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Ag Expo - Rodeo thrills fans of all ages

August 02, 1998

Ag Expo RodeoBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer

photo: MIKE CRUPI / staff photographer

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Don Pendergrast knows there's only one way to learn how to stay on a bucking bronco.

"Just go out and get a holt of one," said Pendergrast, 28, of Stafford, Va. His 71-point ride astride M.C., (for Marine Corps) a sunfishing pinto who was doing his best to send Pendergrast air bound, netted him second prize money in bareback horse riding Saturday night at the championship rodeo during the first night of the week-long Washington County Ag Expo.

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The grandstand was filled with fans, as was the hillside on the other side of the rodeo arena, as cowboys and cowgirls showed their best in bareback, bronco and the dangerous bull riding events. There were other competitions, faster, but not as fraught with danger, like calf-roping, steer wrestling and girls' barrel racing.

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The crowd seemed happy with all of them.

"I like the bull riding best, but I'm afraid of the bulls," said Deanna Doyle who watched the rodeo from the hillside with her three daughters. They came last year, too, she said. "We had a blast," she said.

A trio of buddies - Sam Myerly, 14, Clayton Frey, 13, and Allen Hess, also 13, were on the hillside watching the action, at the time of the calf-roping event.

All three have 4-H dairy steers at the Expo. Myerly said he wouldn't mind if his calf was used for the calf-roping. "It would be OK. He wouldn't get hurt," he said.

No one was going to put Hess's calf in such jeopardy. "No. It's mean," he said. "He could get hurt."

Like most cowboys in the bucking events, Pendergrast is not yet 30. Few men past that age are supple enough to bear the pounding and bruising that trying to stay aboard 1,200- to 1,800 pounds of fury can do to a body.

Most walked away from their rides limping or holding various body parts. Several were bandaged up like prize fighters going into the ring. They all wore police-type bullet-proof vests for protection against hooves and horns.

Pendergrast was sporting a large bloody blister on the base of his thumb from hanging onto the loop that riders use to help them stay aboard. "There's about 700 pounds of pressure on that loop coming out of the chute," he said.

His second reward came in a huge hug from his wife, Leslie. "That's

my cowboy. That was a good ride," she said.

She said she has been following her husband's rodeo career for five years and isn't worried that he might get seriously hurt. "I've gotten used to it," she said.

Rodeo riding is a hobby for most riders like Pendergrast. His real job is a millwright in a Virginia steel plant.

Like most riders, he tries to compete two or three times every weekend.

The annual Washington County Ag Expo is being held all this week at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center off Sharpsburg Pike, 10 miles south of Hagerstown.

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