PENDLETON — Multi-event cowboys aren’t uncommon in rodeo. Winning an all-around title is almost impossible without winning a little money in two or three events, combining different skills to create the top overall contestant.
But rarely has one rider or roper combined events like Francis Marchand this did week at the Pendleton Round-Up. His performance from Thursday in likely the most dangerous event, bull riding, came right in the middle of several runs in the most unpredictable of events: the Indian relay races.
“This relay, it’s a team thing so it’s more of a rush,” he said. “You’ve got to worry about hurting your team if you run one of them over. You’ve got to worry about them if they’re doing their job. Everybody’s got a job.”
And each of Marchand’s teammates did their job well Friday. Marchand, the rider, completed three laps around the arena’s track, interchanging horses between each loop. None of his transition came with the excitement that many races experience — the type of chaos that another Omak team ran into in the same go. A second Colville team, whose rider was Marchand’s uncle, lost a horse on the track to ruin their chances of winning.
Riding in four such races — Marchand played jockey for two teams this year, racing each day — would be exhausting enough as it is but this rider added bulls to his slate. He completed an 80-point ride in Thursday’s roughstock event and was holding onto the last spot in the short-go when the day’s performance finished. But two 80-plus rides went on the board Friday, meaning Marchand will have one less ride to make this week.
He finished out of the money and the Top 12.
Marchand’s cowboy hat and boots were replaced by more traditional American Indian garb for the bareback races. He wore bright turquoise shorts and a matching decorative cloth draped around his shoulders.
Some riders, like Jared Cerino of the Shoshone Bannock tribe, went even more historical. The rider from Friday’s second consolation final rode his race with a head dress. Its white feathers were tipped with red, flowing behind the shirtless warrior.
“These races, it’s about pride mostly, for your tribe,” Cerino said. “It’s a rush, just running.”
The exhilaration takes over and the riders barely notice the thousands-strong audience cheering for them. Even later in the week, when the Round-Up Grounds swell to the brink with rodeo fans, Marchand said all he really hears is the whir of the air passing by his ears.
“You know it’s just like you’re hanging your head out your car trying to drive. You’re not going to hear anybody,” he said with a throaty chuckle.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839.