Abbyville — He has trucked his rodeo stock from coast to coast and shipped saddle horses and bucking bulls to nearly a dozen overseas ports.
But for Charles “Bronc” Rumford, 57, a Sept. 1 through Oct. 15, 2009, booking in Spain and Portugal stands as “a completely different deal.”
On this trip, he’s packing an entire rodeo: 56 horses, 20 Brahma bulls, 25 steers and 25 roping calves. He’s even bringing 52 performers and the full arena.
The soft-spoken, second-generation rodeo stockman wears a gentle smile and loves the rodeo game. Family lore has him up on a horse when he was nine days old and then riding Sonny, his first bucking horse, at age 3.
His dad, the late rodeo man Floyd Rumford, billed him as the world’s youngest bronc rider, which gave him the nickname.
What rodeo crowds then didn’t know was that a fishing line hooked to Sonny’s flank allowed Floyd to control how high Sonny jumped.
But moving an entire rodeo to another continent includes a different set of challenges.
“You can’t just put a bucking horse on an airplane, tell him his seat is E4 and to go sit down,” Rumford joked.
He’ll truck the livestock to Chicago, where they’ll be impounded, inspected and crated. In Spain, they’ll stage back-to-back rodeos in 10 cities before moving on for two stops in Portugal, for a total of 24 performances.
He’s putting together a cast of “good” animals, but not his “A” team.
“It’s like starting a ball club,” Rumford said. “You have your stars and the utility players.”
Recently, with help from Justin Williams of Hutchinson and Erin Cota of Nickerson, Rumford helped prepare one of the horses — Alley Cat — for the trip.
Sometimes those horses get mixed up on what job they’re doing, Rumford said.
Eight to 10 cowboys will ride bulls and horses, along with wrestling steers and roping calves in each performance. Cowgirls will run barrels and rope.
Mike Greenleaf, 35, of Greensburg, who runs Medicine River Rodeo and stocks amateur rodeos on his own, previously worked for Bronc. He’s signed on to take a few horses and ride in the performances.
Because Spanish bullfights aim at killing the bull, Rumford expects Sam Gress, a Hutchinson world-class bullfighter, rodeo clown and pickup man, to be a star of the show.
“Sam is so good at fighting bulls and his footwork is phenomenal,” Rumford said. “He does a lot of things the matadors in Spain do, minus the tarps and spears. When Spain sees an American-style bullfight, they’re going to like him.”
Rumford hopes to have all the livestock and contracts for personnel who will make the trip by the first of July. His contract calls for leaving all the animals and equipment in Spain to be sold to promoters.
While bullfighting in Spain has been going on for a long time, the traditional American-type rodeo is fairly new. Europeans have seen it on the Internet and television but not in person, Rumford said.
For Javier Merino, a promoter of the event, and the other sponsors, the ultimate long-range goal is to host the first Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association-approved rodeo away from the North American continent.
“This is a kind of warm-up for that tour two years from now,” Rumford said.