Archive for January, 2012

postheadericon Rodeo clowning for dummies

Cory Wall dressed as a dummy to pull off a great practical joke on funnyman/barrelman Troy Lerwill while the two are working in Fort Worth, Texas.

Cory Wall dressed as a dummy to pull off a great practical joke on funnyman/barrelman Troy Lerwill while the two are working in Fort Worth, Texas.

A good practical joke can be appreciated any time of year, not just April Fool’s Day.

The best practical jokes tend to happen to people that are beloved. Of course, it helps to have someone who is in the public eye. That was the case on Monday night at the Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo.

Bullfighter Cory Wall pulled a gotcha on one of the great barrelmen in rodeo, Troy Lerwill, while working the Texas rodeo. Wall, dressed as a dummy, was dragged into the center of the arena at Will Rogers Coliseum by fellow bullfighter Andy Burelle, who propped Wall up as if he were a real decoy.

“Troy rolled his barrel out and looked at me a couple of times but didn’t notice the switcheroo,” Wall posted on his Facebook page, which can be “liked” HERE. “They bucked three bulls, and I stood still as a board.”

Announcer Bob Tallman instructed Lerwill to straighten the hat on the “dummy,” so the clown did.

“As he reached for my hat, I jumped at him and tackled him,” Wall wrote. “He screamed in shock. It was hilarious! I don’t think Troy will ever look at his dummy the same way again.”

postheadericon CrAsh’s athleticism is entertainment

OKLAHOMA CITYAsh Cooper always fancied himself a world-class hockey player.

That’s what little boys dream about while growing up in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. And, truth be told, Cooper was pretty talented on the ice.

Ash "CrAsh" Cooper oftentimes wears stilts when he performs as a barrelman/funnyman, which is what he will be doing during the 2012 Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for March 29-April 1 in Oklahoma City.

Ash "CrAsh" Cooper oftentimes wears stilts when he performs as a barrelman/funnyman, which is what he will be doing during the 2012 Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for March 29-April 1 in Oklahoma City.

“I was employed playing hockey, and at the same time, I was playing a high level of rugby,” said Cooper, an athlete turned rodeo clown who just worked the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas for the first time in his career this past December. “It was a huge honor for me to work the NFR. More than anything, for me, it was representing my country.

“I tried representing in hockey and didn’t make it, and I tried and rugby, and it didn’t happen. I had to settle for representing my country as a clown, but I’ll take it.”

You see, Ash Cooper has an alter ego, and his name is CrAsh; he’ll be part of the 2012 Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for March 29-April 1 at Jim Norick Arena at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds. This is where the biggest names in the sport come to show off their talents, and Cooper will be in town to provide a little comedy relief and other entertainment options as the barrelman/funnyman,

The ProRodeo national circuit finale provides another prestigious championship event for rodeo-savvy Oklahoma City, the longtime host of the NFR and the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping. The 2012 event marks the second straight year the RNCFR is part of Oklahoma’s storied rodeo legacy, a place that knows what makes a true champion, even one who wears greasepaint.

“I never planned on being a rodeo clown,” Cooper said. “It’s just one of those things that evolved.”

The evolution began to develop when he attended the Canadian Finals Rodeo, and Cooper’s zest for the extreme was inspired by the action inside the arena during the bull riding competition.

“I was looking for the roughest sport there was, and I figured bullfighting was it,” he said, explaining how bullfighters utilize their athleticism to get into the action of a bucking, spinning and twisting beast and try to get everyone out unscathed. It took a few lessons, but Cooper was hooked and quickly became an in-arena lifesaver.

As the evolution continued, Cooper moved on to the world of a rodeo clown, even if he had to fit it into his personality.

“The hardest part in strictly becoming a clown was losing that athleticism; I was a clown now, not an athlete,” said Cooper, the only person to have fought bulls and clowned at the prestigious Calgary (Alberta) Stampede.

So Cooper did something about it, taking the traditional role of a funny rodeo clown and transitioning it into the form of an athletic entertainer.

