The whir of a nylon rope cuts through the crisp morning air and calves bawl from the pen behind the grandstands.
During the Reno Rodeo's nine days, the steady drone of technology is muffled by hooves beating to the rhythm of time standing still.
As Northern Nevada follows the national trend of becoming increasingly more urbanized, rodeo serves as a reminder of the way things used to be.
"We live in a society that moves so fast," said Wayne Brooks, commentator of the Reno Rodeo for 12 years, and 17-year veteran of the sport. "I think people in general want to slow down. The cowboy way of life is a throwback to a more simple time."
Reno Rodeo organizers are launching a survey this year to try to determine who attends the rodeo and why. Ten kiosks have been set up at the Reno Livestock Events Center with a series of questions, and about 400 responses have been collected each night.
"Reno is unique in that there is a strong Western audience, and they're showing up in droves to the rodeo," said Steve Schroeder, communications director for the event. "However, about 50 percent of them are saying they've never been to a rodeo before."
The specific results of the survey won't be available until next week, but one thing is clear: The sport is growing.
"We've seen attendance grow every year, and the prize money, and the number of rodeos," Brooks said.
Last year, the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association paid out $35.6 million, its highest ever. There were 1,940 PRCA rodeos, just shy of the 2,000 performances held in the late 1980s, when rodeo was at its height in popularity.
"Like everything, it works in cycles," Brooks said. "We're starting back up the hill."
And rural Nevada serves as a fertile breeding ground for rodeo competitors.
Growing up on a ranch in Orvada, north of Winnemucca, it never occurred to Shane Anderson that he would be anything other than a cowboy.
He can't remember the first time he rode a horse, but he was about 15 when he rode his first bronc.
"I just got on one on the ranch," he said. "I guess I was a little scared, but there was just a rush."
He rode in his first rodeo in high school, and was hooked.
"I seen all the girls that were there, and, hell, I kinda liked it."
At 24, he is a professional bareback rider, with his latest stop the Reno Rodeo. He doesn't see rodeo ever dying out.
"Boy, I hope it doesn't," he said. "It's good fun and good watchin'."
Paul Jones, 27, of Elko, has been riding bareback broncs since high school, and understands why crowds show up.
"It's kind of a part of a lot of people," he said. "They might have grown up in a small town or their grandfather was a cowboy. Or even city folk, they watch and maybe are amazed by it."
He knows his career must end someday.
"It's not a bad way to make a livin' if you can. I'll probably go five more years," he said. "Then I'll go to work on the ranch where I live and maybe someday try to get a place of my own."
But he plans to pass on the tradition to his 2-year-old son, Blaze.
"He likes to get on horses, sheep, whatever. I actually just bought him his own horse this week," he said.
Clayton Moore, 4, is also gearing up join the next generation of rodeo cowboys.
During Wednesday's slack performance where his dad, Wes, a three-time national championship qualifier, competed in team roping, Wes coiled his blue rope and tossed out the loop, catching the chair in front of him.
"Since he was about 2, he's been swinging a rope," said his mom, Leslie, of Oakdale, Calif. "He wants to be like daddy."
• Contact reporter Teri Vance at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1272.
If you go
WHAT: 2006 Reno Rodeo
WHERE: Reno Livestock Events Center
WHEN: Performances begin at 7 p.m. today-Saturday
On the Net
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