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The daring Apache who inspired the film Ulzana's Raid left his mark on SW New Mexico.

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Meet a "rodeo mom," a champion rider-turned-breeder and a future star.

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Features

Building Lightly
on the Earth

The green-building revolution promises to save money and the planet.

Paper Work
An inventor turns waste paper into an earth-friendly building material.

Do-Overs
Re-using old building materials and furnishings.

Heart of Glass
A man, a plan, a wall--and several tons of wine bottles.

Sex Sells
The "adult-entertainment" business is becoming mainstream.

High Desert Reggae
Root Skankadelic dishes funk and peace to the masses.

Searching for Ulzana
The daring Apache who inspired the film Ulzana's Raid left his mark on SW New Mexico.

Rodeo Roundup
Meet a "rodeo mom," a champion rider-turned-breeder and a future star.

The Art of Teaching
At Alma d'arte Charter High School, art saves lives.


Columns & Departments
Editor's Note
Letters
Desert Diary

Tumbleweeds:
Having a Ball with Billy
Author on Fire
Tumbleweeds Briefs
Top 10


Borderlines
Business Exposure
Into the Future
Celestial Cycles
Kitchen Gardener
The Starry Dome
Ramblin' Outdoors
People's Law
40 Days & 40 Nights
Millie & Billy Ball
Clubs Guide
Guides to Go
Henry Lightcap's Journal
Continental Divide


Special Section
Arts Exposure
Marilyn Gendron
Arts News
Gallery Guide

Body, Mind & Spirit
Tools for Living
Ways to Heal

Red or Green?
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Rodeo Roundup

For three area residents—a "rodeo mom," a champion bull rider-turned-breeder and an up-and-coming rider—this month's Wild Wild West Pro Rodeo is one of the high points of the year.

By Vivian Savitt

 

The Wild Wild West Pro Rodeo attracts 12,000 people, making it Silver City's largest annual ticketed event. Begun in 1990, the rodeo is produced by stock contractor Scottie Lovelace of Classic Pro Rodeo. This year's event, May 31-June 3, is once again at Southwest Horsemen's Arena on Hwy. 180 East; for more information, call 388-2586.

Jeff Hansen in action. Photo by
James Fain, www.jamesfain.com.

On opening night, the bull riders compete on top bulls, including Soft Tail, Nasty and Extreme Priefert. Horse enthusiasts will enjoy watching the superb bareback bronc, Wise Guy, and saddle bronc, Slick Willy. All have competed at the national finals.

Wear pink on Thursday night and you can attend the rodeo for $10, as part of a special promotion to benefit Breast Cancer Awareness.

Ride on the shuttle buses and save yourself the hassles of parking. Shuttles cost $1 for a round-trip; children under five ride free. The buses shuttle between the parking lot at 1st New Mexico Bank and the arena.

 

Rodeo Mom: Linda Runyan

Linda Runyan spends a lot of time loading and unloading horses, opening and closing chutes, releasing tied calves, filling out entry forms and writing checks, videotaping performances and then critiquing them, making sure practice happens at least four times a week, and driving to clinics, competitions and rodeos far beyond the Continental Divide. If a soccer mom saw Linda's day book, she might commit Range Rover hari-kari.

Linda is a rodeo mom. As the mother of four sons—Tyson, Bryce, Cody and Derek, ages 20 to 9—who excel in tie-down and team roping, Linda has put 75,000 miles on her pickup in two years. Why? Conscientious parenting and perhaps the survival of the Code of the West.

"Because of rodeo my husband and I know where our boys are and what they're doing," she explains. "In turn, they learn responsibility, how to compete, care for animals and equipment, handle their winnings and perform under pressure."

A spunky brunette, Linda resembles a coed more than a parent. Her dark eyes are especially pretty, but do not tolerate nonsense. She grew up attending rodeos and met her husband, Bryan, at a college rodeo. His family has ranched in House, NM, northeast of Fort Sumner, for three generations. Bryan and Linda and their family have lived in Silver City for nine years.

Bryan Runyan regularly lassos Linda to handle his construction company's billings. But when the boys' competition dates conflict, he morphs into a rodeo dad to help with transportation. In summer, when 20-year-old Tyson Runyan is home from college, he also chauffeurs his little brothers from place to place.

Last year, for the first time, Tyson competed in roping at Silver City's annual Wild Wild West Professional Rodeo (contestants must be 18 to enter). Tie-down roping is an essential skill in ranch country that enables cattle to be inoculated, branded and castrated. At rodeos, however, roping is categorized as a "timed event," requiring that a calf stay tied down for six seconds. Rider and horse work in amazing synchronization to beat the clock.

