Friday, November 13, 2009

The Rodeo Queen

Another one of the stories that has stuck with me over the years. Amy was a great interview subject. My only problems with this story have to do with wishing I was a better writer at the time. Take the lede, for example, show don't tell. Also, it's not on the website, but the production manager, Scott Lakey, whipped up a recipe card for "queen hair" that is hilarious.

Published Feb. 20, 2004.

Amy Stephens has a rapier wit.

That trait that likely caught the attention of the judges who named her the Molalla Buckaroo Rodeo Queen back in October.

The coronation was held last month at St. James Parish Hall in Molalla.

"When the judges had us all line up in front of the audience and announced the first runner-up and then the princess, I seriously thought I was out of the running. When they announced me as the 2004 queen I was shocked. I don't think I could ever repeat the face I made at that moment," said Stephens.

Stephens, a senior at McNary High School, was up against four other young talents that long day in October when the girls tried out to become the rodeo queen.

"I had tried out for other courts in St. Paul and Canby, but I was just having a really good day," Stephens said.

Stephens, 18, had to complete several trials before being crowned queen. Her crown is a custom-made large buckle that fits around her cowboy hat.

The first competition of the day tested her horsemanship.

Stephens had to complete a reining pattern, which demonstrated her control over her horse, Oakie, a 14-year-old quarterhorse.

Then came an arena run, in which the rider races around the arena while waving and smiling.

"You elbow, elbow, wrist, wrist," said Stephens with a smile.

The last horsemanship competition was a flag run in which the rider races into the arena and grabs a flag from a barrel and takes it to another barrel on the opposite end of the arena where she picks up the second flag and takes it back to the first barrel.

"The object is simply doing it as quick as possible," said Stephens.

The next stage was the individual interview. The girls answered questions from a panel of six judges on topics from horses to specifics about the Molalla Rodeo, such as its announcer and top cowboys.

"It really wasn't very intimidating," she said. "They were all friendly. I felt very confident after the interview because I had spent many hours studying and got most of the questions correct."

The final test was to give a speech, answer a question that is drawn from a hat after just 30 seconds to prepare, and then draw another piece of paper with one word written on it and blurt out the first word to come to mind.

"The question shows you ability to think quickly on a serious subject. The single word lets you show your wit and sense of humor," Stephens said.

Now she represents the Molalla Buckaroo Rodeo at events across Oregon, spreading the good word about rodeo in general and the Molalla Rodeo in particular.

Stephens, daughter of Larry and Debbie Stephens, lives between Brooks and Mt. Angel with her parents and younger sister, Katy.

Stephens said that she spent about three hours prepping her hair and make-up for the event, but that the "big hair and make-up isn't a normal thing for me."

Now she even has her own recipe for "queen hair" that involves an entire can of Aqua Net.

"When I'm not out 'queening' at a rodeo event, I'm just the same old cowgirl," she insists. "Out in the barn covered in hay and other unmentionables. I did start wearing more Western clothing but that's just so I can show off my belt buckle."

The Molalla Buckaroo Association covers all her expenses for travel and clothing related to the rodeo.

The Molalla crown was definitely a surprise for Stephens.

"I never envisioned myself a rodeo queen, but I had some friends who kept saying I'd be perfect," she said.

Stephens is a late-bloomer by rodeo standards. She didn't get into rodeo until the sixth grade.

She learned to ride on Mack, a paint and her favorite horse.

"He's my buddy, but he does get jealous. He knew I'd been riding Oakie for a while and when I took him out, he bucked me off," Stephens said.

Now she co-captains the McNary equestrian team.

"My favorite event is team penning," said Stephens.

In team penning, calves are placed in the arena and numbered 1 through 9 with three of each number. Someone calls out a number and it is the team's job to corral all the calves with the corresponding number.

After high school, Stephens plans to attend Chemeketa Community College and then transfer to a four-year university to study business administration.

She would like to run a small ranch or farm at her family home with the usual animals "and a ferret."

"We already have several horses. We keep getting them and they keep having babies that are too cute to give away," she said.

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