Dusty Moore is a 21st century cowboy.
It is a profession less common in 2019 than computer programer, school teacher or office worker.
Combining livestock care, rodeo roping and rodeo work, Moore blends everything a 21st century cowboy can do, often over one long day.
The sun is up when the cowboy feeds the stock, but it is past sundown when he ropes for money. Some days he gathers livestock on the north 40. Nights, he protects riders.
Part rodeo man, part rancher, all “cowboy,” the profession he would write down on a job survey. There aren’t many days, or hours of the day, when Moore isn’t attired in jeans, boots, and especially the iconic head gear that defines the West and is a symbol of both the past and a way of life.
Wearing a cowboy hat all the time tells the world who you are, and Moore had on a white one as he sat talking in the Stampede Park storage garage.
Moore, 26, from Douglas, has appeared in Cody at Cody Nite Rodeo, initially part-time, for seven years, gradually taking on more responsibility for its operations, beyond just competing, also as a trusted aide to Mo Betta Rodeo stock contractor Maury Tate.
“It’s hard to stay away from this,” Moore said.
Rodeo circuits give out All-Around Cowboy awards to top point-getters. Moore brings fresh definition to All-Around Cowboy at Cody Nite Rodeo.
“I like the cowboy lifestyle,” Moore said. “I’ve always tried to follow it. I don’t wear a cowboy hat for looks.”
Even if he would look out of place without one atop his head.
There is honor, but not much glory, in being a pick-up man in rodeo.
It is one of the most demanding jobs in the sport and the crowd doesn’t remember your name even if the announcer introduces you.
Moore, most often with long-time partner Daryl Lamb, another Cody Nite fixture as both roper and worker, chases down the bareback and saddle bronc horses and bulls on the loose after they have thrown riders or been ridden.
Pick-up men guide the galloping livestock back to the corrals, sometimes after helping riders dismount. The work requires horsemanship, handling with quick turns and acceleration much like driving a race car.
Pick-up men tend to ride larger horses than the competitive stock, horses so strong looking they appear to lift weights. The horses, like the men, work harder and longer than the buckers and on any night Moore might swap out horses for rest breaks two or three times.
Moore, and Lamb, originally from Australia but long living in the United States, together regularly make the difficult appear easy.
Not always, though. Frisky horses or haughty bulls sometimes enjoy the bright arena lights and trot around in circles – or charge the riders and bullfighters –showing off after they dump a cowboy.
Announcer Zane Parker might declare, “He’s taking a victory lap.” The pick-up men go in pursuit, trying to steer the animals back through a gate. Sometimes they resort to roping the rebellious livestock and dragging them out.
This mini-roundup requires skill, experience and smarts. If they have seen a horse (more so than a bull) before, the pick-up men factor in past performance.
“With bucking horses, you look at tendencies to determine where you’ll be positioned in the arena,” Moore said. “Whether they will go to the right, left, or straight, Daryl and I know where each of us is going to be.”
But tendency is not guarantee.
“It’s never the same,” Moore said. “It’s always going to be different. Horses, bulls – it’s an animal. They’ve all got their minds.”
Pick-up men are also subject to clown abuse. At Cody Nite Rodeo, the pick-up men wear matching shirts and get teased about that.
Recently, Parker and clowns Tate Rhoads or Edward Hordern nightly made fun of the pick-up man role.
After the clown said something on the order of, Who are these guys? Parker said “Pick-up men.” The clown said there were dropped ropes and trash lying around the arena and he hadn’t seen them pick up anything. Parker said, “They pick up cowboys.” To which the clown responded, “Hey, boys,” joking as if they might pick him up.
In reality, pick-up men are serious life savers for cowboys if their hands get caught in rigging and risk serious injury being dragged until freed.
Once in a while, pick-up men retaliate, perhaps looping a rope over the clown’s head. Recently, Moore gained a different sort of revenge with a prank. Hordern was the fall guy.
During one clown routine, Hordern guzzled from a Canadian Club whiskey bottle containing sweet tea – he thought. But Moore secretly switched out the liquid for real whiskey. When Hordern tilted back the bottle he began choking and coughing.
“He finally pulled one off,” Tate said, citing an apparent failed history of Moore prank attempts.
Moore’s behavior is usually more sober. Tate trusts him to sign for feed bills and supervise other hands.