“The crowd responds just as much to something that’s a great athletic feat as something that’s funny,” he said. “What I do is just a cross between comedy and athleticism.”

It’s a good mix, which is why he’s working ProRodeo’s National Championship, which will feature the top cowboys and cowgirls from the 12 regional ProRodeo circuits against one another for the prestigious national title. Contestants will compete in seven traditional rodeo events: bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, tie down roping, team roping, steer wrestling, barrel racing and bull riding.

The RNCFR also is home to outstanding entertainment, and nobody realizes that any more than Cooper.

“My personal preference is to just see what happens,” he said. “I like not knowing exactly what’s going on, just paying attention to what’s happening and just reacting. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived my life like that.”

Maybe it’s because he always saw himself as an athlete, not so much an entertainer.

“I certainly didn’t plan on it, but I’m awful glad it turned out this way,” Cooper said.

postheadericon Atop the standings in the Wright way

Last week I wrote about the Wright brothers doing well in Fort Worth. You can find it HERE.

They’ve re-appeared in the news already, with three of the four brothers sitting in the top 15 in the saddle bronc riding world standings. Jesse Wright leads the contingent, sitting No. 2 in the world with $9,688. Cody Wright is fifth with $8,960, and Jake Wright is 12th with $4,112.

The fourth player in the story, Alex Wright, is 28th in the standings, having pocketed just $1,787. I look for that to change fairly quickly.

Don’t you?

postheadericon Lerwill amps up finale’s entertainment

Troy Lerwill performs his "The Wild Child" act, just like he will when he works the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for March 29-April 1 in Oklahoma City. Lerwill is one of the most sought-after acts in ProRodeo and is recognized as one of the greatest entertainers in the sport. (PRCA ProRodeo Photo By Dan Hubbell)

Troy Lerwill performs his "The Wild Child" act, just like he will when he works the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for March 29-April 1 in Oklahoma City. Lerwill is one of the most sought-after acts in ProRodeo and is recognized as one of the greatest entertainers in the sport. (PRCA ProRodeo Photo By Dan Hubbell)

‘The Wild Child’ brings high-flying fun to ProRodeo’s national championship

OKLAHOMA CITYProRodeo’s National Championship means a lot to every cowboy and cowgirl who has ever qualified to compete for the coveted title.

It means a lot to plenty of others who make their livings on the rodeo trail. Take Troy Lerwill, one of the greatest entertainers in the sport who has been named Act of the Year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association six times.

“I actually rate the (Ram) National Circuit Finals Rodeo right there with the National Finals Rodeo, because there’s only a handful of barrelmen or acts that get to work that thing,” said Lerwill, a funnyman who has been selected to work the Wrangler NFR three times in a storied career. “It’s very prestigious. The buckle that I wear every day and the buckle you will see on me until the day I die is the very first Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo that I ever won.

“I won that in 2001. That was the first buckle I ever won and the only buckle I’ve ever worn. I have three NFR buckles and opening act buckles, circuit finals buckles and Coors Man in the Can buckles, but that one was the coolest thing I’ve ever gotten to do.”

That’s why Lerwill is excited to be part of ProRodeo’s National Championship, where the very best the sport has to offer will be part of the tremendous entertainment package during the five performances from March 29-April 1 at Jim Norick Arena at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds. The 192 cowboys and cowgirls in the field have earned the right to play for one of the largest purses in the sport, more than $525,000.

The event provides another prestigious championship event for rodeo-savvy Oklahoma City, the longtime host of the NFR and the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping. The 2012 event marks the second straight year the RNCFR is part of Oklahoma’s storied rodeo legacy, a place that knows what makes a true champion.

“Troy is one of the funniest guys out there, not just in rodeo,” said Pete Carr, owner of Carr Pro Rodeo, a Dallas-based livestock firm that will have bucking horses and bulls in the RNCFR. “I try to get him as often as I can, because he brings a whole new dimension to each show. He’s the best entertainer in rodeo because of how he handles the crowd.

