During July in Orange you can count on two things: there will be the Orange County Sheriff’s Posse rodeo and on one or both nights of the rodeo, it will rain.

The opening night of the rodeo was hot and dry with one of the largest crowds in recent memory. There were so many contestants entered that the books filled early and a slack, or extra performance, had to be held after the regular rodeo ended.

“The slack went on so long with so many contestants that I did not get home until 4 a.m.,” said Joe Blackwell. Blackwell along with Teddy Alleman were the judges for this year’s rodeo.

Saturday was a different story. It rained; not a frog-strangling rain, just a rain that was the pesky sort of rain that gets you wet and never quite lets you dry out.

“One thing about rain tonight, the parking area is so dry that the rain will not make it too wet to use. I just hope it does not keep the crowds away,” said Becky Rhoden, rodeo chairman,

Another viewpoint about the rain was from Jody Pape, one of the bullfighters this year. “I hope we get enough rain to pack the dirt. It is hard to get traction. Last night I pushed hard with my right heel and my foot slipped and I got hit trying to make my getaway.”

As it turned out the rain did not keep the crowd away. Rhoden was happy to see the bleachers filled to near capacity. On the other side, the rain only put a crust on the sand that was soon worn away by the horses and steers and calves and sheep by the time Pape and fellow bullfighter Bubba Tacker went to work with the bulls.

The Grand Entry was led by the Sheriff’s Posse. “We have 22 riders and six post riders this year, it is one of the best teams we have had in a while,” said Rhoden.

The drill team did not perform Saturday night. They did their routine Friday night and will next perform at the Aug. 14 open rodeo at the Texas Longhorn.

After the traditional Grand Entry opening the show kicked off with Jr. Bull riding. The young riders gave it their best shot, but the bull won every contest.

Tie-Down Calf Roping went a little better. There were a few catches, but there were also a few “ropes with holes in them.” Those cowboys missed the catch and went home disappointed.

Mutton Busting is always a crowd favorite. The young boys and girls try to stick to the sheep’s back like a tick on a hound; and most of them do. They hang in all sorts of positions and last until they either lose their grip and go to the ground or until some adult grabs them and peels them off. One rider slipped to the left side and hung like a decal on a window. He was one that was peeled off and walked away with a huge grin.

The breakaway ropers tossed the loops; some hit and some missed. It was about the usual mix that happens at any rodeo.

When Tacker and Pape lined up 30 would be sheep catchers and the “go” was given, the two sheep were turned loose and the show started. The crowd charged and the sheep ran and ran, until they were cornered and there was no getting away. Then the struggle began with the kids trying to push into the corner and get the ribbon off the sheep’s neck to gain the $5 prize. The end result was two happy catchers and two relieved sheep.

Steer Wrestling and Team Roping were good events this year with some great catches and fast times in both events. There were about a dozen entries in each event, which is good at any rodeo.

Calf Dressing is fun, no matter where you see it. This year there were three teams of hopeful dressers. There were three on each team. One guy had to hold the calf by the neck and the other two had the job of putting the bra and panties on a male calf highly resentful of being dressed in public.

The bra was the easy part. It was just a matter of getting the bra around the calf just behind the front legs and getting the hooks hooked. The fun starts when the attempt is made to raise a hind leg and get the panties in the proper position.

As this was being attempted, the calves were not cooperating and were getting hard to hold, and were not wanting their legs raised. The team from the Sheriff’s Posse moved their calf toward the circle in the arena that the teams had to get the calves into to win the contest. Somehow the panties came off and the team had to start all over. By this time the other two teams had made progress in dressing their calves and were heading to the circle.

The OSP team finally got their calf dressed and drug into the circle just a fraction of a second before the next team to win the contest.

Barrel racers from age six to however old a barrel racer will admit to being gave some great performances. The practice and effort of each racer was evident. It was one of those rare nights when no barrel was turned over and no “plus five” penalties were given.

In the Open Bull category there was only one covered ride, The big bulls proved that they were on top once again. Tacker and Pape made a few saves and everyone went home pretty well satisfied.

Membership in the Orange County Sheriff’s Posse is open to anyone. There are currently 25 to 30 families that are members as well as individuals who belong. One family, the Harrises, has fourth generation members and several families are in their second or third generation.

You do not have to own a horse. “Anyone who would like to come out and help us with our workdays and help at the rodeo is more than welcome to join us,” said Rhoden.

The rodeo is the only fundraiser for the posse each year. The amount of money made from the rodeo is the amount that will be given back to the community in the form of scholarships and other charity donations.

Each year the posse donates use of the arena to the Little Cypress-Mauriceville Honeybears for their Bulls and Barrels fundraiser.

As funding becomes available, the posse is also working on improvements to the 50 plus year old arena. There is a new announcer’s stand, but there is still much to be done.

If you missed the rodeo, plan to attend next year. The money spent here will stay here. Meet the cowboys and girls; up close and personal. You will probably know a few.