Rustic Rodeo Roots

Mike Berg


By Erica Sinclair (Rodeo Club Secretary)


Lake Mehalic barrel races for the CSU Rodeo Club. (Courtesy of CSU Rodeo Club)

Every now and then, the speakers in the ole Cadillac shudder as the bass booms. A t-shirt and a muddy pair of pants is crumpled on the floorboard in the back, but a few freshly starched shirts and dark blue jean hang perfectly creased in the in the window. A grey felt hat sits on the dash and silver cross necklace swings from the rearview mirror. The archway to the arena comes into view, and the nerves start fluttering—just barely there. The engine cuts, and the music from the stereo gives way to the bustle of activity. When stepping out of the car, the smell is the first thing that hits. The smell of cattle and horses. The smell of dirt, and fresh air. The walk to the secretary’s office is stalled by greetings from everyone as if it’s been ages since the last conversation, even though it has really only been since last weekend. After settling entry fees, it’s time to knock the dust off the gear from the previous ride. The glove slides on. They’re comfortable and worn in all the right places. The rosin is gooey, with an unforgettable smell. The bulls stir in the back pen. The challenger and the challenged stare each other in the eye, and measure each other up like boxers often do. The challenger adjusts his rope, so it will fit when the time comes to go to war. Now the waiting game begins. Bull riding is the last event, so anticipation and adrenaline compounds until the chute gate opens. It feels like an eternity as the battle between man and beast continues until the whistle blows. The loud speaker booms with the score. It is a hard-fought battle won. The crowd stomps their feet and cheers prompting a mixture of pride, respect, and passion for the rider which replaces the hard fought adrenaline.

For Aukai Kaai, the journey to this point started when he was twelve years old. He’d watched his cousins live for the thrill of the battle, and decided it was his turn to experience the thrill. He has been hooked ever since. His career started in his home state of Hawaii, and now is continuing here at Colorado State University as a member of the Rodeo Club. Aukai tells those that are looking to step into the bull riding scene, “You’re going to fall a lot; but, the most important this is to keep on getting up and keep getting back on!” He is also the Bull Riding Director for the Central Rocky Mountain Region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association.

Cody Compton is another one of CSU Rodeo’s bull riders. He got his start in the rodeo world by riding sheep at the Circle C Days Rodeo in Cody, Nebraska. He progressed to steers and bulls as he through junior high and high school. His path led him to serve the United States of America for five years in the Marine Corp before reconnecting with the sport of rodeo. “Well, the rodeo team, to me, is almost like a family. We all have a way to connect with each other through rodeo, even if we come from different walks of life—which is awesome.”

The Colorado State University Rodeo Club is one of the oldest clubs on CSU’s campus. It has been hosting the Skyline Stampede since 1950; making it the oldest official college rodeo in the nation. Members of the club, like Aukai and Cody, compete in events at 10 different rodeos across Wyoming, Nebraska, and Colorado. In addition, they coordinate and produce the Skyline Stampede and are involved in several community outreach programs. Whether it’s the thrill of the ride or the comradery of the industry that draws you in, the Colorado State University Rodeo Club is proud to continue the tradition and heritage of the sport of rodeo.