A steady rain fell and the temperature started its descent as activities got going Tuesday night at the Douglas County Free Fair, but that didn't bother team penning competitor Charles Edwards of Topeka.
Like the classic cowboy, Edwards thinks more about the comfort of his horse than his own.
The rain, he said, ``makes it cool for the horses.''
As he spoke, a team of three horses and riders were darting to and fro in the arena working to ``cut out'' three numbered calves of a herd of 24. The goal is to extract three specific calves and push them into the pen at the other end of the arena as fast as possible while preventing the other cattle from wandering halfway across the arena.
``You got to have a good horse -- one that likes to work cattle -- and a little luck,'' Edwards said.
Last night's event featured ``fresh cattle,'' which means they had never been in a penning contest. And with such cattle you can't stop them, you can only hope to contain them.
Lori Calderwood, Hoyt, said she found the calves to be lively and unpredictable, and it was smarter to coax conservatively in order to compensate if they made a surprising move.
``These cattle being kinda spooky, you don't want to bust them too hard,'' she said.
The fresh cattle pose a challenge because those used to penning ``just get used to going into the pen,'' said Tony Edwards, 13. He had competed before but was sitting last night's out for lack of a horse or the money to buy one.
``They're fresh cattle, which is good,'' Calderwood said. ``You don't want them to be too (comfortable with the horses).''
As far as strategy, that's about all these cowhands will admit to.
``There's some strategy,'' said Scott Scasto, Topeka. ``It just depends on who you talk to. Everybody does it different.''
Edwards has been involved in team penning five years.
Although teams of three -- there were 59 last night -- came from as far as Missouri and from all over Kansas, the winners were from Lawrence -- Melinda Harrel, Kelly Howell and Jamie Keppel.
The winners received about $65 apiece and scored some points to push them closer to the Kansas State Penning Assn. finals, Oct. 9-10 in Topeka.