But, as Tyson knows all too well, injuries can occur. In 1999, Tyson won $8,000 in Scottsdale, Ariz., at the US Team Roping Association. That same year, he lost his left thumb during a team roping practice run when his steer dashed off. The force caused a roping coil to tighten around his thumb and broke the bone.

Linda acknowledges the danger involved in competition and "always prays for the boys to stay safe." Her brother, a bull rider, also sustained a serious injury.

Currently, Tyson owns three roping horses—two for practice sessions and "Reno" for competitions. A professional roping horse can easily cost $20,000. Reno, a brawny red roan quarter horse, stands 14 1/2 hands in height. For their younger sons, the Runyans buy only gentle, reliable horses; 16 such steeds currently inhabit the stable.

"We have horses that the kids can crawl over, under and through," Linda boasts. Tyson won the state high school rodeo competition on "Oprah," a one-eyed roping horse that trusted his handling abilities.

The Runyans utilize three four-horse trailers as well as a three-horse trailer. Tyson won the latter when he was l3. The prize also included two roping saddles. When the boys win cash, it goes into a savings account for their college educations. Tyson received a rodeo scholarship to New Mexico Highlands University, where he majors in business management.

For the 2006 Silver City rodeo, Tyson Runyan enters with $3,500 in prize money accrued to date from other amateur and professional competitions. Before summer ends, at least a dozen more rodeo audiences will watch him rope.

The Runyans' 12-acre spread includes a double-wide home where masculine karma abounds. Often women in a predominantly male household tend toward the froufrou, but not Linda. Two La-Z-Boy loungers mark the comfort zone in the accommodating living room. Roping images, including both artworks and photography, hang on the walls. Dominating one area is a photo tableau of each Runyan boy taken at age four, dazzling in a red western shirt, black hat, lasso in hand, astride a hobby horse.

Two glass cabinets display a cache of trophy buckles, shiny squares and ovals imprinted with wranglers, horses, calves and cactus, all catching the sunlight.

For Bryce,16, whom Linda calls "the natural roper," a buckle recognizes him as 2005 Rookie of the Year for calf and team roping. Another for Cody,14, marks a fifth-place win for calf roping and a sixth place for team roping at the Wrangler Junior High School Finals in Lovington, NM. Derek, 9, roped his first rodeo calf last year in Sonoita, Ariz., and now has a buckle to prove it.

How many buckles are there? Linda admits to long ago having lost count.

In the kitchen a strawberry shortcake minus several slices crowns the table. Prepared as a dessert, it was co-opted for after-school snacks by, one might imagine, a stampeding herd of Runyans.

Linda's favorite part of being a rodeo mom comes in the company of family and friends after the rodeo, she says. "I enjoy watching the boys taking a swim back at the motel. That's down time—once everyone has competed."

As she gazes around the living room that epitomizes a western lifestyle, everything seems to cohere. The only hint of disorder is a stack of plastic-covered "rodeo and church clothes," fresh from the dry cleaners. Undoubtedly a woman reigns here. And even though rodeo season fizzles out by October, basketball practice will just be beginning.

 

High on Bulls: Owen Washburn, World Champion

In 1991, Owen Washburn rode in Silver City's Wild Wild West Pro Rodeo, his first professional bull riding competition. Confident and able, the New Mexican native knew unequivocally that he wanted to ride bulls.

"I never had a Plan B," he says. "I stuck with Plan A the whole time."

Five years later in Las Vegas, Nevada, Washburn won the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) World Championship, replete with glamour, money, esteem and a diamond-studded buckle. He was 26 years old.

Washburn is an easy man to envy. Tall, lean and handsome, he is married to a school teacher and is the father of two children. Although a groin injury kept him from competing for a year, he has survived rodeo's most dangerous event with his body intact.

"I never thought about bull riding being dangerous or that I could tear up my body," Washburn says, "and I didn't."

Positive thinking and egoism work for Washburn. The son of divorced parents who came from ranching and rodeo backgrounds, he started riding bulls at age 15 because "there weren't any summer jobs and the bills needed paying."

Where his dogged determination once centered solely on riding bucking bulls, it is now focused on breeding them. The Lordsburg ranch that he and his wife took six years to find is now "Washburn Bucking Bulls." Today, 80 bulls and 120 cows also call it home. He's busy buying and selling the animals every week, driving as far as Nevada to the National Bull Riding Finals or as close as Silver City.

Scottie Lovelace of Classic Pro Rodeos, stock contractor for this month's Silver City rodeo and 18 others, is among those who buy and use Washburn Bucking Bulls. Ten of them will be in town for the occasion.

