Spending the spring in California is probably the most fun I have all year long. We’ve just come off of the winter rodeo run inside the buildings, and we get to go outside. The weather’s good, the grass is green, the flowers are blooming. It’s just a beautiful time of year in California. Most of us go to three rodeos in California—Oakdale, Red Bluff and Clovis. And there are some good jackpots in California this time of year also. It’s just an enjoyable time of year, where we don’t have to drive night and day to rope and rodeo. We basically have three weeks in one spot. I have a lot of friends in California, and we get to barbecue and visit. California’s weather is what I really like, especially in the springtime. Everything’s fresh, it’s starting to warm up and I’m a warm-weather kind of guy.
Oakdale’s really a unique rodeo, and it’s held in the old Cowboy Capital of the World. Years ago, the header and heeler both came out of the heeler’s box at Oakdale. I haven’t been able to go to Oakdale in a couple years, because the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo overlapped it. But I’ll get to go to Oakdale this year, and I’m looking forward to it.
California has a huge history in team roping. It’s basically where dally team roping started. Back in the day, all the team ropers lived in California. Nowadays, we all make a point to go to Farrarese’s Deli after slack for lunch. They even have a sandwich named after Leo Camarillo.
One of my favorite rodeos of all time is Salinas. It’s in July, so it’s not part of the California spring run, but it’s another great one. My career kind of got started in California, when I was roping with Allen Bach way, way back. And when I roped with Leo, I lived with him for about a year and a half in Lockeford.
The arenas are a little bit tricky at the spring rodeos in California. In all three of those arenas the chute’s close to the left fence. When it rains the conditions are really tough, but the left fence is an obstacle rain or shine and makes for a tough roping. (Jake and Junior at Red Bluff.)
There are several good jackpots during the California run in the spring. From Mike Brewer’s longtime roping in Los Molinos to Broc Cresta’s Memorial Roping the last couple years in Cottonwood, there are some good ones. Cory Petska has a roping in Ceres. James Pickens is moving his roping to Clovis this year. Steve Simons has a jackpot during Clovis also. Lots of guys hang out there at his house. He’s a great host.
It’s not quite mid-season, but from California we’re off to Guymon (Okla.) with a couple months to prepare for the summer grind. The California run is a time to take a deep breath and enjoy. It’s kind of the calm before the summertime storm.