Including Lamb and Wyatt Lehman as key long-time assistants, Tate said he could not make the rodeo happen for 90 straight nights without the trio. But when the boss left town for a day, it was Moore who served as arena manager for a rodeo.
It’s dirty job
Moore’s laundry bills must be enormous.
Between 7:30 and 8 a.m., seven days a week, he and other workers feed the livestock based at Stampede Park.
Every week or 10 days, Moore and partners rotate out some competition animals with some of the stock that otherwise pastures on the South Fork.
During the performances starting at 8 p.m. each night, Moore is a pick-up man, but frequently takes a few-minute break to enter tie-down roping and team-roping, often with Lamb.
Over the years, Moore has won numerous Cody monthly championship belt buckles in roping and all-around.
Long-time Cody Nite tie-down roper Coleman White said that as he has aged and Moore has matured, he has surpassed him.
“He has become a great little cowboy,” White said of Moore, who at football-sized 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds is anything but little. “We’ve had it out for years. The first four years he was here he couldn’t beat me. And now I can’t beat him.”
Lamb acknowledges Moore’s competitive nature.
“He wants to win,” Lamb said.
That’s the play part of their connection. They also share long hours of behind-the-scenes work from the feeding to other pick-up jobs in Texas when they run out of Cody rodeos come September.
“He’s just a good hand and he has a good attitude,” Lamb said. “He’s good to work with.”
Rodeo is sport, ranching is work, and Moore has pretty much been around both his whole life.
“I love it,” Moore said. “I’m not a lazy person. I can’t sit inside all day. I can probably count on one hand how many days a year I’m not on a horse.”
Moore was born in Virginia and as parents Doug and Myran moved, he has lived in Washington State, South Dakota, Arkansas, Wyoming and Oklahoma. In Cody, he stays in his own trailer – living quarters on the premises.
Doug usually makes a Cody visit each summer and they briefly rope together. Sister Kacie took up breakaway roping and barrel racing.
When Moore marries breakaway roper Bailee McNamara Sept. 21 – the couple met through rodeo friends – he will shift his winter quarters to Montrose, Colo., where she is from.
McNamara, 23, said that way she will have friends and family around when Moore is traveling. She is in her fourth season at Cody Nite Rodeo and said the couple barely has time together during the summer, an hour here or there per day.
Hearing Moore guess there are only five days a year he is not on horseback, she said that sounds about right. Maybe Christmas and New Year’s, she said, and then stopped listing other days. Moore’s favorite holiday is probably the end-of-July National Day of the Cowboy, anyway.
“He probably sleeps dreaming of riding a horse,” McNamara said.
One of those days off better be the wedding day, too. At a recent Cody Nite Rodeo, when it was McNamara’s turn to rope, announcer Parker offered the tease that she needed the money to pay for her honeymoon.
“It’s on Dusty,” she said of that bill.
Moore attended high school in Douglas and college at Panhandle State in Oklahoma where he was part of a national championship team as a steer wrestler.
He dabbled in bullfighting, almost accidentally, performing that bold public service in school practices.
“I opened my mouth one day,” Moore said, “I said, ‘It doesn’t look that hard.’ Except for the fact I was a lot better pick-up man than I was a bullfighter. I retired from my bullfighting career quickly.”
Moore learned nuances of pick-up work from Danny Etbauer, from an honored Oklahoma rodeo family, and came to Cody for the first time in 2013 at 19 as a fill-in pick-up man for Cody Nite Rodeo. His role has only increased since.
Moore practically travels with his own herd of powerful-looking horses, aged 5-15, that he begins training when they are 3-4.
The horses sharing the Cody load are Zorro, Bartender, Patron, Lefty, Tonto, Blazin and Yahtze.
“I bought that horse over the phone while I was playing Yahtze,” Moore said.
Is he any good at that sport?
“I can hold my own at Yahtze,” he said.
When he has time, Moore hunts elk, mountain lions, and goes bait and fly fishing. Naturally, he likes western movies, his favorites being “anything with John Wayne.”
Being a rodeo pick-up man is Moore’s career plan. Roping is an aside and he rarely enters anywhere but Cody anymore.
He may get paid for his responsibilities with horses, but Dusty Moore barely counts all of those activities as work. However it is phrased, he’s just a full-time cowboy.