Ray Cotton is an old rodeo cowboy. As you enter his popular Texas Longhorn Entertainment complex greeting you on the wall is “Cotton’s Dream.” It is a mural with pictures and text that gives a little of Cotton’s history and his dream of providing a great rodeo venue.

The large nightclub has an indoor three bucking chute arena that has been the scene of some fine nights of bulls versus cowboys. Cotton’s next rodeo venture was the construction of the Texas Longhorn Outdoor Arena. The arena boasts five bucking chutes, arena bleacher seating, a roping chute, and the best sound system in the region. The arena was designed by Coleman Peveto based on Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association specifications.

Last year Cotton and his rodeo director Peveto brought to the arena a thumbnail view of a cattle drive. Cotton was the owner of a herd of Longhorn steers. Peveto rounded up a herd of local cowboys and cowgirls, to serve as drovers. Cotton’s Ultimate Challenge was born.

On the night of the first annual challenge the drovers brought in the herd, drove them around the arena and held them in the center of the arena for a few minutes, then drove them out.

The challenge part of the night was over 40 bull riders trying to win $1,000 of Cotton’s money and a $500 custom buckle. The first challenge turned out to be the largest bull riding in the area, even outpacing a Professional Bull Riding event in Beaumont.

Cotton and Peveto decided that since the 2010 event was so successful they would repeat the challenge this year and try to make it an annual event thereafter.

Cotton sold off his Longhorn steers, but had some cows and calves that could be used. Peveto, a veteran of over 30 years behind the rodeo microphone, is well respected in the rodeo world. He has no problem using his contact list to get personnel for a rodeo. Drovers would be no problem.

Dan Harris offered to bring his antique covered wagon to serve in the position of the chuck wagon on the trail drive. Peveto liked the idea, and the 2011 show was on the books.

After one night of working by the drovers, the herd of cows and calves was deemed ready for the lights and noise of the show. Over 45 bull riders signed the books. Peveto hired longtime rodeo clown Rodney Price of Palestine, Texas for the funny man portion of the event.

Showtime was July 23. Harris’ driver worked the wagon team for a short time in the holding pasture at the rear of the arena. There was nothing left but to start the show.

A very unique part of the opening was the prayer by E. Dale Lee, pastor of the Orange County Cowboy Church. A wooden cross was carried to the center of the arena. Lee came out leading a horse, approached the cross and knelt to give the prayer. The scene was taken from the logo of the Cowboy Church, a cowboy and his horse kneeling before a cross. The display was impressive and probably caused more rodeo fans to pay attention to the opening prayer than they usually do.

After the prayer, Cotton and Peveto made a special presentation of a custom buckle to Bubba Tacker. The honor was in recognition of Tacker’s many years of service at the Longhorn protecting the cowboys.

The bull riding started with two steer riders, followed by two junior bull riders, then the big boys and the big bulls. The number on the books approached 40, all would ride in the “long go” and the top ten would come back for the “short go.” That was where the winner would walk away with the money and the buckle.

Peveto had arranged to bring in the best pen of bulls to date at the Longhorn. He used four stock contractors and told them he wanted good bulls. They did not disappoint.

Most of the bulls had a high degree of difficulty, something every bull rider wants and dreads at the same time. A difficult bull means good points. As a group, these bulls were the best buckers seen in a long time. Several of the bulls would buck so hard that all four legs would be in the air at the same time. One bull went so high and came down so hard that the rider needed the assistance of the on-site paramedic to leave the arena.

Only about six of the pen were the spinners that one usually sees. They can be hard to ride, but are not as dramatic as the rough buckers. The rough buckers were giving some bone-jarring landings.

Longtime Longhorn bullfighter Bubba Tacker headed a team of three bullfighters, joined by Jody Pape, and Lance Coleman. The bullfighters had a rough night. There were a number of hangs-ups and charges after the dismount by the rider. Cowboy protection was definitely of the professional level.

Pape took three “hits for the team.” He was usually the first one in and the last one out on a hang-up, he was chased and hooked all night.

Coleman took a hard shot to the back trying to out maneuver a big bad bull. Fortunately the hooking threw Coleman away from the bull and towards the fence.

Pape, Coleman, and Tacker took a variety of hits, protecting the bull riders. At the night’s end all walked out of the arena under their own power.

At the close of the long go, Josh Barrentine was in the lead with 89 points. There were only three other covered rides. Those four were in the short go. The other six places was by the luck of the draw.

The short go was a tough one for most of the riders. They were faced with the best bulls of the night. Any rider that covered one of these bulls would have to be in control of his ride and be able to hang tough on the bull’s back.

Jacob Constance was the winner of the short go. The grinning cowboy took home Cotton’s money and the custom Broken Arrow Silver Company buckle designed by Peveto.

Another chapter of Cotton’s Dream had closed.