Welcome home, Ryle Smith.
The 2005 Oakdale High graduate and professional cowboy returned to his hometown triumphantly on April 12, 13 and 14 to claim an All-Around Champion title at the 61st Annual Oakdale Saddle Club Rodeo.
Smith landed second in tie-down roping and third in steer wrestling to finish with the top marks in a muddy field of play that left most cowboys floundering in the sludge.
The finish was surreal for an Oakdale cowboy who has been on the road for three consecutive months with professional rodeo action in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Nevada. His return to Oakdale came, rope in hand, with a collective $3,391 in winnings from two of his three events. It’s the third time in three years that Smith has made the money list at the Oakdale Rodeo since he became a professional in 2010.
“It means a lot to me to win the all-around in Oakdale,” Smith said on Monday. “I’ve always wanted to win an Oakdale buckle and to come here and do that in my hometown is amazing.”
Smith was spectacular despite boggy conditions that created deep mud puddles across the OSC arena. He landed sixth in tie-down roping after a 13-second outing his first go, but erupted for the rodeo’s fastest time of the event in his second go (9.8) to finish runner-up in the event.
His third place finish in steer wrestling (combined 26.5) proved enough to ignore mishaps in team roping with Oakdale partner Trav Cadwell. The good performances stood strong against a barrage of performances from competitors that struggled to fare well in the poor field conditions.
“The thing is we all have to compete on that mud so everybody has to deal with it,” Smith said. “I kind of like it because it breaks some guys apart a bit and they lose their focus when they have to go into bad conditions and make a few adjustments. It’s a good time to really bear down and do your best because everybody else may be letting off.
“Rodeo is a gamble and there is something about Oakdale because I have won money every year. I’m batting 1.000 and if I can keep doing that, I hope it pours every year.”
Smith was one of several locals to tackle action across the arena. Oakdale’s Dani Leslie earned $788 in the steer wrestling second go. Amie Allen of Oakdale was just outside the money after a 17.5-second barrel racing ride that captured roars from her local crowd. Oakdale High grad Bo Bacigalupi appeared destined for the money after he hung tough for a 71-point ride above the bucking bull ‘White Noise’ on Saturday, but slipped out of the top-3 when riders turned in terrific efforts on Sunday. Lance Harvey of Oakdale and his partner Bert McGill of Sanger appeared locked for cash winnings after a six-second team roping spectacle on Saturday, but were penalized 10 seconds after an early start penalty.
Dustin Smith of St. Paul, Oregon captured a $2,459 purse for his wining bull ride (84 points) while Lindsey Ewing of Texas landed tops in barrel racing after she whipped her mount around the final obstacle at breakneck speed and tore past the timers for a thrilling 16:08 ride on Saturday.
Oklahoma’s Blair Burk took tie-down roping with $1,617 winnings and his 21.9-second collective finish. Spencer Mitchell (Colusa) and Broc Cresta (Santa Rosa) won team roping with times adding to 12.8 seconds to claim $2,479. Brian Culver (Oregon) and Luke Creasy (Canada) tied for first in bareback bronc riding with 81-point rides to claim $1,625 each while Rusty Allen of Utah won saddle bronc with a 79-point ride and a $1,920 purse. Ethan Thouvenell of Napa was tops in steer wrestling after a pair of go’s totaling 15.6 seconds and $1,203.
Competitors were protected by the daring exploits of bullfighters Rick Moffet and Aaron Hargo. Moffet, a longtime Oakdale resident, was at one point trapped under the hulking form of a bull, but escaped with just bruises and small lacerations.
The addition of a muddy surface represented a serious challenge for Moffet and Hargo to keep agile beasts from trampling their would-be riders. It’s all in a day’s work for the local bullfighter who bounces from rodeos to film stunt work these days.
“Conditions like that made it tough because it’s not as easy to be safe and move around in bad footing,” Moffet said on Monday. “You take a few lumps as you go, but I had a good guy in Aaron Hargo on the other side. When you trust someone like that you know he will eventually get the bull off you.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s scary spooky sometimes in poor conditions but you have to fight through it and go in with it because cowboys need to leave the arena safely.”
Moffet will soon depart for a barrage of California and Washington rodeos that include action in nearby Turlock and Sonora. Though he enjoys the constant action, he has a special respect for the Oakdale Rodeo.
“There is no place like home,” Moffet said. “You’ve got the best crowd in Oakdale and it doesn’t matter if it’s raining or snowing. It’s a hell of an honor to be home and work the hometown rodeo.”