“Then you add his motorcycle act into the mix, and it’s just over-the-top. Everybody wants to come back the next day just to see it again.”

Enter “The Wild Child,” the motorcycle daredevil that jumps a Bloomer trailer and a Ram pickup in a showcase comedy mixed with tremendous athleticism.

“It’s funny every time I see it,” said Ken Stonceipher, a ProRodeo announcer who serves as production manager for the Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days Rodeo, where Lerwill will perform in May. “There’s just something magical in that entire act.”

It comes quite naturally to Lerwill, the son of a roper who grew up going to rodeos in Utah and Colorado with his father. Though he never competed, Troy Lerwill was hooked … even if it took a few years for him to realize it.

“I had a Shetland pony growing up, and I always like horses,” Lerwill said. “I roped with my dad when I was little, but I always wanted a motorcycle.”

His parents realized he was pretty good at maneuvering the machine and began taking him to desert races. By the time he was 12, Lerwill was excelling at motocross.

“It just evolved from there,” he said.

Racing was a big part of Lerwill’s life for a long time. But at age 24, Lerwill had begun riding mountain bikes through the Utah trails instead of the motorized ones over the quick jumps and turns of motocross. Through all that, he found a new rush: Bullfighting. The rodeo arena was drawing him back. He went to a bullfighting school, and a new career was born.

“I got my PRCA card in 1993,” he said. “I started doing the comedy stuff in ’95.”

It didn’t take long for Lerwill to step up his game. A local stock contractor hired him to fight bulls and entertain.

“I was in Evanston, Wyo., the first time I put the microphone on,” he said. “I was so damn scared that I was dry-heaving. But I got it done.”

He’s gotten it done a lot in the years since. He has become one of the most sought-after acts in ProRodeo, and there’s good reason.

“People just love to watch Troy, because he’s that good,” said Carr, who watched Lerwill work just two months ago during the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo. “He can bring people to your rodeo to see what he can do; that’s a true entertainer.”

For Lerwill, life is about reaching out to people and sharing his passion for the rodeo way of life. He may go about it in different terms than most cowboys, but there is a distinct passion involved in everything he does.

“I really don’t want the Western heritage and lifestyle, and the tradition of cowboy to go away, and I want young people to enjoy it like I did,” Lerwill said. “Rodeo is a huge chunk of our history.

“Even though I take a motorcycle to a rodeo and do a stunt, I hope it makes fans of people and they come back.”

postheadericon Honoring two wonderful people

Today we surprised my father- and mother-in-law for their 45th anniversary, and I believe it’s important to tell you about these two wonderful people.

Not only did they raise the love of my life, but also they support us in ways that are beyond incredible. As I try to tell stories about rodeo, Rose and Raymond Frueh do many things that enable me to do so. You see, as a stay-at-home dad who works full time from home while also serving as the primary caregiver for our 3-year-old daughter, we need my in-laws to help with our children from time to time.

Whether I’m on the road at an event or meeting some deadlines, they step in to assist us. It’s a tremendous relief to know someone we love, someone we trust to watch those things closest to us.

Beyond that, both have taken a genuine interest in the work I do.  My mother-in-law keeps clips of my work, and my father-in-law asks detailed questions about the things I do.

I’m blessed to have been part of this magnificent day. I’m more blessed to have these two wonderful, caring people in my life.

postheadericon Sears makes memories en route to world title

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story appears in the January issue of Women’s Pro Rodeo News. Unfortunately the interview that I had hoped to do with Lindsay Sears a week after she’d won didn’t happen, but I hope we were able to tell a good story anyway.

For anyone who has ever been in the heated battle of competition, the pressure to win is incredible. To be successful, to win, is like bursting that bubble and feeling the air explode from it.

For the 15 cowgirls in the field of the 2011 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the golden yellow chutes and blue fencing intensifies the pressure. The heat turns up as each lady prepared to take a shot at $17,885 each night and a chance to fasten a Montana Silversmiths gold buckle at the end of the 10-day marathon.

