnished Texas drawl.

That?s no small compliment. Joe, after all, has shot his fair share of rodeos, including the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. (He?s even looked at the underside of a bull that had leveled him, then thundered over him, leaving him sore but unhurt, while destroying an expensive Nikon camera.)

Decatur and Wise County is home to a fair amount of better-than average cowboys ? Trevor Brazile, Roy Cooper and his sons Tuf, Cliff and Clint, K.C. Jones, Wes Gasperson, Jay Craddock ... to name a few. So Joe knows rodeo.

Despite being a master with the camera, Joe needed words to describe the Round-Up. Here's a taste of what he wrote in his blog:

? ... said in an earlier post ? What was the big deal about the Pendleton rodeo? ... found out a couple of days before the rodeo that I was going to have to wear a cowboy hat (didn?t own one) and long-sleeve button-up cowboy shirt. I felt this was totally uncalled for ... one day into the shoot, after taking to some of the local cowboys, I understood. It?s called tradition. The old-style wooden bucking chutes are still used, even though some of the riders complain. There are no ads plastered all over the fences, even though it would surely bring in more revenue. The tribes still wear full native dress. The best description I got was from an old cowboy: ?It?s just the way it's always been done.?

?Well, I can now say it is about tradition. This is the 99th anniversary of the Round-Up. They have to be doing something right.?

Later, he wrote, ?Continuing to soak up the flavor of the Round-Up ... have attended many a rodeo, but never witnessed anything like this.?

Of all the spectacle that is Round-Up, from the Indian village filled with teepees as far as the eye can see to the Happy Canyon pageant, it was the Indian Relay races that captivated him. Joe said it was a once-in-a-lifetime, must-see event.

?These guys are warriors in the truest sense,? he told me as we drove home after one of our 15-hour days during Round-Up week.

If you didn?t get to Round-Up or just want to relive the moments from this year's great event, check out the photos taken by Duty, E.J. and Joe Tierney of Walla Walla ? on the EO's Web site at

By the way, Joe told me he shot more than 24,000 images ? and he culled them down to 1,200 keepers. You can also check out his pictures and blog at the Messenger?s Web site,

A great group to join

Pendleton?s Main Street Cowboys are seeking motivated, community service-oriented men, Dean Groshong and John Blagg recently wrote me in a note.

Established in 1950 to promote and publicize the city of Pendleton and its surrounding communities, this organization is a diverse group of men with a common goal ? to provide service to their community. One advantage of the Main Street Cowboys is there are no membership fees or dues. They do require all their cowboys to be considerate of each other and all the people they meet because they believe words, deeds and attitudes have influence more far-reaching than we realize.

The group has continued to change during its last 20-odd years, becoming more of a family-oriented organization. For example, it sponsors three major dinners for its families, including a Christmas dinner with Santa who brings gifts for the members? children and grandchildren.

Throughout the year, the Main Street Cowboys take their shuttle bus and antique calliope to approximately 20 out-of-town parades, promoting the Main Street Show, the Pendleton Round-Up and Happy Canyon events. As Round-Up approaches, the cowboys hang flags and banners around the city of Pendleton and distribute more than 300 benches to various activities. The signature benches can be found all around the city during the year.

The group?s main work, however, is organizing the Main Street Show in downtown Pendleton during Round-Up, and they also help prepare and serve during the Twilight Breakfast organized by the Main Street Sidesaddlers. The cowboys also kick off Round-Up with the Dress-Up Parade.

?We depend heavily on all of our members being continually involved with all these events, most especially the Main Street Show ... many members spend 20 or more hours each day volunteering their time,? they wrote. The Main Street Show provides hundreds of hours of free entertainment for visitors and area residents.

If interested in a little hard work and a whole lot of fun ? while serving your community ? call 541-278-9332 or visit for more information.

? Skip Nichols

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