ASHLAND — Hunter Skouby, 3, was not happy. He puckered his mouth, scowled at his mother and stomped his tiny, dusty brown cowboy boots.
“I wanted to chase calves!” he said.
Leslie Skouby sighed. “Daddy said 'no' this year,” she said.
Hunter will have to wait until next year to participate in the dusty melee that is the children’s Calf Scramble, a popular intermission activity at the Cattlemen Days Rodeo in which a mob of children 10 and younger chase two to three unlucky calves and try to snatch the strip of red tape marking each.
Thousands of spectators made the trip to Ashland on Friday for the first day of the 35th annual Cattlemen Days Rodeo. Bruce Glascock, chairman of the Rodeo Committee for 31 years, is always looking to break the record high of 5,400 visitors set in 2004.
“I like to see it get bigger,” he said with a smile. When Glascock stepped into his role as chairman in the early 1970s, the event was a much smaller affair.
Glascock doesn’t miss those early days too much.
"It was a lot more work," he said. "We didn’t have this kind of facility at that time, we’d have to haul bleachers and we didn’t have permanent concession stands and bathrooms like we've got now."
The rodeo was first held at the current facility in 1990, and in the last 10 years, contestants from 31 states have made Ashland a destination in the rodeo circuit, Glascock said.
The rodeo features seven events: saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, bareback riding, tie-down roping, barrel racing, team roping and bull riding. About 140 contestants will compete in the two-day rodeo, Glascock said.
A former team-roper himself, Glascock still calls team roping his favorite event. He and his old partner, Mike Johnson, practiced for several years before they decided they were good enough to compete in a rodeo. For seven years in the 1980s, they rode in the Great Lakes Pro Rodeo Circuit and the Cattlemen Days Rodeo.
Johnson’s son, Jake, won the steer wrestling event Friday night, leaping from his horse and twisting a black-faced yearling steer to the ground in just 5.2 seconds.
Steer wrestling is an event Glascock admires, but he learned to stay clear of it early on.
“I tried it and didn’t last long,” he said. “Tore up a knee and lost about a month’s work and decided I couldn’t afford that.”
For now he limits his rodeo activities to shutting and opening the chute, which lets the steers loose into the arena to be roped and tied.
Injuries are a common theme on the rodeo circuit. Blaine Kaufman of Pretty Prairie, Kan., has broken his hand and wrist since he started riding bareback in seventh grade. Fresh out of high school, he placed second in the event on Friday night.
Kaufman said he will continue rodeo until he gets too old.
Friday’s rodeo ended about 10:30 p.m. with the popular bull riding competition.
Hunter Skouby, with a shiny plastic pistol in hand and the disappointment of missing the Calf Scramble forgotten, spent the last minutes of the evening targeting bull riders and passers-by.
The rodeo continues Saturday night, starting with a parade through downtown Ashland at 2 p.m.
Glascock can be found, as always, in the center of it all, working the roping chute and the rodeo for as long as he’s needed.