Great State: Ranch Rodeo Practice is Everyday Work for These Cowboys Near Velma, OK

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VELMA, OKLAHOMA -- It's August in Southwest Oklahoma. If you're going to move cattle most good ranch hands know to do the job before the sun climbs too high.

"We're working cattle on horses all the time out here," says cowboy Zac Pogue.

Pogue is part of a ranch family that stretches back more than a hundred years around what is now Sugarloaf Ranch.

Just about every day, Zac, his uncles, cousins, and even a nephew move cattle to eat the grass on a thousand acres north of Velma.

"I'm 30 years old and this is where I've been my whole life," he says.

You wouldn't know by looking but Zac and family are also practicing for a rodeo.

For the past 30 years ranching families have gathered in one place to compete in a sport that comes quite naturally.

A ranch guest relates their job to another profession. "I guess if you're a pearl diver you'd be a pretty good swimmer," he remarks.

"Yes sir," chuckles Zac. "The skills translate very well."

A ranch operation like Pogue's grows grass. In the simplest terms, they sell that grass as beef.

Loyd Ely remembers informal ranch rodeos from the 1930's and 1940's.

Even those early, local contests were off-shoots of range contests that still take place among cowboys who don't have enough to do.

"Oh yeah," smiles Loyd. "There's still some of that goes on. We don't do it on a daily basis around here but you'll have a 'my horse can out run yours' type thing just in a fun way."

The annual Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association Range Round-up consists of 12 teams from 16 different ranches in the state.

They're all practiced up and ready to compete at the kind of thing they already do every day.

The only difference might be some pocket prize money, bragging rights, and a cheering audience instead of a solitary, rising sun.

This is the 30th year for the Cattlemen's Association Range Round-up.

The event will take place Friday and Saturday, August 22 and 23, at the Jim Norick Arena on the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds.

Oklahoma Ford dealers sponsor the rodeo.

The Children's Miracle Network receives a portion of the gate.

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