HENDERSON COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) – Pretty much all of us have been to a rodeo. But have you ever given much thought about what the competitors are riding on?
We’re not talking about the animals, we’re talking about the dirt. It has to be the right consistency. East Texas News dug up the dirt on arena dirt.
Henderson County Fairpark Complex Manager Howard Calloway and Kolby Sims, one of his employees, know dirt.
“We water it, and we turn it over, and we’ll leave it open and let the air and enzymes get to it. Try to keep it from getting packed,” Calloway said.
Right now, his arena is in the watering phase, and Calloway said it isn’t always prepared the same.
“Some of them are roping where they like the ground a little tighter,” Calloway explained. “Some of them are barrel racing and speed events and stuff like that, and they want it a little more fluffy, and it’s got to hold them when they go into it. We try to keep our dirt as good as we can,” Calloway said.
Calloway said riders want it perfect and if the dirt man “is not doing what he’s supposed to then it’s always his fault.”
The dirt isn’t just dirt.
“It’s a mixture of clay, silt, and sand. And this dirt’s been in here for a while. And, of course, from time to time we’ll test it,” Calloway said.
He said they’re picky about their dirt and like the perfect amount of dirty.
“Eighty-five, ninety percent of the time in these arenas is a lot of the dirt work,” Calloway said.
Sims does his fair share of it using specially made plows to get an even consistency.
Sims said it is all about “how far you put it into the ground, how deep you need to go. Just little things like that. How much weight will make a difference.”
“Has this always been your dream to dig around in the dirt?” I asked Sims.
“No, not really,” he said with a smile.
But he said he was born on March 27, the week of the county livestock show. Talk about being born into it. He doesn’t ride competitively, but he won a lot of buckles showing livestock.
“Coming back here where I have all these memories, and I have all these memories of some of my friends that aren’t here with us anymore,” Sims said. “I can look back and I can see them in my mind and know that they would be proud of me being here and working.”
As far as getting the dirt just right, “Things like that don’t come in a book. You have to just know and play with it every day and spend a lot of time with it,” Calloway said.
He said the arena dirt was put down new in 1982. so I guess a lot of us really are as old as dirt.
Sims isn’t the only one who has memories in that arena. Back in the early eighties, when Calloway was in school, he won grand champion with a heifer.
KLTV’s Jamey Boyum talked with Howard Calloway, the manager of the Henderson County Fairpark Complex, about upcoming events at the facility.
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