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406 Rodeo focused on the future of rodeo

by BERL TISKUS
Reporter | July 4, 2024 12:00 AM

It was supper time for the 406 Rodeo bucking bulls, horses and ponies at the Polson rodeo grounds. Spotted, black, grey, bay and brown animals all stared at a big bale of hay on the other side of the fence, drawn as if to a tasty green magnet. Joe DeMers cut the strings on the bale and started pitching hay over the fence to the first pen of bulls. 

406 Rodeo calls itself a company focused on the future of rodeo, and it’s true. Joe and Lacie DeMers not only cater to adult riders, they also supply stock for Junior Rodeo Association kids and Junior Rough Stock competitors. 

Last weekend in Polson, they catered strictly to the younger riders while Big Circle Rodeo supplied broncs and bulls for the Northern Rodeo Association-sanctioned Mission Mountain Rodeo. 

On 406 stock, kids first straddle bucking ponies, then graduate to smaller horses, and finally to full-sized equines. The same applies to bulls; young hands ride smaller, gentler bulls, and then move up the nastiness scale.

 They work through small steps, Lacie DeMers said, like learning when they’re set and ready to nod for the gate, remembering to hold their free hand up (if they’re riding broncs) and keeping track of their gear. 

Formerly of Philipsburg, the DeMers’ moved to Wickenburg, Ariz., but brought their stock up for last weekend’s rodeo in Polson and will stay in Montana for a month or so.

 It’s a 20-hour trip. Coming out of the Arizona heat, the DeMers’ stop about halfway through, unload the stock, let them all eat and drink, and then load up and hit the trail again. Lacie said it was 109 degrees in Wickenburg when they left.

She pointed to a smaller black bull with short horns and 406 brand on his left hip and said they call him Granny’s List, and that he’s been on the Professional Bull Riders circuit.

“He looks like he’s nice, but he’s not really nice,” she said, noting that some bulls just touch people’s hearts. “Granny’s List is probably gonna be the crowd favorite.”

As for what young cowboy will be a crowd favorite, Lacie wasn’t sure, but she explained how the divisions work. Competitors ages 10-11, 12-13, 14-15 and 16-18 compete to get a chance to go on to the Junior World Finals in Las Vegas. Youngsters age 9 and under can qualify for the Junior Rough Stock Finals in Wickenburg in September. 

 “The association is not just age, but it’s also weight-based so if a kid exceeds a certain weight, out of safety for the animal, they have to ride up an age group,” Lacie added.

“We could have taken 100 entries (for the Mission Mountain NRA Rodeo),” Lacie told David Graham, Polson Fairgrounds, Inc. vice president. “That’s cool that there’s that much interest in rodeo here.”

But nobody has got enough stock to give all these youngsters an opportunity to get qualified for national competition, she added.

“It’s a big deal,” Lacie said. “They can go on to get scholarships, etc.”

Although she hadn’t seen all the day sheets, Lacie thought there were at least 10 cowboys that “eight years ago were here riding the ponies and the mini bulls.” Among those, she listed Caden and Grey Fitzpatrick, J.R. Harrel, Devyn Hundley and Leighton LaFrambois. 

“They all literally rode a pony in this arena,” she said. “It’s kinda neat – they get to bust out of chutes tomorrow.”     

406 Rodeo provides good training stock for future rodeo hands. From Boulder and Clancy, Joe was a bareback bronc rider a few years back. Lacie’s grandmother was a Carpenter so they both know rodeo and how to keep rodeo sprouts growing.

    Lacie DeMers of 406 Rodeo gets broncs and bulls for the junior rodeo settled in at the Polson fairgrounds last week. (Berl Tiskus/Leader)
 
 
    Old Crow and his companions get ready for the junior rodeo last week at the Polson Fairgrounds. The horses were among the stock provided by 406 Rodeo, which specializes in supplying stock for younger cowboys and cowgirls. (Berl Tiskus/Leader)