This is the time of year rodeo cowboys live for, yet surviving it can be the toughest task. With three or more events a weekend, competitors are on the road constantly, and a day off to catch up on sleep or maybe even wash their muddy jeans is a rare commodity. But it also is prime time for earning cash, and a successful run can pave the way to a Canadian Finals appearance.
This weekend contestants were dashing between Wainwright, High River and Sundre in Canada. Some were also competing in the finals of the Reno rodeo, and then juggling schedules to try and get back for their Canadian horses. Cancelled airline flights cost several competitors that opportunity.
Trying to do it all can also make for some tough decisions.
Luke Butterfield faced that. The Ponoka cowboy would love to make his fourth straight appearance in Edmonton’s saddle bronc finals. But he can also wrestle steers despite his 5’8”, 155 pound stature. He’s qualified once before in the all-around race, which requires three cheques from both a riding and timed event. He’s got his bronc riding cheques already this season, but still needs to do some placing in the bulldogging.
But business is business. At the Sundre rodeo, they’d drawn a steer for Butterfield Sunday afternoon, and he was eager to try his luck. However, he was also leading the way in the saddle bronc riding at the Wainwright Stampede, which meant he needed to get back to the eastern Alberta town for a second bronc in a 6:30 p.m. finals performance. The 26-year-old had to ride his bronc in Sundre at 2:30 p.m., turn out his steer, and jump in a rig for a quick trip. It was a tough call, but he had to go where the money was.
Butterfield was pleased with his result on the first horse at Wainwright, because he’d drawn a colt there that no one knew much about.
“I think they call him Nobody’s Fool. It was a really nice horse,” said Butterfield. “He just turned out of there, and jumped and kicked. It was a lucky draw. When those colts turn out, it’s always nice.”
The cowboy made the most of it, marking 83.5 for a nearly $1,900 payday. Then in Sundre, Butterfield got on a horse called Western Front, spurred to an 80.5, to pick up a third place tie, worth $1,200. Off to Wainwright for a date with Pedro next, the Hollingsworth raised horse that Wayne Vold bought for $54,500 in December.
“I definitely drew the best horse,” he smiled.
Butterfield marked an 82.5 there, to tie for second in the finals, and win the average, adding another $2,646. The $5,746 weekend should move him into the top five for the Canadian standings.
But the good news continued, with Butterfield plucking another legendary Vold saddle bronc out for Ponoka’s draw this week.
“I got Awesome of Wayne’s. I’m pretty happy about that too. I’ve been drawing pretty good. Seems like that’s half the battle, drawing the right one, and then trying to get him rode right.”
Butterfield has drawn the pinto gelding twice before, both times at the CFR, and last time he won some big money and admiration from the rodeo community for the try he showed riding that horse while injured. He will ride the horse named the best of the NFR in 2007 on Wednesday at his rich home town show.
Eight seconds at a time. That’s all it takes. Butterfield has been doing it long enough to know he has to remain focused.
“You can’t get too far ahead of yourself. We’re going to rodeo hard over the first (of July), and then go down south for the fourth. You can’t start looking in the future too far. You’ve just got to try and take care of it one horse at a time.
“That’s easier said than done,” he admitted. “But hopefully it goes good.
“I’m feeling pretty good. As healthy as I can be. You’re always a little sore, but that’s rodeo.”
The Sundre pro rodeo winners take home beautiful silver buckles, along with the prize money. Winning the bareback honors was Kyle Bowers of Brooks for an 82.5 on Cheadle Dee, adding $2,174 to his account. Oregon’s Ryan Mackenzie took first in the saddle bronc riding for an 82 on Criss Cross, to win $2,168. The bull riding went to Beau Brooks of Nanton, who marked 87 on Good Vibrations for $2,063.
The timed events were fast in Sundre, in dry conditions. Tie-down roping honors were shared by Louisiana’s Ross Beasley and Texan Clif Cooper for 7.4 second runs, with each winning $2,389. Incidentally, his brother Clint Cooper tied for third with a 7.5, while his other brother Tuf, the Canadian champion, tied for eighth with a 7.8. In team roping, three duos got the job done in just 4.3 seconds: Clark and Justin McCarroll of Camrose, Riley and Brady Minor of Washington, and Montana’s John Robertson and Levi Simpson of Claresholm. Each team collected $2,726. South Dakota’s Lisa Lockhart won barrel racing in 16.49 seconds, for $3,492. And Kyle Thomson of Lundbreck was a big winner, taking steer wrestling in 3.5 seconds for $3,036, but he also claimed both the All-Around and High Point awards at Sundre, as well as another buckle for having the wildest ride of the day in the bronc riding. Cole Jamieson of Innisfail won novice bareback riding, Coleman Watt of Hardisty took novice saddle bronc, and steer riding went to Bryce West of Cadogan.
Other big winners at Wainwright included Red Deer bull rider Myles Pennington, who won the finals, and finished second in the average. Team ropers Matt Fawcett of Stettler and Brett Buss of Ponoka took first in the finals with a 4.4 second run.
The Ponoka Stampede kicks off this evening with the 6:30 p.m. rodeo performance, to be followed by the Wild West show and the parade of past Ponoka Stampede champions.
The chuckwagons will roll Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m., but the WPCA made a late Sunday night announcement that there will only be two outriders per rig, instead of the traditional four.
Dianne Finstad is a regular contributor of the Red Deer Advocate and is the agriculture/rodeo director for Newcap Radio/CKGY/CIZZ FM in Red Deer.