I'm not even sure where to start with all these CFD stories so I'm just going to jump in randomly—two months full of rodeo-related activities are pretty much jumbled randomly on my mental timeline of events anyway...
Maddie experienced some great good fortune during July because of Matt's last minute addition to the CFD General Committee in May: she got the opportunity to be a "toe" during the rodeo. When the Parades chairman hinted at the possibility (a job for kids around 8-16) at the annual Contestants BBQ, Maddie immediately was on board—operate the gates for calf and steer events? YES PLEASE. Sometimes there is no question this child was born in Wyoming.
Toes are specific to Cheyenne Frontier Days. While gates must be operated at all rodeos, the nickname "toe" developed here about 40 (?) years ago or so when the grownups running the show decided enough was enough trying to figure out what to do with their kids during the rodeo—why not put them to work just like all the other volunteers? There were already "heels" (an elite group of volunteers honored for their commitment to keeping CFD alive) so the term "toe" was born. It's a surefire way to instill a love of rodeo and volunteerism in kids: when the Contestants chairman (the contestants committee is in charge of all the rodeo competitors and arena) was five years old, he was a toe, too.
They started her out with slack, which is the free morning competition open to all contestants. I stuck around that first day for a while; this is Maddie's slightly nervous "oh my gosh" smile I caught post-orientation. The task: each kid operating a gate has to get the next calf enclosed in the chute alone. Sounds easy, but once in a while the calves get stubborn and don't want to move, or try to jump a little onto the rail, or occasionally SNEEZE IN YOUR FACE. (True story: on the fourth or fifth day Maddie worked, she got sneezed on full-on by a sweet little calf. Calf spit and snot everywhere. YUCK!)
When the calves or steers get stubborn, you have to hiss "choo! choo! choo!" at them or take your hat off and tap them on the behind. With steers, you occasionally have to grab hold of a tail and turn it a little. Maddie was not afraid to do this. Intriguing.
After lunch came the steers. CFD boasts the biggest steers in all of rodeo; approximately twice as heavy as the calves, weighing in around 600 pounds. Also, here's something the steer do more of: kick. Try standing with your back to a door that is ajar and then kicking back with your right foot as hard as you can to slam it, then imagine you are 600 pounds doing the same thing. The easy job of closing the gates properly suddenly takes on a little more urgency, because one swift kick to a gate that isn't closed all the way can cause the gate to fly open, smacking a toe in the head or body and allowing the grumpy steer to join the steer behind him, or worse yet, run back to the main pen in complete chaos. It is crucial that they remain in order; each contestant draws a specific steer by number, and when they get messed up the whole competition screeches to a halt while it's fixed. I saw this happen once when a toe wasn't paying complete attention and it was a mess.
Each steer that passes through the chutes and gates eventually has the opportunity to make a run for it while a cowboy jumps off his horse at top speed to wrestle him to the ground. Maddie got invited back after that first day and worked every day except for Saturday, when she chose to hang out with the Karahalises for a full day. We didn't stick around with her after that first day, knowing that she was in good hands with Dan (the toe coordinator), Liberty, and Jubilee (the super-sweet older cowgirls who were the assistants in charge). She absolutely loved everything about it, and we rewarded her hard work with a 116th CFD belt buckle to exchange with the generic one that came with her belt (belt buckles are a big deal at CFD).