Lindsay Sears

Lindsay Sears

Nobody, however, realized how much pressure was on a tiny blonde from Nanton, Alberta, the only Canadian in the field of 119 contestants in ProRodeo’s grand championship event, held in the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

As she sprinted around the arena each night during the grand entry, Lindsay Sears was carrying the weight of a nation fanatical about rodeo, about champions. Donning the gold buckle earned three years prior, the 30-year-old cowgirl who spends a good portion of her time near Lubbock, Texas, knew much was expected of her.

But there’s so much more to the back story of a world champion. You see, Sears left Las Vegas in December 2010 with an injured horse and a ton of questions. Sugar Moon Express, an 11-year-old sorrel by Dr. Nick Bar out of Babys Blue Jeans, has been Sears’ driving force since she purchased the mare nearly six years ago.

“We left here last year with my good horse, Martha, being seriously injured and not knowing whether or not she would come back and be able to compete,” Sears said. “I just have to thank all the people who have helped Martha get better throughout the year, all my veterinarians.

“Everybody knows Martha, and that’s the most awesome thing about it. I’m just lucky I get to be part of her life. To have Martha is the most unbelievable thing that’s ever happened to me in my life. She’s the reason I have a career in this sport.”

Martha also is the reason Sears dominated the NFR. The tandem won the average, rounding the cloverleaf pattern 10 times in a cumulative 139.50 seconds, earning $45,865 for that feat alone.

In addition, they placed in eight go-rounds, including two wins – she shared the opening-round victory with front-runner Brittany Pozzi of Victoria, Texas, clocking in at 14.03 seconds; they each won $16,010 and made a statement about the race for the world title. Sears also won the seventh round, posting a 13.56 to win the go-round buckle outright.

“There is no game plan,” Sears said on opening night, Dec. 1. “Every night is a new night. It’s great. It makes for our sport to be great watching.”

It was great watching, with high speeds and fantastic finishes. Whether the rounds were defined by a mere 1-100ths of a second or watching Carlee Pierce and Rare Dillion clear the pattern in a new record 13.46, the 2010 Wrangler NFR was a showcase of tremendous athletic talent.

“You’ve just got to know your horse and know what it takes to get it accomplished,” said Lisa Lockhart of Oelrichs, S.D., who won two rounds and finished fourth in the final world standings with $159,710, with about $79,000 coming at the NFR.

That has worked for Sears, who has had some incredible wins on her main mount, including four straight championships at the tour finale in Omaha, Neb. – 2011 marked the first time in five years she and Martha didn’t leave Nebraska with the title.

“You are as good as your horse is in barrel racing,” said Sears, who spent much of the year on another horse, Ima Guy Of Honor, an 8-year-old bay gelding she calls Moe. “We’re like peas and carrots. She is the one for me. If I wasn’t going to get to get on her again, I’m not sure if I wanted to continue doing this for a living.

“I got to the finals on my backup horse, and Martha got to come here and be the star. She got to prove herself here in this arena again. It’s indescribable.”

So is their run through the finals. After their seventh round win, Sears admitted she was a little shocked at how fast the two clocked.

“Martha’s been kind of easing along all week, and I was wondering when she was going to realize we’re in Vegas,” Sears said Wednesday, Dec. 7. “She did tonight, thank goodness.

“She stepped up to the plate tonight, and she felt like Martha. She felt like she’s always felt in this pen.”

It was important to make a statement at that point in the championship while remaining consistently fast.

“When you only have a 10th of a second between first and sixth, and some nights five-100ths, how do you even talk about that,” she said. “It’s just a blink of an eye … less than the blink of an eye.”

This season marked the sixth time in Sears’ career she’s played for the biggest prize money in the game, and she likes to ride in Las Vegas. She may not play the table games or punch the slots, but she understands how things work. Early in 2011, she didn’t like her odds of winning that prestigious gold buckle, but she knows how to cash out money ahead.

“In 2008, everything went perfectly,” Sears said. “This year, it was a job. It was hard work and a lot of struggles to get here, to be sitting here. I feel like I worked so much harder to win this one than I did in 2008.”

