Friday, June 22, 2007

Coleman wins top American cowboy title

As July 4th draws closer, there is more promotion everywhere for rodeos that are taking place here in the West, including the ones in St. Paul and Mollala, Ore.

Last year, organizers of the St. Paul Rodeo explained that July 4 is like Christmas for cowboys: there is a flurry of rodeos and some of the best cash prizes are offered. Cowboys will rush to as many of the rodeos as they can, often by private airplane if they can, to try to earn some of the prize money.

For rodeo lovers, it’s a real treat to see some of the best cowboys competing in small as well as large rodeos. It’s even better when some of their local heroes are taking part.

In Oregon, the Coleman family is among those who have been popular with crowds. In an interview at his ranch a year ago near Mollala, former rodeo champion Steve Coleman showed the rodeo arena he built for his kids to train for rodeo events. When they weren’t training, the arena was used to store bales for his hay business.

Two of Steve’s sons — Ross and Mitch Coleman — have shown themselves to be quite accomplished on the rodeo circuit, although neither of them competed in any events at St. Paul last year.

Steve was still very involved, serving as the chute boss. He decided which cowboy was ready to go out of the chutes, and in matters of seconds the cowboys were victorious or bit the dust of defeat.

Ross Coleman is usually is the center of attention for his success as a bullrider and also for his ATV commercials. In mid-June, an injury on his knee led to a staf infection that required some surgery, and he will need four to six weeks to recover.

Meanwhile, Christmas came early for Ross’ 21-year-old brother Mitch Coleman, who has gained more national recognition in the last few weeks.

Mitch was taking part in the CMT search for “America’s Top Cowboy” described as the “ultimate, great American cowboy.” Besides the title, the winner of the six contestants received $50,000.

The proud older brother Ross posted on his website the results: “Just wanted to announce that my younger brother, Mitch won America’s Next Top Cowboy! He was on a TV show on CMT and kicked their butt! He competed against 6 other cowboys and took the top prize of $50,000 dollars. We are all so proud of him and knew he could do it.”

CMT on its website introduced Mitch to an audience that might not have been familiar with him: “Mitch considers himself an “All Around Cowboy” who can ride bucking horses and bulls, rope calves, team rope, bulldog, win at the rodeo and come home to work on the ranch. He has won numerous All Around titles in Rodeos and Ranch Rodeos, and he competes in the PRCA and the PBR.”

The other five contestants were also played up for what they can do. Scott Whinfrey, from California, was described as the following on the website: “He can ride, rope, move cattle, doctor animals, make tack, cook, sleep on the ground, build and fix fences, pack horses, shoe, sing sad cowboys songs, play guitar, brand, castrate, butcher, and drive a truck; plus he can do it all in Spanish. He has ridden bulls in amateur rodeos in Oregon, Washington, Mexico, Chile, Argentina and Australia.”

Each one of the contestants was impressive in what they have accomplished in the past, as well as what they could do in the competition. To emerge as the winner, Mitch Coleman showed just how much he learned from his father and the local rodeos, and those hours of practice with his family and friends in the big arena on their ranch.

CMT’s list of contestants included:

Bradley Harter — Bronc Riding Champion from Weatherford, TX

Chad Klein — a third generation cowboy from Stephenville, TX

Jason Patrick — expert horse trainer from Steamboat Springs, CO.

Jason Vohs — champion “tie down” roper from Las Vegas, NV

Mitch Coleman — “All around Cowboy” for Oregon state from Molalla, OR

Scott Whinfrey — internationally competitive ranch cowboy from Silt, CO.

The competition included “livestock roundups, horseback shooting contests, bronc busting and a cowboy triathlon event,” and CMT described some of the challenges before it even started: “Some will be physically drained from the riding, roping and calf wrestling, while others will contend with stage fright during the local Honky Tonk talent show. Throughout each event, the guys will be evaluated on their sportsmanship, ability and overall passion for ranching.”

Even though the Colemans have shown themselves successful on the rodeo circuit, anyone who has met the Colemans can see and understand how deep that passion for ranching runs in several generations of the family.

It’s only fitting that it should be a Western cowboy that earned that top American cowboy title.

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