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“Anyone who has ever experienced the thrill of rodeo life wishes it could go on forever.”

It was professional cowboy-turned-Western writer Ralph Clock who famously summed up his rodeo feelings that way. We all know rodeo can’t go on forever, but Clark’s words were on my mind on a recent summer weekend as one of the final LIttle Britches Rodeos of the year kicked off at the Midnight Riders Arena in the Western Wisconsin town of Mondovi.

My ten-year-old son, Colton, and his Thoroughbred/Arabian cross, Noble Essence, were rarin’ to go on Saturday morning as the rodeo began. First up, the pair navigated a mucky arena for pole bending. When that event was complete, the cowboy remained in the saddle, with this cowboy dad (or cowboy valet) fetching the boy a hamburger which he happily consumed while perched high in the saddle.

The next event was goat un-decorating. In this discipline, a cowboy can’t remain in their comfy, Western saddle. Instead, they must dismount daringly into the muck to retrieve a ribbon tied to a goat’s tail. Then the cowboy must sprint through the boot-hugging, clumpy clay soil. For the record, my cowboy rarely makes it out with his boots still on his feet. Needless to say, he makes better time on his horse than he does under his own power.

Rodeo is about life lessons, and this cowboy dad learned one when he found Colton feeding alfalfa to the very animal that broke his jaw a year ago. Seems my cowboy doesn’t hold grudges.

The cowboys and cowgirls are all like that. They hang out with their friends and competitors between events. They root for one another. They help each other out.

Colton got some help from his friends Levi and Austin during the long Mondovi weekend. After Noble Essence was injured during the barrel racing competition Saturday evening, Colton’s mother had to take the horse home. Levi, Austin, and their parents, Katylynn and Dustin allowed Colton to ride their horses on Sunday.

For her part, little Austin had a great weekend. She’s been watching her brothers compete for years. Now six years old, she’s doing all the same events with a measure of cowgirl grace.

Levi too had some great Mondovi moments. The 58-pound kid with the most weather-beaten hat on the Little Britches circuit had multiple personal bests on his one-eyed, gated horse, Shotgun.

This cowboy dad, meantime, had the satisfaction of updating a long-ago snapshot with his favorite cowboy, taking a new picture with the boy beside the Midnight Riders Arena before the sun set on the 2022 rodeo season.