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Barrie Qualle’s branding team won the competition at the Wallowa County Stockgrowers’ Rodeo on Saturday. (Katy Nesbitt/The Observer)
ENTERPRISE — Families and neighbors joined in friendly rodeo competition at the Wallowa County Fairgrounds Saturday afternoon at the fifth annual Stockgrowers’ Rodeo in Enterprise.
Events that replicate real-life ranching chores entertained the audience, starting with the World Championship Rock Jack building competition — won by repeat world champion Tom Birkmaier. This year’s competition was in teams and Birkmaier, known throughout Northeastern Oregon for his prowess at the sport, had Cory Miller join him for the victory.
Pat Daugherty, a former world champion, and his partners finished first, but the judges declared Birkmaier and Miller the winners due to some quality issues of the rock jacks.
Rock jacks are well known in Wallowa County as devices that stabilize range fences. They are used throughout the West, especially where rocky soil is predominant. They have become a symbol for Northeast Oregon ranching and a popular event at the Stockgrowers’ Rodeo each year. In fact, Wallowa County brought its rock jack building competition to the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association Centennial Celebration in June and Birkmaier was the champion at that
Sorting cattle is a constant for ranchers and the team of Dan and Ty Warnock, along with Rod Childers, took the title for the Adult Sorting competition while Aspen Birkmaier, Zeb Ramsden and Gus Ramsden took top honors in Youth Sorting.
The Muley Roping Competition, where ranchers rope “muleys” or cows without horns, was won by the team of Jerry Cobb, Jim Hite, Luke Morgan and Mark Dawson.
Shaun Morehead won Working Ranch category and Deanna Shear took first in Steer Stopping; both competitions pit horse and rider with a rope against a calf.
The Working Dog test was close among the competitors — attesting to the fact that Wallowa County has a lot of “good dogs.” Chris Cunningham beat out some great dogs, and great dog handlers to win.
The best Branding Team this year was comprised of Barrie Qualle, Childers, Luke Morgan and Dawson. The calf had to be roped head first, then by its hind feet, and as one competitor held the calf and one retied his front feet, another team member raced for a stick to dab paint on its left hind hip.
Two popular races returned this year to the Stockgrowers’ Rodeo — the half-trot, half-run horse race as well as the full-lap race. The Morgans of the Grouse Creek Ranch were the clear winners in both races — Luke Morgan won the half-and-half race and his wife, Lisa, won the full-lap horse race for the second year in a row.
Newcomer to the race, Haley Miller, was close behind Morgan at the finish and will be one to watch in future competitions.
The kids’ Wild Ewe Milking race was won this year by Zeb and Zane Hermens among a field of teams that were comfortable around sheep.