The black Nike sneakers supporting 34-year-old Deonce Whitaker molded a peculiar trail of alien impressions onto the Oakdale Saddle Club Rodeo sod as the Riverbank resident strode toward a line of nervous and jittery greenhorns.
“Oh I got this,” Whitaker muttered under his breath.
The show of confidence wasn’t missed by Oakdale Rodeo Media Director Kevin Fox, who responded with a quick laugh as Whitaker appeared poised to become the next casualty of the comedic event known only as The Businessman’s Calf Tie.
But Whitaker wasn’t laughing.
The Central Catholic High football coach sprang toward an unwitting calf, wrenched it skyward with a powerful hoist, and then tied off three legs to beat the clock and claim the alluring Businessman’s Calf Tie Buckle.
“When I saw him flank that calf, I had to ask (fellow Saddle Club member) Dan Cummins if he coached that guy,” Fox admitted. “Since professionals make it look easy, the (greenhorns) always think they got it in the bag.
“But (Whitaker) came with his ‘A’ game.”
Riverbank’s buckle champion is a Southern California native who married Oakdale High graduate and local dentist, Mary Tourtlotte (the sister of former Oakdale Rodeo Queens, Sabrina and Christina Tourtlotte).
Whitaker didn’t receive any special training for his Calf Tie showdown, but said some online research did assist his performance.
“I watched how it was done on YouTube,” Whitaker admitted with a laugh. “It was still much more difficult than I imagined, but I was able to get it done.
“The cowboys sure make it look easy.”
Whitaker was a momentary attraction during two days of action at the 62nd Annual Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association bonanza. He stuck around to watch the thrills alongside over 5,000 of a projected record crowd as participants of the varying events eclipsed landmark totals with exhilarating performances.
When the last chunk of earth finally settled back to the arena floor, New Mexico’s Jim Ross Cooper emerged as the lone cash-winner in multiple events to seal the honor as the 2013 All-Around Champion. He joined a host of buckle-winners that included Oakdale’s Norm Mendenhall, a team roping champion alongside Allen Pruitt. Local cowboys Joe Murry (Oakdale) and Frank Perry claimed top honor in the 50-and-over Gold Card team roping event as well.
Luke Branquinho of Las Alamos took top honor in steer wrestling while Tuff Cooper snared tie-down prestige. Other winners included Jesse Wright (saddle bronc), Coleman Proctor and Caleb Twisslermann (team roping), Tiffany Schuster (barrel racing), Seth Hardwick (bareback riding) and Brennon Eldred (bull riding).
The Rodeo was projected to award a record purse, with record attendance and one of the deepest pools of participants in its illustrious history.
“I like to sling the term ‘world class’ around when I am describing the Oakdale Rodeo, but this truly was the best of the best,” Fox said. “Everybody brought their game and it could not have been better.
“It was nonstop action.”