The Reno Rodeo 100 is a multimedia storytelling series commemorating the event’s 100th anniversary. This excerpt brings us attendees Harrie and Karl Baker, who describe how rodeo rides on, even when storms roll in. In this story, an undeterred barrel racer had to overcome not just heavy rains, but a surprise visit from a drunk spectator.
Harrie and Karl Baker were in the bucking shoots, when their gaze was pulled toward the West. They saw huge, bubbling black clouds that threatened a growing thunderstorm just over Peavine Mountain. The ominous clouds came closer and closer to the Reno Livestock Center, and within an hour, they were dumping what added up to a foot of water on the rodeo grounds. The grandstands emptied as people fled the scene, but the athletes remained.
“Within an hour, it dumped a foot of water in the rodeo grounds. Everybody just left," Karl Baker said. "The saddle bronc was coming up, and they were saddling those horses, and they rode them out in the damn mud and the water. It was a lake!”
The storm pounded on. At the height of which, the women’s barrel racing was set to begin and didn’t look to be halted due to weather. As the first contender prepped in the chutes, a drunk man - one of the only spectators left at the scene - emerged from under the stands.
“They had the barrels out there, and I’m watching this and I’m going, ‘Oh, dear!' So, this poor gal is on her horse down at the gate," Harrie Baker said. "This guy is weaving right through the center of the pattern. And you couldn’t see more than a foot in front of you because of the rain!”
Just as the female racer was making it to barrel one, it was clear that the racer could not see the man and the man couldn’t see her as she was running her horse full force. Harrie Baker thought there would certainly be a collision.
“God was with us, because he just would by go by and she ran the [barrel racing] pattern, she missed him, and he went on and made it to the other side and she did her pattern.”
That year, the rodeo went on, rain or shine, and the Bakers left with a lasting memory.
The Reno Rodeo 100 project is a community partnership with several funders including the Reno Rodeo Association and their charitable foundation. Its content is produced by Jessi LeMay. To see KUNR's coverage of the 2019 Reno Rodeo, visit Spurs and Mud: A Century of Rodeo.