GUYMON, Okla. – Forgive Tyler Smith if he is a little greedy when he arrives in the Oklahoma Panhandle in a month and a half.
Smith, a two-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo bull rider from Fruita, Colo., owns two Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo trophy belts; he’d like to win a third during the 2014 edition, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 2; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 3; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 4, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena.
Smith, who won his first championship in 2010 – the same year he first qualified for the NFR – earned his second belt last May, when he rode Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Rio Bravo for 93 points. With that, he earned $3,790, which helped propel him back to Las Vegas this past December, where he surely wore that coveted leather trophy and finished the season No. 3 in the world standings with more than $156,000 in earnings.
“It’s been good luck,” he said about Pioneer Days Rodeo. “I’ve had real good luck here. I love coming here.”
So do most of the top contestants in ProRodeo, nearly 1,000 of who find their way to Texas County every spring to compete at one of the most prestigious events on the circuit. In all, nine champions were crowned last spring. They know defending their titles will be tough. Take Rocky Patterson, the three-time steer roping world champion from Pratt, Kan., who claimed his second Pioneer Days title a season ago.
“This is pretty big because it’s a circuit rodeo, No. 1,” Patterson said, referring to the Prairie Circuit, made up of rodeos and contestants primarily from Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. “No. 2, it’s just a great rodeo. The committee here does such a great job.”
The Kansan left town with the biggest payday of all contestants in the field, earning $8,347.
“It’s a rodeo with a lot of tradition, and it’s a nice one to win.”
Patterson is an alumnus of Oklahoma Panhandle State University, which is 10 miles southeast in the community of Goodwell. He is one of two former Panhandle State rodeo team members to earn Guymon titles, joining bareback rider Seth Hardwick of Laramie, Wyo.; he rode Pete Carr’s Night Bells for 88 points to earn the trophy belt.
“Guymon is like a hometown rodeo for me,” said Hardwick, who pocketed $4,147 in Texas County money last spring. “It feels great to be able to win this rodeo in front of those people. It’s one of the best rides I’ve ever had.”
Each of the roughstock events featured high-marked rides. Heith DeMoss, a five-time NFR qualifier from Heflin, La., matched moves with Pete Carr’s Spur Strap for 87 points to win saddle bronc riding.
“I’m so excited it’s ridiculous,” DeMoss said. “To be winning something at this rodeo is awesome. It’s a great rodeo. It’s a bronc riding-type nation around here, and I’m thrilled.”