Though it’s slightly embarrassing to admit, my trip to the Lazy HK Bar Ranch in Silver Creek Saturday was my first rodeo — literally.
The arena in East Lewis County has been putting on events since 1969, including a decadeslong monthly winter series. In that time, the joint has built a “work hard, play hard” reputation. Crowd members, riders and bulls alike are exuberant and tough.
Arriving at the Silver Creek arena — which is in a backyard down a long gravel driveway — felt like stepping out of the governed world. The first person I saw was carrying an open bottle of Jack Daniels. Anywhere else, he’d be brazen; here, he was just a typical attendee.
“It’s kinda like a party with bull riding attached,” said timekeeper Brandy Jacobs, who has helped out at Lazy HK for over 20 years.
Chronicle photographer Jared Wenzelburger and I squeezed our way through the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd until reaching a patch of dirt adjacent to the fence where we sat with small children on one side and life-threateningly large, angry bulls on the other.
We watched as 18 riders, divided into steer, novice and open categories, took on the bulls. All 18 riders were bucked off before reaching the 8-second mark.
“In the five years that I've been here, that has not happened, ever,” said the announcer at the end of the night.
Rider Marc Dorendorf came the closest to qualifying, hanging on for about 7 seconds. The prize for the night’s best rider is typically a rifle.
Ours was not the safest seat in the house, but it was a great view. After one bull kicked up enough dirt in our faces to satisfy an adult’s daily recommended iron intake, we decided to move.
In line for the portable, we spoke with a gentleman from Castle Rock.
He spoke of a recent injury that has prevented him from continuing his hobby of riding bucking horses. The injury hasn’t obscured his romance for the sport.
“If I could do it full time, I would,” he said.
We then climbed up to the timekeeper’s box, which is a makeshift plywood loft jutting out above the arena near the bull chutes. Jacobs and “sound guy” Jack Crenshaw kindly welcomed us and let us hang out there for the remainder of the show.
Between Jacobs, Crenshaw and Jared, all my burning questions were answered, such as: “What is that belt around the bull?” (a “flank,” which makes the bulls buck), “Why don’t they all wear helmets?” (this question simply earned a shrug), “Who are those guys?” (rodeo clowns) and “What do the dogs do?” (herd the bull back in the chute and distract him from the fallen rider).
Jacobs and her miniature Australian shepherd, Barbie, entertained us as we observed bull-after-bull from above and Crenshaw explained the legacy of the Lazy HK Bar Ranch. Named after founder Harlan Knowles, the ranch’s stock of 50 to 60 bulls are raised for the job. Knowles once told The Chronicle they are “some of the best bulls in the world.”
According to Crenshaw, there are about 10 guys who’ve ridden bulls from Silver Creek to Vegas (metaphorically).
“There’s been world champions that came out of here. This is where they get their start,” Crenshaw said. “Who knows where these kids are going to be in 15 years?”
My overall takeaway: my first rodeo won’t be my last.
For upcoming events, follow @lazyhkbar on Facebook or visit https://www.lazyhkbar.com/.