OAKDALE — Horton Alexander “Cotton” Rosser reaches down from his saddle and, with his thumbless right hand, shakes the hand of a friend.
Rosser, 85, has slowed down in recent years, but keeping him off his horse is a non-starter. “Could be doing better,” he mused, “but you can’t be too choosy.”
When the patriarch of the Marysville-based Flying U Rodeo Company needs a hand, he gets it from a small army of family surrounding him. Flying U has supplied the stock for the Oakdale Saddle Club Rodeo for 25 years, and Rosser’s name has been a part of the event since, well, nearly its inception.
Consider: Rosser was the Oakdale rodeo’s top all-around cowboy. The year? 1954.
“Placed in bronc riding and steer wrestling,” he recalled.
Sunday’s closing performance at Oakdale was kicked off by Rosser doffing his hat to the crowd as announcer Jody Carper introduced “the king of the cowboys.” Rosser, a member of the PRCA Hall of Fame, heads the oldest continuous stock contracting firm in existence.
He probably would not mind if you called him one of Oakdale’s adopted sons. He served on the original board of directors of the California Team Roping Association, which was formed in Oakdale in 1956 and still presents the Oakdale 10 Steer, a team roping competition each summer.
Simply, the Cowboy Capital of the World’s favorite event wouldn’t be the same without him.
“Oakdale is a cowboy’s rodeo,” Rosser said.
The cowboys wrapped up the 63rd renewal of the rodeo, conducted under sunny skies while a breeze from the northwest kicked up some dust.
Pennsylvania cowboy Dustin Bowen, 22, supplied the day’s biggest news by sweeping to the bull riding title. His 84-point trip on Holy Slinger edged runner-up Clayton Brum of Lockeford – he made his pro rodeo debut on Saturday – and Oakdale’s own Bo Bacigalupi in third.
Bowen, sidelined the last few weeks due to illness and an injury, had his hip stepped on during an unsuccessful ride Friday at Logandale, Nev. Fortunately for him, his draw in Oakdale provided the best cure.
“I’d heard that guys had won on that horse here before,” Bowen said. “He was an old campaigner. I couldn’t have asked for more.”
Adding his name to the Bowman Trophy, which honors the rodeo’s top all-around cowboy, was Dakota Eldridge of Elko, Nev. The strapping 6-foot-2 220-pound Eldridge, a steer wrestler and roper who enjoyed a bountiful Wrangler National Finals Rodeo last December, cashed in both tie-down and bulldogging.
Eldridge’s work in Oakdale was done before lunch on Saturday. Also wrapping up early was 19-time world champion Trevor Brazile, who overcame two no-money rides in team roping and still walked to the bank. He claimed the aggregate in tie-down roping with his 17.8 over two go-rounds.
Tim O’Connell (bareback) and two-time world champion Taos Muncy (saddle bronc) both earned gold buckles when their Saturday scores held up for the win. It was Muncy’s second Oakdale title.
Barrel racer Rachel Primm of Washoe Valley, Nev., raced to a 17.58 on Thursday and was not overtaken. Former world champion Brittany Pozzi challenged her on Sunday but missed by two hundredths of a second in the event’s final ride.
Rhett Kennedy of Chowchilla annexed the steer wrestling aggregate on the strength of his 4.7 run on Saturday. The team roping champions were Texas products Tyler Waters and Richard Durham.
Notes – An estimated 11,000 attended the weekend performances. ...Russell Cardoza, raised in Escalon, entered three events and was a contender for the all-around.