Mutton busting helper weary

Register City Editor

Register/Bob Johnson
Matt McClain gives Karter Miller a helping hand during mutton busting at the Allen County Fair Monday evening. Young Miller was one of nearly 70 kids, boys and girls, who took turns riding the galloping sheep.

Matt McClain slept well last night.
McClain spent more than an hour darting about the Lyle Dreher Roughriders Arena in Riverside Park Monday evening, making sure kids participating in Allen County Fair’s mutton busting event had a good ride and didn’t fall into harm’s way.
A few took tumbles. Almost to a one, being tough young cowboys and cowgirls, they jumped to their feet and scrambled back to anxious parents, none the worse for the wear.
Mutton busting is about riding a sheep with nothing but a couple of handfuls of wool for reins. Success was measured not in how long the ride but whether boy or girl had a good time.
That’s where McClain, from Republic, Neb., came in. He ran along side each rider, often sprinting, to help and encourage. A couple of times riders went nearly to the middle of the arena. That left McClain, no stranger to the exercise, winded now and again, but it took him only a few seconds to catch his breath and, fortified by a swig of cold water, again was in position to help the kids.
After two bluebird days, featuring cool-for-August temperatures and welcome breezes, Monday’s weather indicated the of summer had arrived in Iola. The heat complicated McClain’s task. Temperatures in the 90s and high humidity turned beads of perspiration into small rivers and tore at his athletic body.
Linda Garrett, announcing the event, occasionally chided McClain to give him a little more time to rest between rides.
The mutton busting drew the largest number of participants ever, Garrett said, at nearly 70. A handful begged off after confronting sheep face-to-face, but most were up to the challenge and entertained a nice-sized crowd.
McClain, comfortable in his role as entertainer as well as wrangler, was conscious of parents and relatives and often asked spectators to recognize kids before they rode or after a particularly good session.
The Allen County Fair continues today with the annual rodeo occupying the arena tonight and Wednesday night.