When Al Wilson got a call saying the Orange rodeo arena was one chute gate short he couldn't quite believe it.
But, sure enough, when he headed down to check out the gate, used to safely contain the bull before being released, it had been sawed off its hinges and taken.
It's a scenario the East to West Coast Rodeo Championships president hasn't seen in 40 years of involvement in the sport and said if a cowboy has been behind the theft they would never ride again.
"I got a message from [rodeo organiser] Len Potter that the chute gate was missing and I couldn't believe it," he said.
"I said 'you're kidding me' because we're about three weeks away from the rodeo.
"I came down and had a look and I was totally shocked the gate had been taken off and I thought maybe it had been damaged and they were repairing it.
"It's very upsetting that someone would take the community's local rodeo chute."
"If it was a cowboy who wanted the chute gate then he's not a real cowboy.
"If he's taking it because he wanted to make his own little practice arena and if it's found out who he was he will never ride a rodeo again anywhere in the country."
While the chute gate could have been stolen for other purposes, the effect on the Orange Rodeo organisers remains the same with just three weeks left before the event on November 25.
"It could have been someone who wanted to block dogs from getting out, who knows," he said.
"Talk about stealing the kitchen sink.
"You have one chute less, each chute is sponsored so that money is lost. It slows the event down and you need to run longer.
"Somebody might come forward and give some information to council and they can pass it onto police."
Fortunately Orange City Council has begun work on replacing the gate and confirmed it would be installed in time for the rodeo.
"The Showground has a dedicated horse yards arena which is used a number of times year for horse events like the camp drafting competition and rodeo events," council's communications and engagement manager Nick Redmond said.
"Earlier in the year, a heavy-duty steel gate used for releasing bulls during rodeo events, was stolen from the arena.
"A replacement gate is being fabricated and will be installed in the coming weeks."
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