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but no smokes —

Cowboys usually are a rough and ready sort, reluctant to give up their vices. One bad habit they've agreed to abandon during the Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo in Central Point this weekend will be smoking ' to make it a more child-friendly environment.

It's not tobacco-free ' it's smoke-free, stressed Cindy Bedingfield, office assistant at the Jackson County fairgrounds.

She said Jackson County Health Department officials had suggested prohibiting all tobacco products, including chewing tobacco, but realized that wouldn't go over well.

Otherwise, it would eliminate a lot of cowboys, she said.

One cowboy it wouldn't eliminate is professional rodeo clown Dale Woodard, who eschews any tobacco product. He appeared before 180 students at Ruch Elementary School Thursday to make his point.

Woodard, who will perform during the rodeo today through Sunday, has made the rounds at local schools urging students to stay away from tobacco as well as other drugs and alcohol.

I always thought of myself as an athlete, and I didn't want to diminish my lung capacity, said the Colorado resident. In a lot of movies, they show rodeo clowns as hard drinkers. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Woodard, who not only clowns around but is ranked No. — in the senior roping circuit, didn't don makeup for his performance at Ruch. But he did show off his lassoing technique, roping a few students in the process.

At one point, he cracked his whip, startling the children with a sound like a firecracker.

He went whack, and I went ah! said fifth-grader Taylor Kenney.

Amused by the performance, she said she learned something from Woodard. He told everyone if you do drugs and alcohol it can mess up your life, she said.

Sixth-grader Katie Eastman said she also learned a lesson: You can go really far in life if you stay drug-free.

The rodeo, which will feature barrel racers, a barbecue and other activities, will start at 7 p.m. today and Saturday. The doors will open to the public at 6 p.m.

On Sunday, the performance starts at — p.m., with doors opening at noon.

Tickets are &

36;14 at the door.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail