With more than three decades in the sport of rodeo, Mitch Walz isn’t sure he could quit it for good even if he wanted to.
And, though his role in the arena is different than it once was, it’s one that came in handy earlier this year.
Walz was in the spotlight briefly in October during the Colorado Professional Rodeo Association finals in Montrose when competitor Keenan Wahlert of La Junta had a near-fatal encounter during the team roping.
A social media video by 9 Lazy 3 Knives and Leather showed that Wahlert slipped off his horse during the run, which quickly got worse as his foot got stuck in his stirrup, resulting in him being dragged by his animal before the pick-up crew — including Walz — intervened.
“He got dragged about two-thirds around the arena,” Walz said.
Wahlert escaped with minor injuries, something with which Walz could emphasize.
Walz, 42, said he first began in rodeo at the age of 8.
“My parents were both big in rodeo, and they got me started in it,” he said. “All the roping and bucking events. I was born into it, and I’ve done it all my life.”
While he competed in the full gamut of riding and roping events in his younger days, eventually he had to mostly call it a day for that part of his life, noting that for almost any competitor, staying healthy is a regular battle.
Still, he was hardly out of it altogether, and he has worked as a pick-up man since at sites around the state, including the Colorado State High School Rodeo Association state finals this May.
“It’s all over Colorado and Wyoming,” he said.
Though he’s been back in the other action here and there the vantage point of being on horseback from the edge of the arena works well for him as he strives to keep other cowboys and cowgirls from harm should something go awry.
“My knees are bad, so I’m kind of out of it for saddle bronc and stuff like that, but pick-up kind of fills that void,” he said. “It’s still enjoyable for me just to be part of it.”
In the cooler months, the lifelong cowboy works with Scott Brennise as a hunting guide on property south of Hayden.
“It pays the bills,” he chuckled. “I guide, and I shoe horses all summer long. I’ve been working with Scott for about 20 years. There’s been so many trips over the years, it’s all been a blur.”
Though he’s frequently out in the field, he noted he’s rarely been the hunter in most situations.
“I’m still out there, I’m just usually with people,” he said. “I’m just not the one pulling the trigger.”
Between archery and rifle seasons, Walz said he favors the former mostly because it’s earlier in the calendar.
However, one of the main draws for him regardless of what type of hunting is done is the wildlife that’s involved.
“Just the time of year when the elk are bugling, it’s a lot of fun,” he said.