Rodeo returns to Jackson County, local athletes compete in events



Seating was nearly standing-room at the moment Colton Whittymore shot out of the chute gripping the horns of a steer.

“(Chute dogging) is tough. You have to wrestle a 500-pound steer to the ground. You get mad. You get focused,” said Whittymore of Brownstown before the start of a junior/senior high school rodeo hosted by the Indiana High School Rodeo Association on Saturday at the Jackson County Fairgrounds.

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As soon as Whittymore exited the chute, a narrow cage with an automated gate, he traveled the 10 feet forward he was required before trying to wrestle the steer to the ground using its horns as leverage.

Despite the fact Whittymore didn’t manage to bring down his steer this time, he still managed to entertain the visitors and gain experience that he can use in the future.

Debbie Rouse of Brownstown, who attended the event with her family, said they enjoyed it.

“We bring the grandsons. It’s exciting to watch it. We’ve always liked the rodeo,” she said.

Whittymore wasn’t the only local youth participating in the rodeo. Three other Brownstown natives participated, as well.

Joshua Rorig, Claire Schepman and Paige Davidson all participated in different events, ranging from team roping (header/heeler), bareback, breakaway, steer wrestling, goat tying, saddle bronc, pole bending, calf roping, barrel racing and bull riding.

Davidson participated in slack only, meaning she didn’t take part in any of the performances.

Most participants compete in slack, with the top competitors appearing in the performance in their events.

Though not generally thought of as a traditional sport, Sherry Rorig, one of the organizers for the event, said to many of them, it is no different than any other sport.

“This is our life,” she said. “I’m proud to be a part of something that isn’t ordinary but is still family-oriented. The kids try just as hard as any football or basketball player.”

Whittymore said he never felt he was very good at traditional sports but that rodeo was made for him.

“I’ve ridden my entire life. I love it, and I’m pretty good at it. I wasn’t good at football or baseball. I’m good at this,” he said.

Joshua Rorig also competed in the rodeo in the calf roping and team roping events.

He said he enjoys the roping events the most.

“You don’t think of anything. It’s just you and your communication with your horse,” Rorig said.

Most of it takes a different breed of people to compete in some of the events, and some of the competitors are happy to not be doing them.

“I don’t want to do the bull riding,” Whittymore said. “We heard about someone who shattered their arm earlier this year doing it.”

Rorig also said he had reservations about bull and bronco riding, saying he feels he is more inclined toward the roping events.

“My brother just always told me that I have a natural heel loop when I rope, so team roping is best for me, I think,” he said.

The more than 50 junior and senior high participants who attended the event were among the top in their fields from across the state.

Those who do well will continue — the junior high members going to South Dakota are in June and the high-schoolers go to Wyoming in July to compete at a national level.

“For the kids, it’s not all about the competition,” Sherry Rorig said. “A lot of these kids will make friends they’ll compete against and see again for the rest of their lives as long as they are involved.”

This was the first year the Indiana High School Association conducted the event at Brownstown.

For many years, a rodeo was conducted in Cortland at the home of Gary and Laura Plumer.

After Gary’s death in April 2014, the rodeo went into dormancy before returning in its current form, to the excitement of many.

“We attended the event for several years when it was in Cortland. We’re glad it’s back,” Rouse said.

Sherry Rorig said that’s one of many reasons they decided to continue the rodeo in Jackson County.

“It’s all about keeping the western heritage alive,” she said.

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