Lovelace lives on the Texas-Louisiana border and talks with a twang that's more bourbon than beer. He has known Washburn for a long time and calls him "just plum special." Lovelace adds, "Owen dominated the sport for five years. Having babies just changed his priorities. That's why he's breeding bulls."

Traditionally bulls were bred only for beef production. The notion of riding a bucking one-ton animal sprang from the imagination of rodeo promoters interested in increasing ticket sales. Steers—castrated bulls—were used at first, but, devoid of testosterone, proved unreliable buckers. This situation changed about 1920, when Brahma-cross breeds produced bulls more inclined toward powerful leaping, spinning, jerking and cantankerousness.

Washburn prefers to breed from bulls with four generations of bucking genes, but not meanness. He knows that in a sport where both bull and rider are judged on performance, riders demand the bulls that offer them a high-scoring ride, not disfigurement or paralysis.

"I use some of the best bull semen there is," Washburn says. "Sometimes you have to use 10 straws to get three calves. Semen costs about $500 a straw and doesn't come with guarantees."

The infamous bull, "Bodacious," a 1,850-pound behemoth that Washburn rode and got bucked off of, grew to be feared by riders. Over a four-year period, only six riders managed to hang on to Bodacious for the essential eight seconds. Bodacious had a penchant for jerking his head backwards, smashing his horns into the rider's face.

As Washburn puts it, "Why ride a bull like that when your chances of staying on were slim to none? Bodacious was a freak."

Indeed, Bodacious, once photographed for Penthouse magazine, was retired in 1995 and is now deceased.

One of Washburn's breeding successes is "Ladies Man," a bull he co-owns with five businesswomen, including a CEO. Bulls, like riders, can have good or bad years. Ridden at the National Finals Rodeo and PBR, Ladies Man has nothing to complain about. If he was ever to win "Bull of the Year," that would be the equivalent of Washburn's own world title.

 

Going Places: Jeff Hansen

"I rode Ladies Man once and he's really good," says Jeff Hansen, 26, an Animas native. Owen Washburn is his mentor, and the two men have been friends for four years.

If Hansen's not riding a bull, then he's heading somewhere to get on one—including to the arena on Washburn's ranch, where he can both practice on and evaluate bucking bulls.

"Jeff will drive anywhere to ride," Washburn affirms. "He has helped me as much as I've helped him."

Straight as a plank and lanky, Hansen doesn't fit the physique of a typical bull rider any more than Washburn does. Shorter riders are considered to have an advantage of "less whip."

Hansen speaks quietly. Until he removes his dark glasses, you'd never guess the vulnerability they conceal. If you're as serious about riding bulls as he is, it's a monotonous lifestyle. The sport's mysterious and indescribable adrenaline rush is obviously one heck of a hook.

On Wednesday night, May 31, Hansen rides for his second time in Silver City, competing against top riders Matt Austin, Cody Hancock and Dustin Elliott. A computer will determine what bull he rides and when. The next day he'll hit Clovis, another stop on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Turquoise Circuit that spans New Mexico and Arizona.

In rodeo, it's traditional to travel with a buddy to share gas and lodging. Hansen and his fellow bull rider, Daren Albrecht, often sleep outside; occasionally a rodeo will comp a motel room.

Rodeo winnings, "ranch stuff" and construction work—if he's really desperate—help cover Hansen's other expenses. Entry fees average about $200 and he lives on fast food.

Doing ranch stuff means roundups. When asked if that aspect of ranching has changed much, Hansen replies, "The only thing that's changed is you can't get shot."

Owning a PRCA card signifies that a cowboy has won at least $1,000. Jeff bought one shortly after his graduation from Animas High School.

PRCA offers accident insurance covering 85 percent of medical costs. If you get hurt while practicing, though, the medical bills are all yours.

Twice broken, Hansen's collarbone has borne the brunt of his vocation's hazards. Uncannily, each accident occurred in Alamogordo, making one wonder about atomic synergy.

Hansen admits that he's not a good loser, because "a good loser is a loser." He adds, "I'm very competitive and only ride to win. Money has nothing to do with it. I know I can make it."

Toward that end, his goal is to compete in the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) next year. Only 15 bull riders compete in the NFR. In mid-May, Hansen ranked third on the Turquoise Circuit, just behind Judd Mortensen and Cody Hancock.

"Jeff has talent," Washburn says. Stock contractor Scottie Lovelace agrees: "There's no doubt he's a pro. Jeff has a bright future if he keeps his goal in mind."

 

Silver City writer Vivian Savitt says that "several decades ago
I was an ardent cowgirl and barrel racer and have never
lost interest in rodeo." She's written for publications including
The Walking Magazine and Texas Monthly, and worked as
a researcher for the CBS News TV program "60 Minutes."

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