1. Cort Scheer on Frontier Rodeo’s Short Stop, 87 points, $19,002; 2. Heith DeMoss, 82, $15,018; 3. (tie) Taos Muncy and Jacobs Crawley, 80.5, $9,654 each; 5. Spencer Wright, 80, $4,904 each; 6. Wade Sundell, 78.5, $3,065 each.
1. Kaycee Feild on Sutton Rodeo’s Cactus Juice, 84.5 points, $19,002; 2. Justin McDaniel, 83.5, $15,018; 3. (tie) Will Lowe and Steven Dent, 83, $9,654; 5. Jake Vold , 81.5, $4,904; 6. Austin Foss , 81, $3,065
LAS VEGAS – They call it a speed trap.
In the world of steer wrestling, the fastest man each night of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo wins the most money. The key, though, is to react quickly but move purposefully. True athletes are quicker when everything is done in a quiet rhythm.
Bray Armes knows it very well. It’s what has guided the Ponder, Texas, cowboy to three straight NFR qualifications. It’s what propelled him to the 2013 NFR average title for having the fastest cumulative time over the 10-round championship.
It didn’t help him all that much Thursday night during the first go-round of the 2014 finale. Armes twisted his steer to the ground in 4.2 seconds; that’s a solid time, but it wasn’t nearly as quick as he would’ve liked.
“That was a pretty ugly run,” said Armes, who grew up near the Texas Panhandle community of Gruver. “I just need to slow down to be fast.”
Armes showed a classic smile that, while disguising his frustration, is proof that he remains focused on the task at hand. His first-night run was still strong enough for sixth place in the round, worth $3,065. That pushes Armes’ 2014 earnings to $72,281.
More importantly, he has nine more nights to cash in.
“I have to build off it,” he said. “I rushed. I just need to slow down.”
While it sounds easy, the rush of the moment and the atmosphere of the sold-out Thomas & Mack Center can push the adrenaline a little.
“It’s easy,” Armes said. “You’ve just got to do it.”
Steer wrestling: 1. Nick Guy, 3.6 seconds, $19,002; 2. (tie) Luke Branquinho and Casey Martin, 3.7, $13,179 each; 4. Ty Erickson, 3.8, $7,969 5. Kyle Irwin, 4.1 $4,904; 6. Bray Armes, 4.2, $3,065.
MARYVILLE, Mo. – Sometimes the greatest cowboy stories are about the cowgirls.
Ted Harbin knows that as well as anyone in the sport. He owns Rodeo Media Relations, a promotions company that utilizes feature writing as a way to share rodeo stories with media outlets and with rodeo fans.
Harbin received the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association’s media award during a Dec. 4, 2014, luncheon that took place in conjunction with the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
“This award means a lot to me, because I’ve got a lot of wonderful friends in the WPRA,” said Harbin, 47, who also writes for Women’s Pro Rodeo News, the WPRA’s monthly magazine. “I’m very blessed to do something I love, and writing stories about these women and their amazing horses is a real honor.”
Harbin lives with Maryville with his wife, Lynette, and their two daughters, Laney, 12, and Channing, 6. Lynette Harbin is the program director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Nodaway County.
“There is no way I could do this without my family’s support,” Ted Harbin said. “Those three girls are the reason I’m able to make a living doing what I love. They drive me, and when I need to be on the rodeo trail doing my work, they believe in me. There is now way I can repay them for all they do for me.”
He worked in the newspaper industry for 22 years before developing Rodeo Media Relations. Since then, he’s focused on telling rodeo tales. Each year, he works some of the biggest and most prestigious events in ProRodeo. He maintains TwisTED Rodeo, a well-respected news and information site about the sport. He also serves as a publicist for some of the greatest athletes in the game.
In 2010, Harbin was honored with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s Media Award for Excellence in Print Journalism.
“For me, the awards come every day that I get to tell stories about the people of rodeo,” he said.
Originally from Leoti, Kan., Harbin graduated from three Kansas schools: Trego Community High School in WaKeeney, Pratt Community College and Fort Hays State University, where he earned a degree in mass communication in 1989.
“The awards I’ve received are incredible to me, but my real rewards have come with the lifelong friendships I’ve developed because of rodeo,” he said. “When we talk about rodeo, we talk about one big family. Most of the people I write about not only are my friends, they are a part of my family.
“It’s a pretty amazing way to spend my life.”
FIVE-TIME CHAMP RETURNS IN BRONC RIDING WHILE HELPING HIS WIFE QUALIFY FOR IFR 45
OKLAHOMA CITY – Jet McCoy was just a teenager when he first qualified for the International Finals Rodeo.
He was in the prime of his life, embarking on a career that made him a household name in his home state. He earned five International Professional Rodeo Association world titles: saddle bronc riding in 1998-99 and the all-around championship from 1999-2001.
After a six-year hiatus, the Ada, Okla., cowboy will return to the 2015 championship, IFR 45, set for Jan. 16-18 at Jim Norick State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City.
“One of the biggest reasons for me to go this year was to be able to go to the finals the same year that Ashlee finally qualified,” he said, referring to his wife, a breakaway roper.
