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Local cowboy shines at Fair
Blake Hirdes fights nerves, becomes a rodeo crowd-pleaser
It only took Turlock native Blake Hirdes just 8.8 seconds to finish his turn in the calf roping competition at the annual CCPRA showcase at the Stanislaus County Fair on Thursday evening. His time was enough for second place. - photo by CHHUN SUN / The Journal
It was an unfamiliar feeling in a familiar setting.
Blake Hirdes couldn’t hide from the pressure of his surroundings Thursday night, as he was about to get on his horse, Whiskey, and try to rope an animal that had no desire in getting caught. He was about to attempt this in front of his home crowd at the FoodMaxx Arena, with thousands of people watching and his parents and one of his brothers in the stands — all hoping for a good outcome.
Just moments earlier, one cowboy completely missed in the calf roping competition.
Of course, Hirdes was nervous.
It mattered little that he is a California Cowboys Professional Rodeo Association rider who grew up on a Turlock dairy farm all his life and watched his siblings compete in rodeo competitions all across the state. In fact, the 22-year-old has been a professional for four years, enough time to build immunity to nerves, right?
This was all a part of the CCPRA annual showcase at the Stanislaus County Fair.
“There were all kinds of nerves tonight,” he said. “It was all over my body. People were jacking me up all day.”
But those nerves never really surfaced. Hirdes was more than a hometown favorite Thursday night, as he roped the runaway calf from his horse in one graceful motion and tied it up in 8.8 seconds, the second fastest time of the evening that earned him $575.70 in rewards.
Mike George of Oakdale was 0.4 seconds quicker.
Hirdes said he was surprised by his performance. But for anyone who is familiar with rodeo in the Turlock area knows that the rider comes from a famous rodeo family. The public-address announcer even said so to the audience.
When Hirdes was done roping, it seemed like everyone in the arena knew his name. They shouted out admiration as he left and eventually got off his horse, one that he has had for nearly four years.
His friends in the backstage area congratulated him, with one saying that he was jealous of Hirdes’ time and offered to switch. Mike Wooten couldn’t help but envy Hirdes’ performance.
And Wooten was one of the calf roping challengers.
“He’s a smart roper,” Wooten said.
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.