By Kellie Henderson
On a sunny Saturday in May, people traveling along lower Wetumpka Road in Montgomery could hear the signature sounds of an all-American rodeo drifting out on the clouds of dust from the Lazy W Arena. But if they stopped to look, they probably noticed both the livestock and the competitors were a bit younger than normal.
The Montgomery County Cattlemen’s Association (MCCA) sponsored its 10th Annual Little Boots Rodeo on May 5, and while these cowpokes may have been 14 and under, they weren’t short on talent or enthusiasm. And the crowd of parents, grandparents and other exuberant fans were all there to cheer on their favorite contestants.
The 24 events found on the day’s program ranged from a Rodeo Princess contest to calf riding and included some events not found at typical rodeos across the nation, like sheep riding (commonly referred to as mutton bustin’ in rodeo lingo) and boot, stick horse and truck races, designed for the youngest cowboys and cowgirls and manageable for those gringos with no previous rodeo experience.
||Five-year-old Abe Engelke took first place in the Stick Horse Race on Scout, the white stick-horse Santa gave him two years ago.
"I just ran fast, ran fast, ran fast," Abe said.
Abe is the son of a military family, born in California to Doug and Kathleen Engelke, and credits his brother Jack with helping him perform so well at his first rodeo.
"Santa gave Jack his horse, Silver, and we practice running at home. Jack helped me a lot by racing with me. I’m older than him, but he’s catching up with me now, and that makes me run faster," said Abe.
Abe also competed in the truck race and the goat scramble, and he said he hopes to compete in other rodeos in the future.
While Abe was a standout novice in this year’s rodeo, other young competitors were riding into the ring with generations of experience under their belts and under their saddles.
Hannah Rogers, age 7 from Letohatchee, has attended the Little Boots Rodeo four years in a row with her parents Joey and Angela Rogers. She was riding
13-year-old quarter horse, Joe, who belonged to her mother, Angela.
|| The Little Boots Rodeo is a day of pure family fun and entertainment. The 24 events found on the day’s program range from the rodeo princess contest to calf riding, goat scramble, mutton bustin’, truck races and the ever popular, stick horse race.
"Joe’s my old roping horse, and he’s been great for Hannah. I had horses when I was young and Hannah has been around horses her whole life," Angela said.
Hannah competed in the princess contest, goat tying, goat scramble and the boot race.
"I got second place in the boot race," said Hannah, happily waving the red ribbon looped around her wrist.
"She plays softball, and we missed a game to come to the rodeo today, but it was Hannah’s decision," said Angela.
"There’ll be other softball games, but Little Boots is only once a year," Hannah told her mother.
"I ride Daddy’s horse, Biscuit, a bunch of times and I like to help take care of him," said Ryan.
"He’d do more if we let him," Darryl said, "but he’s not ready for some responsibilities yet."
Ryan competed in the goat scramble and the calf riding, and had a good time playing with his cousin, Marshall Bents, between events. And as Ryan competed, a clinking sound familiar to any cowboy could be heard at his heels; the jingling of real spurs.
"I got them for my birthday from Mama and Daddy," said Ryan.
Randy Ray of the Montgomery County Cattlemen’s Association describes the Little Boots Rodeo as a day of pure family fun and entertainment. According to Ray, proceeds raised by the Little Boots Rodeo are used to fund support the organization’s various beef promotional activities.
Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.