The sun hasn’t crested the horizon yet, but boots are already kicking up dust around the horse stalls.
Clark County Rodeo Bible Camp participants hoist hay-filled wheelbarrows and haul hoses to replenish water before most folks have even hit the alarm clock snooze button.
“We get up, we feed them twice a day, in the morning and at night. We have to clean their stalls, we put them out to pasture,” camper Hana Wyles, 14, of Battle Ground says of horse duty. “It’s definitely a big part of your life and … that’s just the way you live.”
However, not all the campers are early risers. Camp founder Larry Cutler, bullhorn in hand, knows just how to wake them up. Cutler steps to an opening in the large canvas tent and pops a couple of short siren bursts.
“OK, get up! You got about three minutes to get up or the food’s going away,” he says.
The threat of missing breakfast is enough to get the teens to their feet.
The camp, which was started four years ago by retired rodeo veteran Cutler of Scio, Ore., and his friend Joe Thompson of Camas, has grown from about 10 teens to 103. It’s basically a Bible camp; rodeo is the draw, Cutler says.
“If we get 100 kids here, I found that maybe, just maybe, one or two will go on to become professional cowboys. But I guarantee you all 100 of them will meet God someday.”
The nondenominational camp has the backing of Clark County’s Cowboy Church, which was founded by Cutler and Thompson.
Cutler and his team handpick rodeo professionals as team leaders. They instruct the kids, who choose one of several rodeo events: barrel racing, bull riding, saddle bronc riding, bareback bronc riding, shoot dogging, team roping, goat tying, break-away roping, pole bending, calf roping and horsemanship.
Campers pay $100 for the five-day August camp, but the fee is waived for families in financial need. Organizers depend on the community for support, including the use of the Vancouver Saddle Club 10505 N.E. 117th Ave., at no charge. The teens, three-quarters of whom are typically girls ages 13 to 19, sign up to participate in the camp. They have varying degrees of rodeo experience, and some have never been on a horse.