Mike Bacon grew up riding a horse. Competing in rodeos is just something his family does.
Bacon will be competing in the Region 8 All Indian Rodeo Sunday at Bryan County Fairgrounds located at 1901 South 9th Street in Durant, Oklahoma.
The All Indian Rodeo is a part of the Indian National Finals Rodeo Inc. which began in 1976 in Salt Lake City. Since then, the national rodeo has expanded to include almost 700 rodeos in the United States and Canada and awards more than $1 million in prize money to rodeo winners.
Bacon’s family has been competing in rodeos since the Indian National Finals Rodeo began.
“My whole family does rodeos,” he said. “My dad and my brother are the ones that really got me involved with it. I used to watch them do the roping and riding competitions. My family are all just cowboys.”
Bacon began competing when he was 10. He is 46 now.
“Cowboys are just horse riders that love the country life,” he said. “I used to just follow along. I never thought about me roping and riding in the future. It is just a part of who we are. I started riding my horse when I was just really young. Doing the rodeo was just a part of it. It just came along naturally after a while. I am just someone that has been riding my horse all my life. It’s a lifestyle for my family.”
Bacon grew up on 100 acres of land and all of it was dedicated to the horses.
“We did not really have a lot of animals on the land, and we really did not grow anything,” he said. “When we got a little older, my family got some cows. We did not have them when we were young though. We always had a few steers. I think my parents had us riding all the time to keep us out of town and to keep us from getting in trouble.”
All the time spent riding paid off when Bacon won his first saddle at 14. A saddle is a championship prize.
“I did open roping,” he said. “I just love doing it. I ride like 8 to 9 horses a day now, and I enjoy roping more than anything.”
Today, Bacon will be competing in the team roping competition, which he says is the most popular event at most rodeos.
“Whoever is the fastest wins and if you do it once and you are hooked,” he said.” Professional rodeo is probably the most interesting competition for me. I made the finals at one of those competitions one time. You can go the rodeos and still have a job. That is what is fun for me. I just get to go and compete on the weekends whenever I want to and you can make a good living doing it.”
The Indian National Finals Rodeo is touring rodeo. Contestants travel to attend rodeos. Some rodeo tours have more than 400 entries at one rodeo and prizes can be as much as $10,000 for winners.
“I go to the competition in Albuquerque, New Mexico,” he said. “This year will be my first time going to the one in Las Vegas.”
Bacon won the Regional 8 year-end championship, an award given to the rider who attends the most rodeos in his or her region and gets the most points at the rodeos.
“You get points by winning and attending rodeos,” he said. “I went to like all 10 rodeos the association had. I won like four, and I placed in all of them.”
When Bacon just started competing, there were only about 10 teams that attended each event.
“Now 36 years later, there are a lot more teams,” he said. “There are some really good ropers. A lot more people are spectators at the rodeo and there are a lot more contestants. The prizes at the rodeos have also changed. It’s gotten a lot better. But obviously, the more people that compete, the more money they can give for prizes.”
For someone who is just getting involved in rodeos, Bacon’s advice would be to get with someone that has been doing rodeos for a while.
“They can show you everything and give you a lot of knowledge about it,” he said. “They can give you tips. Also, it can be dangerous. I took off my thumb once. Just learn everything you can about it before you start.”
For rodeo spectators, there is nothing to know, just go, Bacon said.
“Watching rodeos is probably the best thing on earth for me,” he said. “A lot of people watch bull riding because it’s more dangerous, but that’s for people that are not really into riding. Team roping is really popular.”
Continuing the family legacy, Bacon’s daughter now competes in rodeos. She will be doing barrel racing at Sunday’s event.
“She is 8, and I am most excited about taking her to the All Indian Rodeo this weekend,” he said. “It will be her first time going. She has a little Shetland horses. When we are out all day, she just does her own thing. I love that I got to bring riding to her. She is a natural with it. She can control and walk and ride it. She is really good. We can spend 8 hours a day riding. She just loves it. She will ride for a while, tie her horse up and then pick it back up in a little while.”
Now that he has his own family, Bacon hopes that his daughter sees what he saw in the All Indian Rodeo.
“The Indian rodeo is a lot of fun,” he said. “I am glad to see that it is getting bigger and that it is still going. It’s a family event for me really. When I was younger, I thought that it was bad and stuff because so much of my family would be there. We would travel together and stay together. Looking back now, it’s the best because it’s all about family. It’s all about being together. Everyone competes. That is just how it is.”
Admission for the rodeo is free. Slack is at 10 a.m. Choctaw traditional dancing followed by grand entry will be held at 1:30 p.m. and the rodeo performance will be at 2 p.m. Sunday.
The rodeo divisions include, team roping for the senior group, junior team roping, bull riding of a bareback saddle bronco, senior breakaway, calf roping, steer wrestling, barrels, junior bull riding, junior breakaway, junior barrels, mutton busting, pewee barrels, and the kids calf scramble. Fees to enter each division range in price from $25 to $75 per person. Prizes range from $50 to $600 and a buckle.