Lifetime cowboy Bob Dean grooms the grounds for Delbert Days Rodeo/Grand Canyon Pro Rodeo to make it safe for the animals. The secret ingredient is water.
“Water is what makes the ground safe and good,” Dean said. “You don’t do it for the cowboys, they’re on their own. You do it so it is safe for all the animals.”
Dean, 77, of Williams, Ariz., began Tuesday prepping the rodeo ground’s two arenas at SARA Park for this weekend’s roping-and-riding performances.
His day starts on site with a cup of coffee just before sunrise. Dean said he is called many things in his work including grounds groomer, tractor man and “Dean of Dirt.”
The tractor man’s tasks include opening up the land in both arenas with rippers attached to his tractor gannon, deeply watering the ground, and then expertly maintaining optimum moisture levels during the days leading up to the event, and during it. Experience is the only thing that tells him when it’s ready, he said.
“I’ve been a cowboy all my life,” Dean said. “But, I’ve been working rodeo grounds for 25 years.”
In a day, Dean will work the arena’s grounds as many as four times. In the end, he will have administered as many as 15,000 gallons of water to obtain the safety levels he expects to provide for performances. And, he will have made countless laps over the earth ensuring it becomes ready and stays that way.
“I like making it safe for the barrel racers, too,” Dean said. “I love barrel racers.”
Dean has a wife, two daughters and a granddaughter who barrel race. He said the competition often can lead to slips or falls if the ground isn’t just right.
Dean also maintains grounds for rodeos in Williams, Kingman and Prescott. Seven times he has won awards for “Best Grounds” during Women’s Professional Rodeo Association events, he said.
In Havasu, he’s happy with the work so far.
“This is good dirt,” he said. “If you work it just right, it’s safe.”
Dean also is a poet. His work “Rodeo Info a lot of Folks Don’t Know” is featured on page 17 of the rodeo’s program.
The local rodeo event is in its 12th year. It is operated by Friends of the Fair. Throughout time, the rodeo ground organizers have hosted the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Turquoise Circuit Rodeo Finals, Senior Pro-Rodeo Association, and the Grand Canyon Rodeo Association. Twice the event experienced rainfall but it never stopped the rodeo.
The event begins with Delbert Days, which is 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Activities include fishing, mechanical bull riding, pony rides, petting zoo, bungee jumping, train rides, gold panning and King of the Hill. Sheep and calf riding for kids is 10 a.m. to noon. Pre-registration is required.
Grand Canyon Pro Rodeo is 1-4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Performances include bareback bronc riding, rodeo pageant queen, pick/up riders, rodeo clown act, bull riding, cowgirls’ barrel racing, bullfighters, team roping, calf roping, saddle bronc riding and steer wrestling.
Saturday only, from 4-7 p.m., is a free concert by Blue Country. Adult and child activities are scheduled to be in the main arena from 4-6 p.m.
All-day food and beer vendors will be on site Saturday and Sunday. And, a DJ will be playing music.
The event is at SARA Park rodeo grounds. Park for free. Tickets are $15 for adults. Youth 15 years old and younger are admitted free of charge. For more information, visit www.havasurodeo.com.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The horses photographed were of livestock contractor W/A Rodeo’s, which is owned by Buster Webb, of Bloomfield, N.M.