By Carolyn Lee
The Imperial Republican
“This is the summer of our lives. We’ve really lived it up.” That’s how Lana Stromberger described the feelings of 4 Random Hands, which ranks 10th in the world in the Woman’s Ranch Rodeo Association (WRRA).
The team consists of four women with local ties who have known each other either since high school or through their husbands.
Stromberger, 30, grew up as an Armstrong in Wray, Colo. She is married to Brock Stromberger of Champion.
She and Jessica (Clark) Skomp, 30, of Lamar, married to Chance, were fair queens and went to high school and college together, then married men in the same area.
Dusty Henry, 32, of Wray went to high school with them.
Dakota (Staub) Greeley of Thedford married former Imperial resident Chance Greeley last weekend, who is friends with Brock and Chance. The 26-year old grew up in Johnstown.
Together the four women will attend the WRRA finals in Loveland, Colo. Oct 17-18, to compete for the world title.
They will be one of 18 teams competing, coming from Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Texas and other states.
Stromberger said 4 Random Hands was sitting seventh in the world after four rodeos this summer, but missed two—Greeley was getting married during one—so slipped in points to 10th place.
“We wanted to get that girl married,” Stromberger laughed.
First place going into the finals is Ranchin’ Rebels of Crawford. Stromberger said they are “way ahead” in points, so present a challenge.
In the WRRA, teams of four women travel to rodeos and accumulate points counting for year-end awards and qualifying for finals. A team also has to win a rodeo to qualify.
4 Random Hands qualified in Grand Island Aug. 30-31 by taking second place. The team that placed first had already qualified for finals.
4 Random Hands also finished second in Gillette, Wyo. and competed in Crawford and Hyannis.
The women heard through mutual friends about the WRRA and thought it would be fun to try together. All four woman grew up with or are now involved in ranching.
This is Stromberger’s and Greeley’s second year competing, as they were on other teams last year.
The teams compete in five timed events. In doctoring, the four rope the head and heel of a steer with a no loop limit, and mark it between the eyes with chalk.
In mugging, they rope the steer’s head and the heel if they want, wrestle or mug it down, tie the three legs together and take the ropes off.
In trailering, the four sort out a designated animal, guide it across a line and drive it into a trailer with an end panel, shut the gate, load the horses and run across a line.
Sorting involves the four riding across a line, receiving three consecutive numbers and sorting the calves in that order, with daylight showing between the animals as they cross the line.
Branding involves a roper bringing two calves across a line with the two wrestlers and the woman holding the iron ready to “brand” them.
Skomp and Greeley favor the sorting, Henry enjoys the mugging and Stromberger likes the branding, she said.
Her father was a brand inspector for 30 years, so she grew up being invited to about 20 brandings every year. “To this day the reason I breathe and live is for branding in the springtime,” Stromberger stated. “I enjoy that more than anything.”
Most of the women competing in WRRA “come off the ranches and do this every day” she said of the tasks the teams must complete. “These are women who love to do this and it’s so neat we live this lifestyle.”
However, some women hold other than ranch jobs. WWRA teams are “The best women out there.”
Let’s not forget the horses. Each woman must ride just one horse in the rodeo, unless there’s an injury.
“We couldn’t be doing what we do without the horses,” Stromberger stated. “The talent of those horses. They give us their hearts. They give us all they’ve got.”
Skomp rides a red roan mare, Reba, who is a great cutting horse, according to Stromberger. Greeley rides either a blue roan gelding or a brown gelding, both of which can do anything.
Henry rides a bay mare with a lot of speed, very versatile, while Stromberger rides 11-year old Sue, a Colonel Freckles-bred sorrel mare with speed and great for heading.
The women practice at Stromberger’s, with Greeley participating when she can. “We’re lucky that Jessica, Dusty and I live close.”
Competing in WRRA is “an adrenaline rush for sure and you feed off that,” Stromberger declared. It involves a lot of talent and a lot of memory.
“Not only sitting on a horse and roping but cueing the horse on where to go as well. It’s multi-tasking.”
4 Random Hands are sponsored by a number of local businesses, including Pinnacle Bank, Centennial Ag/Kelly Clevenger, Superior Livestock/Jerry Armstrong, Schmidt Motors, 2BZ Imprints, U4 Cattle & Leather, Haynes Cattle Company, Pivot Electric, Henry Millwright & Fabrications, Joe’s Liquor Mart, Box Elder Ranch, Burlington Livestock Exchange, Crab Cattle Company and New Frontier Ag.
What happens after the WRRA finals next month? Skomp will become a nurse practitioner next spring, while Greeley just got married. “Maybe we’ll get it together next year. We don’t know now,” Stromberger said.
“It’s been the summer of our lives.”