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Farmyard transformed into rodeo in Verndale

Family, friends and neighbors rounded up their horses for a backyard rodeo at Jim and Vickie Thompson's Rocking Diamond Cattle Ranch in rural Verndale on Saturday. Young and adult horse riders competed in an obstacle course, barrel racing, pole bending, as well as team cattle branding and sorting.

The friendly competition began as an annual tradition four years ago. Jim and Vickie said the idea for the rodeo began with some conversations with neighbors who had participated in similar events when they lived in Montana. The couple describes the event as wholesome fun for the kids.

"We really like seeing the young kids involved because it is such good, wholesome fun," Vickie said. "The kids that are involved are just such good, wholesome kids."

The rodeo started out with around 12 riders the first year and has grown to include nearly 35 horses and riders, Jim said. They held the rodeo in the yard until they built the arena three years ago.

"It just got bigger and bigger every year," Jim said.

The next step is to install lights in the arena so they can hold events at night, he said. They would like to do more with the cattle, but the day just runs short.

"We were sorting cattle in the dark ... we couldn't see the numbers," he said about Saturday's rodeo.

A bonfire followed the rodeo and people stayed until 2 a.m., Vickie said.

"No one wanted to leave," she said. "It was so much fun."

It takes two to three weeks to get everything set up for the competition, Jim said.

"It's a whole neighborhood effort," Vickie said. "A lot of the neighbors come over and help us set it all up. They do a lot."

Jim said everyone is welcome to come and watch the rodeo without charge.

"It's just a fun, friendly day for kids and adults to bring their horses and have fun," he said.

Before their backyard rodeo days, the Thompsons spent more than 20 years in the gas station business in Wadena until the mid-90s. They moved to the farm in 1992.

Jim grew up riding horses in Nebraska, but abandoned the saddle until recently, he said.

"I rode horses when I was a kid, but I don't think I touched a horse for 25 years, probably closer to 30 years," Jim said. "Then about five years ago I started riding again."

At the same time Vickie learned to ride, she said. She has progressively gotten better and enjoys riding with the neighbor ladies.

Both Jim and Vickie enjoy herding their cattle from one pasture to the next, they said. They have learned a lot about riding horses over the last five years and have enjoyed sharing their love of horses and cattle with family and friends through the rodeo. The Thompsons plan on continuing their annual fall rodeo during the first weekend of October and Vickie said she hopes it continues to expand.

"I think I'd like it to grow bigger," she said. "I'd like to have more people [from] the community."