Volunteers took the Strain off rodeo

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Jack Strain, his cousin, Max, and his brother, Rex, were all part of the Goodwell Roping Club when it was asked to help sort timed-event cattle for the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo in the 1980s. They continued to volunteer for the rodeo until recently.

GUYMON, Okla. – When the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo asked for help, members of the Goodwell Roping Club answered.

That was decades ago, and men like Jack, Rex and Max Strain have put in countless hours since. It’s the work done by volunteers like them that has helped the local rodeo be successful for so many years. It takes a dedicated workforce of dozens of people to pull off an event of this magnitude.

The work will continue but without the Strains for this year’s rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 6; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 7; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 8, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena. The trio from north of Goodwell have passed along their sorting sticks and are planning on enjoying this year’s event without spending all the hours organizing timed-event cattle.

“We started adding up the age of our geriatric sorting crew, and we averaged about 66 to 67 years old,” said Jack Strain, a Texas County commissioner who thinks he’s been part of the timed-event team since the mid- to late 1980s. “We just decided we could find some younger blood to do that for a while.

“When we first started this, I was in my 20s and didn’t know any better,” he said with a laugh. “We’ve had a lot of people that have helped us sort that had nothing to do with the roping club; that’s just where it started, because we had a few people together we knew we could count on.”

Over time, there have been a few generations of rodeo committee members, and each group quickly realized they could count on the Strains. Max is the oldest at 74, then there are his cousins, Rex, 72, and Jack, 68.

It’s time to pass it along to a new generation.

“We were just a bunch of guys that wanted to see the rodeo get better,” Jack Strain said. “Sorting the timed-event cattle was something we could do to help, so we did. Now we’re going to watch the rodeo for once. Back behind the roping chutes isn’t a good place to watch the rodeo from.”

The roping club has ceased to exist, but it was a big deal to the group some 50 years ago. When it started, there were a bunch of young men that loved calf roping, so they gathered together. As they aged, the cowboys switched to team roping, which isn’t quite as hard on the older body. The club started in an old arena near the Goodwell elevators, and later built one that still stands along U.S. Highway 54.

“A bunch of us guys were getting together to rope,” Jack Strain said. “We’d buy calves in the summertime, then rope the calves. When we were done, we’d stick them out on wheat pasture, then we’d sell them and buy more.”

The cycle continued, then the group was purchasing and selling steers instead of calves. Whenever spring came, many of those club members made their way to Guymon to handle the days of work that come with volunteering during rodeo week.

“Back when we first started, there were several years where they did all the slack in one day,” he said. “We’d start at 8 o’clock in the morning, and there were a couple of years where we went home, took a shower and went to work at 8 the next morning. Some of the cowboys suggested to split slack over two or three days, so the rodeo could keep the guys around here longer.”

Guymon’s rodeo now features seven days of action. There are four rounds of steer roping that will take place Monday, May 2-Tuesday, May 3. The men’s timed events are scheduled for Wednesday, May 4-Thursday, May 5; barrel racing will take place through the morning and afternoon of Friday, May 6, then the first of four performances begins at 7:30 that evening.

That’s why there are so many volunteers to handle so many pieces of the puzzle that is Pioneer Days Rodeo.

“Everybody just takes a day off,” Jack Strain said. “I’ve got some people that did work for me at the county that would come help us.  They’d take a day’s vacation, and we’d sort cattle. I was doing this before I was a commissioner. No matter what I was doing, I took days off and helped with the rodeo. It’s just part of the deal when you want to be involved.”


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