story by Michele Toberer Anna Jae Griffin goes by AJae, and the Mississippi native has been a cowgirl for a lifetime, and a Southeastern Professional […]
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Meet the Member Iron Rail Arena
story by Lily Weinacht
During team penning’s popularity in the early 1990s, the Jones and Terry families built Iron Rail Arena in their backyard near Moulton, Alabama, for the roping and team penning competitors of the family. Little did they realize that the panels and sand would be the western playground for Lauren Terry, Miss Rodeo USA 2013, and a place of memories and growth for the hundreds of people who enter it.
Despite the challenges, including three people being Med Flighted from the arena the first year it was open in 1993, Iron Rail Arena is now the home of the Lawrence County Cattlemen’s Rodeo, an SPRA sanctioned rodeo. “After that first year, my dad thought we needed to shut the gates permanently,” says Marsha Terry, Lauren and Kaitlin Terry’s mom. “But one night, the rodeo announcer reminded my dad that with people who rodeo and ride horses, they know it’s not a matter of if, but when, they’ll be injured. So we didn’t give up, and lots of good memories have been made.”
The first several years the arena was open, the Terry and Jones families held team penning practice every Tuesday night, with a team penning competition on every second Friday. They also held an open rodeo, put on by Triple E Rodeo Company. Cars lined the 1,000 foot driveway and the road, and it was standing room only. “In the beginning, it was the family who ran the open rodeo, but as years passed, we felt it was better for an organization to have the rodeo,” says Marsha. The Lawrence County Cattlemen’s Association, which champions the agricultural industry, landowners, and farmers, started sponsoring the rodeo in 2015. Double Creek Rodeo Company has been the stock contractor the past four years. “Our first year, we were hoping just to break even, but we made a little bit, and this year did even better,” Marsha says. More than 200 contestants entered, coming from six different states to compete in the rodeo held every second weekend of June.
Along with the SPRA rodeo, monthly open horse shows through the Lawrence County Saddle Club are held at Iron Rail Arena, as well as the Lawrence County 4-H Youth Rodeo, and a rodeo for children with special needs, sponsored by the 4-H horse club. “We do it to be a blessing to them, but it’s a bigger blessing for us!” say Marsha and her family. One year, they held a benefit rodeo for the American Cancer Society, Relay for Life. The Cattlemen’s Association continues to light sky lanterns during intermission in memory of someone with cancer, proceeds going to the ACS.
The daily upkeep of Iron Rail Arena is a family wide responsibility. The families live within a two mile radius of each other, including Marsha and her husband, Keith, her parents, Garland and Doris Jones, and her brother, Jody, his wife, Pamela, and their two children, Toby and Josie Rae. Upkeep includes weeding, mowing and cleaning the concession stand, while Garland waters the arena with his water wagon, pumped from the pond. Toby is learning to do the same. “He eats, sleeps, and breathes team roping,” Marsha says with a laugh. All four grandchildren have grown up horseback, and both Josie Rae and Kaitlin take turns singing the national anthem on horseback during opening ceremonies. Lauren has been known to help the rodeo clown, Trent McFarland, with his acts. “Lauren’s participation with 4-H and the 4-H Pageant held here, and her involvement with the Limestone Sheriff’s Rodeo had a big impact on her becoming Miss Rodeo USA.
“I just can’t say enough about the friends we’ve made across the state and the Southeast,” Marsha finishes. “We’ve had so many folks help us through the years in the horse industry, and we want to pay it forward. God blessed us with the arena, and we don’t want to keep it for ourselves – we want to share it. My parents are a great example of going the extra mile and helping others, and they make footprints worth following.”