Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Cut them some slack? Not at the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo

By Kevin Carmody Published: July 12, 2013

It all came together to make a textbook run for Kurt Goulding. Too bad not many fans witnessed the steer wrestler's blazing, 4.0-second effort early Friday at the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Days.

Long ago, professional rodeo was faced with a conundrum of how to keep performances somewhat short and still find a way to get the many timed-event contestants their required runs.

With slack, all the excess entries are scheduled separately from the main rodeo performances. It's almost a rodeo inside another rodeo.

Over a 12-hour period spanning three days from 8 a.m.-noon, hundreds of runs took place at the Norris-Penrose Event Center. Barrel racers, tie-down ropers, steer wrestlers and team ropers went about their business, without the fanfare of the energy-filled night performances.

No lights. No crowd, except for a smattering of family, friends and fellow competitors. No tempting aroma of concessions. No acts, jokes with the rodeo clown or the booming voice of veteran announcer Boyd Polhamus.

In other words, no frills.

"It's fun to be under the bright lights," said Goulding, who resides in Comanche, Okla. "But slack is all right, too. I'm up feeding and taking care of my horses anyway, and it gives you something to do during the day. It gets you in the mood."

Goulding, who will turn 50 next month, has been competing in professional rodeos since 1985 and reached the pinnacle of his career when he qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in 1998. That's a lot of years of slack, which he admits is difficult to define to the non-rodeo person.

"It's kind of hard to explain," Goulding said. "They think everyone out to be in the rodeo at night. I tell them there are too many guys for that. They have a hard time with that. They've got to let a lot of guys compete early in slack to make it happen."

Despite the vastly different atmosphere, slack -- which ran Wednesday through Friday -- counted just the same as rides and runs witnessed by more than 4,000 fans several hours later. At the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Days, the top 10 times and runs from each day's worth of slack earned a spot in that night's performance.

"Sometimes, you're in slack, and sometimes, you're scheduled in the performance," said barrel racer Debbie Bloxom of Andrews, Texas. "Either way, you ride just as hard and compete just as heavily."

Both Goulding and Bloxom recorded fast enough times Friday to look forward to a night under the lights, the complete rodeo experience.

Longtime rodeo enthusiast Keith Atkinson watches, no matter what. Atkinson, 77, used to compete in steer wrestling, known as bulldogging in rodeo circles. Since there's no admission for slack, Atkinson took in the early-morning action from a $35 box seat, just a few rows from the arena dirt.

"I see all of it," said Atkinson, a Fountain resident who's been watching rides and runs at this rodeo since 1954. "I've been here every morning this week, then I come back and watch at night. I've missed some over the years, but I try to come to the slack every year."

It makes for some long days, but no one seemed to complain.

"This is a great way of life, and this is what I do," Bloxom said. "You'd think it's a lot of time between slack and the night show. The time goes by fast. You have to work your horses and get them ready just like an athlete. Plus, you can get a nice meal and get some rest. A lot of us travel so much, we're always looking for rest."

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