Women Inmates Prepare For Debut At Prison Rodeo

Sunday, July 30th 2006, 5:56 pm
By: News On 6

McALESTER, Okla. (AP) _ The woman stood beside a tree, pressing on her lower jaw until it popped. Unmindful of the heat or the flies that buzzed or landed on her arm, which was turning purple where a fresh bruise was overlaying the yellow of an old one, or of the thin layer of skin that had peeled away when a metal cable had caught her, she watched her companions.

Her dark eyes took in her 12 teammates. Some were over by the bucking barrel, a 50-gallon drum suspended from four cables that were pulled to simulate the bucking movement of an animal. Some were helping another rider to prepare for the barrel, adjusting her helmet and spurs, while one sat on a different barrel, this one suspended by two cables that allowed it to easily slip side to side. A few rested on the back of a truck and watched the others.

``I'm in it to win,'' said one of those resting. ``That's all there is to it. I'm in it to win.''

Sherrea Emrich wasn't alone in that feeling. Each of the 13 women on the Lady Warriors rodeo team feels the same.

The women from Eddie Warrior Correctional Center will be competing in the 66th annual Oklahoma State Prison Rodeo in McAlester on Aug. 18 and 19. It's the first time in recent memory that female inmates will be competing, but they won't be competing in events that are traditionally considered events for females or children.

Instead, they'll be going head to head against their male counterparts in rough stock and special events: bull riding, bronc riding, the wild horse race, bull poker, double mugging and money the hard way.

``I think it's neat to be part of the first Eddie Warrior team,'' said Rhonda Buffalo, one of three alternates on the team.

Alternates are ready to fill in at a moment's notice if a fellow team member is unable to compete due to an injury or a bad case of nerves. ``We've got to be ready for anything,'' Buffalo said. The competition itself, she added, ``shows we can go out of our element and do something. That's important.''

Some of the women have never been around live animals any larger than a dog. Others have, but not in the way they soon will.

``We had some horses growing up, so I rode all the time,'' said Tina Chinchilla. ``I've never been around rodeos though.''

``I've got no experience, but my family's been in it,'' said team member Kendra Priest, walking over from testing her balance on the two-cable barrel. ``My father was a bull rider and rodeo clown, my uncle competed. I want to see what I can do.''

``I've rodeod since I was able to walk,'' said Cydney Morriss. ``I did barrel racing, breakaway roping, pole bending, those kinds of things.'' But she's never done the types of events in which she'll be competing next month. Morriss will be among a select group who'll try to still, saddle and ride a wild horse or pull down and tie a fully grown steer.

Elizabeth Bramwell roped calves and steers when she was younger ``But this is a new deal. If I wasn't locked up in here I wouldn't be doing this stuff.''

One hundred eighty women initially tried out for the team. Those that remain ``Ain't playing around,'' said team captain Monte Baker. ``We never culled anyone after the first couple of days. They just quit.

``These girls won't quit.''