Sears understands what it means to live up to the pressure of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and work through a season of limitations by one of the world’s greatest racehorses. Her 10th-round run of 13.75, worth second place that night, is proof.

“I don’t have safetying-up in my vocabulary, and neither does Martha,” she said that Saturday, Dec. 10. “I wouldn’t have been satisfied any other way.”

Sears realizes what it means to handle the expectations of a nation. She knows what it really means to be the 2011 world champion.

postheadericon A new name in the field

Dean Gorsuch

Dean Gorsuch

Every year, there are a few new names in the hat for the invitation-only Timed Event Championship, a unique event that originated at the Lazy E Arena in 1985 and features cowboys competing in all five timed-event disciplines — heading, heeling, steer wrestling, tie-down roping and steer roping.

This year’s list of entrants is field with world champions, from Trevor Brazile to Jimmie Cooper to Steve Duhon. Several of the cowboys earn all-around points throughout each season because they compete in multiple events at PRCA rodeos — sometimes it means a tie-down roper will team rope or include some steer roping.

Two-time steer wrestling world champion Dean Gorsuch is scheduled to compete, and I love to see great bulldoggers show off their roping skills in this wonderful competition. Duhon has won a lot of money in this arena over the years, even though his focus was steer wrestling for so much of his career.

Now Gorsuch will get his shot. The Timed Event Championship will take place March 2-4 at the Lazy E Arena, northeast of Oklahoma City.

postheadericon They’re the Wright four

If things don’t change soon, the saddle bronc riding Wright brothers of Milford, Utah, are going to take a lot of money out of the Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo.

In the first round, Jake and Spencer two pieces of a three-way tie for second place, while Jesse and Cody are in a tie for sixth. Cody, Jesse and Spencer are placing in the top eight of the second round, and all four are sitting in the money in the average, too.

That’s a whale of a combination, and I hope fans will have the opportunity to enjoy them for many years to come.

postheadericon They call this place home

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a post for the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo blog, which also can be found HERE.

The future of rodeo is firmly entrenched in its history.

That’s why it’s so awesome that Oklahoma City is hosting another ProRodeo championship event. Great rodeo is home in the Sooner State’s capital, and with great reason. From the cattle drives that crisscrossed the territory in the 1800s to the National Finals Rodeo making Oklahoma City its home from 1965-1984, the state is rich in Western tradition.

There’s a reason the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum is in Oklahoma City, and it’s the same reason the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs has a distinctive Oklahoma flavor: Cowboy is big in Oklahoma, and so is rodeo

It’s why Oklahoma is now home to the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, scheduled for March 29-April 1 at historic Jim Norick Arena on the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds in Oklahoma City.

Clem McSpadden would love what will happen inside that hallowed round building. McSpadden, who died in July 2008, was the voice of ProRodeo for decades. Moreover, he was the sport’s conscience who served as the NFR’s general manager in Oklahoma City.

McSpadden’s passion is still felt in Oklahoma and rodeo. That might be the biggest reason why having ProRodeo’s National Championship in Oklahoma City is the right thing.

postheadericon ‘… where the grass is green and lush and stirrup high …’

While touring the ProRodeo Hall of Fame last weekend, I came upon the exhibit featuring my friend Clem McSpadden, the longtime voice of rodeo who died in July 2008.

Clem was the general manager of the National Finals Rodeo when it took place in Oklahoma City, and he was an influential member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association for many years. He was an excellent communicator, whether on the microphone in Dodge City or in the halls of Congress.

One of the greatest things he penned was “The Cowboys Prayer,” a wonderful piece of prose he recited countless times before events. A copy of it sits in the case near his display. I’m glad it’s there, and I wish everyone who has ever been to a rodeo would have heard Clem present it.

Unfortunately, I’ve heard announcers attempt to duplicate it. I wish they wouldn’t, because nobody else can do it justice. Not only that, but the piece is copyrighted, and nobody should use it for any reason without permission by Clem’s family.

It’s only the right thing to do.

It’s also the legal thing to do.