If you’re looking for one of the most rugged places in the Gem State, you need to look no farther than the farthest southwest corner of the state. Pickups drive through the dusty roads wearing “2O” plates, and everything is a little rougher around the edges. Their rodeo is no different.
There, on the banks of the wild Snake River in Homedale, the Owyhee County Rodeo takes place every year. And just like the Snake churns through, rough-and-tumble, so does the rodeo, with a full slate of events, and some of the wildest action in the region. One of the last events on the Idaho Cowboys’ Association schedule for the year, it rolls through every August for three days of classic Idaho-ness before rodeo shifts seasons.
Not much changes in Homedale. It still looks exactly the same there as it did the first time I drove through it, and that was years ago. The rodeo doesn’t do much in the way of attempting to modernize, either, content instead to stay original and classic, the same way rodeo has looked for a long, long time. About the only thing new this year that we haven’t seen at the Homedale rodeo is the addition of kids’ goat flanking and goat tying in the pre-rodeo. (Just because you’re old-school doesn’t mean you don’t provide opportunities for the future of rodeo, and this is the best way to do it.)
There were two big stars in Homedale this year, and while neither was a huge surprise, they still can’t help but continually impress you. The first was none other than Jordan Minor. This cowgirl from Hermiston, Oregon showed up in a big way and extended her lead in the D&B All-Around with a 2.4 in the breakaway roping. It’s gonna take a lot to knock Jordan out of the top spot, and any time you see her back into the box, you wonder how much wider the gap between her and 2nd place will become. Timed events are a huge deal in Homedale, with competitors showing up from all around the west to turn their horses’ heads toward the south and nod. By my unofficial count, cowboys and cowgirls from eight different states were present for this set of events, but it was a local girl we know well who caught our attention in the biggest way.
The other big star was the King Rodeo Company, bringing in stock that only seems to improve year after year. For this particular rodeo, although the broncs were their own kind of dominant, the bulls completely shut out the riders, allowing only two novice rides the entire weekend. Bulls continue to get better, stronger, less predictable, and are harder to keep up with all the time. Frustration for riders only mounted as the weekend went on, and the stock flexed its muscle. Everyone loves to see a qualified ride from time to time, but then again, you really have to hand it to the stock for its strength and skill.
One expects no less than the old-west experience when they head to Homedale, and their rodeo delivered yet again this year. Wooden chutes, legendary livestock, and the classic feel of a small Idaho town bring a little bit of history to life whenever August rolls around in the corner of the state. Walking back to my truck after the last performance, I blew the coarse dust off my camera lens and brushed the last few bugs off my Wranglers. In a quiet moment, I heard the river flowing past, just yards from where I was parked, and nothing in that moment could have been more appropriate to me. That rodeo is just like that river.
Wild. Free. Untamed. Pure Idaho.