Hayes Smith, left, and George Davis practice team roping at a White City ranch as they prepare for the 2012 Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo. - MT file photo

Calling all cowboys

From the moment the gate opens until the moment you hit the dusty arena floor, you don't remember anything, says professional rodeo cowboy Klay Lanham.

"Most of the time you kind of black out," he says. "Your body reacts to everything, but when you're done, you don't remember anything that happened, depending on the kind of animal you got."

Lanham, 27, hails from Sweet, Idaho. He entered his first bull-riding contest when he was 13 years old.

"I showed up and had the biggest bull there," he recalls. "I got third (place), and from then on, I was a bull rider."

Like motorcyclists and sky divers, Lanham says he's in it for the adrenaline rush.

Last year, despite a broken bone in his hand, he participated in 80 Northwest rodeo events. This year, he's competed in 11 so far, and the Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo will be his 12th.

Lanham will join other professional cowboys and cowgirls — some ranking in the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association's top 20 — at Central Point's annual rodeo, held Thursday, May 30, through Saturday, June 1, at The Expo, 1 Peninger Road. Gates open at 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday and at 5 p.m. Saturday, and the action starts at 7 p.m.

This year is bigger than ever, with nearly twice as many contestants in some events. There will be 37 bull riders, 42 steer wrestlers, 23 bareback riders, 31 saddle-bronc riders, 54 team ropers, 28 calf ropers and 56 barrel racers competing for a share of the $40,000 purse.

Three-time world champion steer wrestler Luke Branquino is back this year, as are four-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier Trevor Knowles (steer-wrestling) and three-time world champion bareback rider Bobby Mote.

Local contestants on the roster include C.J. Cash (team-roping), Roger Nonella (calf-roping), Cody Perry (team-roping) and Italy Spratt (barrel-racing).

Lanham rides Thursday night. He says most bull riders stay on an average of five seconds, which isn't long unless you have a 2,000-pound, bucking beast beneath you.

"Eight seconds seems like an eternity sometimes when you get a bull that really bucks," he says. "When you get a nice bull, it doesn't last long enough."

Professional rodeo announcer Will Rasmussen will call events and provide play-by-play narration of events, while rodeo clown J.J. Harrison, five-time "Northwest Clown of the Year," distracts threatening bulls and provides comic relief for the audience.

"Rodeo is such a family-oriented sport," says Jason Mattox, a member of the rodeo committee. "Everyone is intrigued by a cowboy."

At intermission, kids will have a chance to participate in mutton-busting and boot races. Mutton-busting is open to kids ages 5 to 8 who weigh less than 65 pounds. Applications are available at www.attheexpo.com. Prizes for both events include certificates for a new pair of cowboy boots at Big R in White City.

Miss Rodeo Oregon Nicole Schrock, as well as Phoenix High School graduate Sabra Straw, the 2013 Central Point Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo Queen, and Cascade Christian High School graduate Kelsi Dufour, the rodeo princess, will make appearances.

Dance parties will follow rodeo events each night in the Rogue Saloon, located north of Compton Arena. There will be live music by Jason Johnston and Michael Boren on Friday and Snake Bite on Saturday, as well as food, drinks, a bonfire and a mechanical bull.

Advance tickets for general seating cost $13, and $7 for kids ages 12 and younger, for Thursday's show, and $16, and $8 for kids, for Friday and Saturday shows. Tickets are available at The Expo office, Big R, Albertsons in Central Point and online at www.attheexpo.com until noon the day of the event. At the door, tickets cost $19, and $8 for children. Reserved tickets also are available.

For a full schedule of events, see www.wildrogueprorodeo.com.

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