Oklahoma ranch teams compete and raise funds for Children’s Hospital Foundation
Coronavirus ain’t got nuthin’ on a wild cow that’s got to be milked.
It also couldn’t stand in the way of an annual event sponsored by the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association held earlier this month to raise money for the Children’s Hospital Foundation in Oklahoma City.
The association’s 36th-annual Ranch Rodeo brought together a dozen teams of cowboys representing ranches from across the state in a Working Cowboys Ranch Association-sanctioned event.
During the event, the teams competed for bragging rights in competitions that included broncho breaking and cattle-handling skills that covered penning, doctoring, branding and wild cow milking.
Wild cow milking?
It happens on a ranch more often than a non-rancher might expect, explained Dayton McPhail, a member of the team representing McPhail Land & Cattle, of Mountain Park.
“When you might have a situation where a cow has calved and the calf isn’t being nursed, you have to get it milk. So, you have to catch her and get her milked.”
McPhail’s team, selected as the all-around winner in this year’s competition, will go on to compete for bragging rights in a global competition later this year.
But the biggest winners of every year’s competition, he added, are the Children’s Hospital Foundation in Oklahoma City, The Children’s Hospital at OU Medicine, and the youngsters the hospital and its doctors and nurses care for.
As part of the event, those kids are given a chance to interact with horses and to practice their cattle roping skills.
“I just think it is awesome,” McPhail said, noting this is the sixth year his ranch has fielded a team for the competition. “There is no more humbling experience than what you can do to help them — just to see them not have to worry about being sick is overwhelming.
“And the money the ranch rodeo raises couldn’t go to nothing better.”
Over the past dozen years, the event has used revenue from ticket sales, entry and sponsorship fees and donations to raise more than $531,000 for the foundation.
The foundation, officials say, funds pediatric research, education and clinical care programs, ultimately supporting Children’s Hospital in serving every county in Oklahoma.
All funds raised through the foundation stay in Oklahoma, giving the state’s children improved access to exceptional pediatric specialists in critical care such as emergency medicine, infectious disease, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and child abuse and neglect.
As for those kids? They are tough, too.
Kacy Hurley, of Meeker, attended this year’s event with family members who included her 9-year-old daughter, Mattie.
Mattie, she said, suffers from a congenital diaphragmatic hernia (a condition where a patient’s lungs don’t normally develop).
This year’s event, the sixth they have attended, was one Mattie had no intentions of skipping, Hurley said.
When told they might not go, Mattie said, “No, Momma. If there is any event we have to go to, we have to go to this one because those are our friends and they help us and will do everything they can to keep us safe.
“Plus, they need to remember we still need their help, that we still need to see our doctors and can’t wait for COVID-19 to be over.”
Mattie, Hurley added, also had developed a special friendship with Halle Drummond, the daughter of one of the ranchers who regularly competes in the competition.
“Mattie loves it that she has her own cowgirl she can see every year,” Hurley said.
Hurley said her family also greatly appreciates the support the cattlemen’s association, sponsors and spectators provide to the foundation.
“Because of all the research the doctors have been able to do with the support of the Children’s Hospital Foundation, Mattie is beating the odds,” Hurley said. “Initially, they told us she likely wouldn’t survive until she was 2 years old. When she did, we were told she wouldn’t make it past 5, but here we are.”
Every day is a blessing, she observed.
“We never take one second for granted.”
Plus, it gives the family a break from the daily grind of life.
“It goes without saying that the work the cowboys put into the event for the kids is invaluable,” Hurley said. “It is a time where the kids can go do something without worrying about being sick or that there is something going on where they can’t participate. The cowboys always make sure there is something there that they can do.
“The special connection that the cowboys make with the kids, you can tell it is not just an event or charity to them. They really take it to heart.”
Besides McPhail Land & Cattle, other competing teams this year included ones representing Alfalfa County Land and Cattle, the Gray G Bar Ranch, Buford Ranches, Stuart Ranch, Drummond Land & Cattle Co., Hall Ranch and the Daube Cattle Co.
Teams representing Treadwell Land & Cattle, the Chain Ranch, the Lazy Rafter Slash Ranch, the Trentman Ranch, Stierwalt Ranch & Cattle Co., and the Whitmire Ranch also took part.
McPhail’s 10,000-acre ranch southwest of Lawton grows wheat and provides grasslands for cow-calf operations. It typically has between 600 and 700 mother cows and between 1,500 and 2,000 yearlings grazing its land.
McPhail team members this year included himself, his twin 14-year-old sons, Dagan and Dane (their first ranch rodeo as team members) and Darren and Miles Baker, a father and son who have a neighboring ranch. The two families routinely help the other with their operations, McPhail said, adding that the event also provided a pleasant change of pace for the participants.
“It is a relief to go and take your mind off your everyday things,” he said.
McPhail also thanked the involved sponsors, including the presenting sponsor, Oklahoma Ford Dealers.
“Something like this wouldn’t be possible without their support.”
This year’s take for the foundation is still being computed, but volunteers collected $9,500 in cash donations over the two days that are headed that way.
“I just think that was awesome, especially because attendance had to be limited,” he said.