March 22, 2019
Wild Wagon Weekend
By Tommy Brannon; photos by Tommy & Nancy Brannon
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Four days and nights of old west style entertainment took place at the Marshall County Fairgrounds and Arena in Holly Springs, Mississippi on July 5-8 2018. Organized by Brad Hart of Hart Productions, the event consisted of trail riding, chuck wagon races, bull riding, ranch rodeo, pasture roping, team roping, team sorting, a scavenger hunt, arena and pasture barrel racing, mutton busting, cowboy mounted shooting, ranch rodeo, as well as live music with the Buddy Owens Band and The Jason Miller Band.
Spectators and competitors came from throughout the mid-south: Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, and South Carolina.
Many activities took place out in the large open field, others in the indoor and outdoor arenas. Large round hay bales were used for demarcation on the race course as well as orange plastic construction barrels. Quite a number of competitors and spectators camped out on the grounds for the whole weekend.
Friday’s activities began at noon with a Trail Ride Scavenger Hunt, followed by Cowboy Mounted Shooting and Pasture Barrels. At 4 p.m. Pasture Roping began in the big outdoor field. This is a lot more difficult than team roping in an arena, and more authentic to ranching in the old west. Working cowboys in the old west had to rope and brand cattle out in the open. The cows at this event did their best to outsmart the cowboys; they avoided capture by ducking into woods and around campsites; several would have made it to the highway if it weren’t for the high chain link perimeter fence.
At 6 p.m., Friday night’s activities moved to the indoor arena for two sets of bull riding and barrel racing. Preceding the bull riding, the young ones got their chance to ride a sheep in Mutton Busting. In the Calf Scramble, the youngsters (ages 8-14) were turned loose in the arena, minus one shoe, to try to take the ribbons off the tails of two calves. Then at 7 p.m. was the first round of the bull riding. Justin Dickerson and PRCA sound man Randy “Stretch” Mayer bantered back and forth, along with Bull Fighter Jake “The Turtle” England.
Winner of Friday night’s bull riding was Rooster McKeenaw with an 80-point ride. Kay Boatner had the best time in barrel racing Friday night with 15.582. At 9 p.m. everyone exited to the outside stage to listen to the Buddy Owens concert.
Saturday morning’s events started at 10 a.m. with barrel racing, followed by the 2-year-old bucking futurity. The main attraction, however, were the Chuckwagon Races, starting at 1 p.m. in the big front field.
The event’s name, Wild Wagon Weekend, was a good description of the Chuckwagon races in the large open field. There were several categories of Chuckwagon races: Landrush, 52” Mules, 52” and 46” Ponies, Youth Mule and Youth Pony, 4Up Mules, Big Mules, Classic and Buckboard.
There was a lot of excitement, enhanced by whooping and yelling, bell ringing, sirens blaring, and even firecrackers from the racers. Unlike the Chuckwagons of old, these wagons were quite small, with small steel wheels and hard rubber tires of lawnmower size. This gives the wagon a lower center of gravity and, thus, is harder to turn over in a sharp turn. Teams’ names such as Seriously Stupid, Born 2 Boogie, Freaks on a Leash, and Injury List, were blazoned on the wagon covers. Spectators watched from three sides of the field, as well as the center of the course. Tailgating in the bed of a pickup gave a good vantage point, but there was little protection for spectators or for racers from collisions. One wagon collided into one of the hay bales on the outside turn, causing the drivers to take a side trip to the hospital to be checked out. They returned later for more action.
The mother of one of the junior drivers explained how the races are conducted. “The idea is to copy what the cowboys did on the trail in the old west, with some added competition. The wagons are pulled by a team of two with a driver and a cook in each wagon. There are race categories for large ponies, small ponies, large and small mules, and full size horses. There are races for juniors and adults, buckboard and classic wagons. The race team consists of the wagon and an outrider racing on horseback. The wagons line up for a pistol start with the outriders dismounted. The outrider has to load the moving wagon with a cook stove and a bedroll and then jump onto his horse to gallop at full speed. Somewhere on the course the outrider has to pass the team wagon and must cross the finish line ahead of the wagon.”
The challenge for the outrider is to mount a moving horse who has already anticipated the start of the race, and maintain control to beat the other team. Several outriders had runaway situations with horses running past the announcer’s stand, food venders, and campers. One rider came off and her horse ran past the stables. A tragic situation happened when two outriders were racing neck and neck and one hit the chain link perimeter fence, injuring the rider and breaking the horse’s left hind leg.
Later on Saturday afternoon, Cowboy mounted shooting took place in the outside arena. Following at 6 p.m. was the Ranch Rodeo with four events: calf branding, team sorting, steer tie-down roping, and trailer loading. The Jason Miller Band concert started at 9 p.m.
Sunday morning began with Cowboy Church and the competition began at 10 a.m. with Jackpot Team Roping. The weekend’s competitions finished with more Chuckwagon Races, continuing all afternoon.
Brad Hart says he plans to have a second Wild Wagon Weekend again next year at the Marshall County Fairgrounds. Find more about the Wild Wagon Weekend on facebook.
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