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Strong-Willed Women Get It Done


August 13, 2020

Northern Rodeo Association Breakaway Roping Paves the Way

Breakaway Roping has exploded on the rodeo scene! Rodeo committees and rodeo associations everywhere are offering it for the ladies, the money to be won is unheard of, the entries are in the hundreds, and the fans are loving it.

With that in mind, the lady ropers today should be aware of how the lady ropers of yesterday persuaded the Northern Rodeo Association to help pave the way.

In 1975, some strong-willed women who wanted to breakaway rope, cornered a hard-headed stock contractor (Dale Small) and a traditional-oriented NRA rodeo board dominated by alpha men to offer breakaway roping at the prestigious Billings Fair.

These determined women faced some difficult board members (Bob Schall, Phil Luman, Glen Hough, Ed Miller, and others). These women promised those “traditionalists” if breakaway roping was added that whatever cattle were available, they would be happy to rope.

Cinde Barthelmess convincingly said, “We will rope the bull dogging steers or the roping calves. We will not complain.”

Barb Rostad added, “We will rope whatever the contractors run in the chute.”

The board did not forget those words; the NRA breakaway ropers roped everything from horned cattle to calf roping calves to muley yearling cattle!

Joey Waples Mothershead remembers that at an NRA board meeting in Lewistown, MT, Bill Parker, a calf roper stood up and stated, “Those girls are not roping my calves!” He was unhappy and he was certain that the girls might chase a calf around the arena and ruin a good calf.

But finally, it was the money that opened the door for breakaway roping. The stock charge looked like positive income for the stock contractors. The NRA agreed to add breakaway roping to the rodeo program.

The Billings Fair was the largest paying rodeo in the state. Dale Small had the stock contract and he finally agreed that he would include breakaway, but not in the regular rodeo in front of the crowds in the Metra. The first-ever NRA sanctioned breakaway roping was at the Sheriff’s Posse arena at the Billings Fairgrounds, and he didn’t use worn-out team roping steers—he had fresh muley Longhorn yearlings!

Montana breakaway ropers were excited! Even though it started as an optional event, the ropers got their foot in the door! The first event had no added money and it was a two-header.

Gradually all NRA committees added breakaway and a while later it became a standard event.  In a few years and with even more controversy, the NRA set the standard high by instigating the bell neck catch, which made it a more professional event.

These determined women had a plan, but never in their wildest dreams could they realize how breakaway roping would explode in popularity almost 50 years later. They can be compared to great women in human history—just because they had a passion to rope a calf.

Sue Golliher of Spearfish, SD won the SDRA (South Dakota Rodeo Association) All-Around in 1976. Jerry Golliher, her husband, reported, “Sue was the first woman to win the All-Around in the SDRA because they had just started to offer goat tying for the women.” The SDRA added breakaway roping a few years after that.

Here lies the argument, “Who has the oldest rodeo?” Prescott? “Which rodeo association sanctioned the first breakaway roping?” How many other associations in the U.S. sanctioned breakaway roping before 1975?

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