Living the cowboy life

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Kittredge’s Zilla Lapp hauls hay by day, rides rodeos by weekend

By Michael Hicks

Make no bones about it, Zilla Lapp is a big man. His girth is what initially drove the burly cowboy into the sport of rodeo in the first place. He was told that he was too big to ride. So Lapp set out to prove his critics wrong.
“My grandpa’s grandpa used to do it. I’m trying to keep the dream alive,” Lapp said. “Cowboys are a dying breed.”
The son of dairy hands, Lapp, 37, began riding bulls while attending Capital High School in Olympia, Wash. Nowadays, too old to get on them, Lapp elects to ride broncs instead, like he did June 17 at the 46th annual Evergreen Rodeo at the El Pinal Rodeo Grounds.
Lapp moved to Kittredge, where he hauls hay by day for Canyon Tack & Feed and rides in rodeos on weekends, three years ago after previously living in the Bay Area of California.
“I used to rodeo just about every weekend. I came out here and I could figure out it’s a little cheaper to rodeo out here,” Lapp said.
He’s ridden in the Evergreen Rodeo ever since. The familiarity of it makes it worthwhile, even if the end result doesn’t always pay off.
With the hometown crowd solidly behind him, Lapp got as much as he could out of this year’s saddle bronc competition. Riding atop a 5-year-old colt named Babyface, Lapp earned a re-ride after the colt, which had been acting up in the shoot to begin with, fell to the ground immediately after the gate was pulled.
“He was a shoot fighter,” Lapp said. “He’s a young colt. Not much you can say about those young colts. He came out the gate and I gave him some iron. He just collapsed on me.”
Because of the colt’s lack of cooperation, Lapp got a second chance later in the day. The end result, however, wasn’t any better as he failed to score a qualifying time.
“He kind of stood me up in my saddle. I blew a stirrup. There’s not much you can do after blowing a stirrup. You just go to ride it,” Lapp said.
The result may not have been in Lapp’s favor, but it won’t stop him from getting back on the saddle and giving it another go-around. As long as the money is good, as well as his health, he’ll be back. That includes his next stop at the Rooftop Rodeo in Estes Park beginning July 10.
“I live the life of a cowboy,” Lapp said.