He will get that chance. Ashlee McCoy finished the 2014 season ranked among the top 15 in the breakaway roping standings. It took until the final week of the season before she knew her fate.
“Bronc riding has been the last thing I’ve thought about this fall,” Jet McCoy said. “This breakaway-roping deal has been driving me crazy. I don’t think I’ve ever, in my life, rodeoed this hard in October and November. Usually by this time of year, I either knew I was going to make it or wasn’t going to make it.
“This year it seems like Ashlee has been on the bubble (to make the IFR) for two months.”
He made it more times than not, earning 23 total qualifications, 14 in saddle bronc riding. When he was battling his younger brother, Cord, for IPRA titles, both cowboys competed in all three roughstock events: bronc riding, bareback riding and bull riding. While the glory days involved traveling the rodeo trail with his brother, he loves the idea of competing alongside his bride.
“I know how hard Ashlee works and how bad she wanted to make the finals this year,” he said. “I know she’s got a lot invested. She’s got a lot more invested than just money. She’s got a lot of time in herself invested in this. I’m not nearly as worried about bronc riding as I am breakaway roping.”
Jet McCoy seems to have a pretty good handle on bronc riding. When he got on his first bucking horse of the season in July, it had been five and a half years since he’d placed his boots into the stirrups of a bronc saddle.
“The last time I’d been on a bronc was the last round of the 2009 IFR,” McCoy said. “I had Drama Queen of Kevin Hampton. I got on her on Sunday, then went home and put my saddle down. I didn’t pick it up until I went to Poteau, Oklahoma, in July and hadn’t been on one horse in between.”
How did his Poteau ride go?
“I won by half a point,” he said.
Part of that is due to years on the job, but also it is a testament to how well he stays in shape. He’s a rancher, so physical labor is nothing new.
And while he has been a popular figure in Oklahoma rodeo circles for years, McCoy has become more recognizable recently because he and Cord have been on the reality series “The Amazing Race” three times. Referred to as “The Cowboys,” the McCoys were fan favorites from the first episode in which they appeared in the spring of 2010 to their last showing a few months ago.
“I think part of it is by getting ready for ‘The Amazing Race,’ I had stayed in pretty good physical condition and worked out a lot. I was probably in better shape now than I was the last time I made the IFR.”
Even though his focus has been primarily on helping Ashlee earn a spot among the top 15 breakaway ropers in the IPRA, he has been more than a driver.
“We went just about everywhere this year, but most of my money was won closer to the house,” McCoy said. “I didn’t get very far away. I split the win in the final round in St. Tite (Quebec) this year. That was really fun. It’s been a long time since I’d been to St. Tite. It was really fun to get to go back up there and ride.
“To be able to split the short round up there was good and was the highlight of my season.”
Now he hopes the highlight reel continues to roll at the only major championship in Oklahoma.
“The IPRA has been a big part of my life,” he said. “Growing up, rodeo is what we did. The biggest change for me right now is that once I got married and had a kid, I felt like that chapter of my life had come to an end. The IPRA has meant a lot to us. It paid my bills for a long time.
“For me, going back to riding broncs now and having a chance to go back to the IFR, it’s still all about Ashlee. I’m just thankful that I’m still healthy enough and still ride bucking horses so I can be part of the beginning of her career.”
Thanksgiving weekend means so much for many people, and it’s something different for each personality.
For me, it’s family. It’s card games, just like we had at Grandma and Grandad’s when I was younger. It’s laughing over turkey, then staring at dessert table while wondering what else could fit inside my tummy.
It’s being thankful, as the day implies, for God’s blessings and for the love that is shared around the room. It’s looking at my beautiful wife and smiling at my children as they play. It’s wondering if my youngest will actually eat protein or if she can, in fact, survive on bread, potatoes, noodles, pie and cake.
It also is about missing those closest to you that live so far away. I was home yesterday, but I also was homesick. Our lives get busy, and our concern is more immediate than distant. Sporting events and school activities are the primary focus, because that is doing things with our children.
That 20-minute drive to my in-law’s is so much more relaxing than the eight-hour commute to see my family. Sleeping in my own bed instead of a motel that was built long before I was born is much more tempting.
Alas, I still miss hearing my sister’s laugh and playing football with her only grandson. I miss a cold beer with my cousins and cards with my aunts and uncles. I miss Aunt Helen’s broccoli-and-rice casserole and lining up around the bar in her kitchen to get all the goodies.
The good news, though, is my plate is always half full. In just a few days, I travel to Las Vegas to share a couple weeks with a big part of my life, my rodeo family. It’s time for the sport’s grand finale. It means a lot of work and a lot of writing, and it means I’m away from my daughters for a long time.
But this is my passion, and I get to share that with my rodeo family. I am beyond honored to tell rodeo tales and get the word out about our sport to people across the country.
I’m thankful for all that I have and the opportunities that are ahead. I truly lead a blessed life.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was written for Tyson Durfey and submitted to Rodeo Athletes, an online magazine. Check out the website’s coverage filled with photos. I am publishing it here to celebrate Tyson’s birthday. Happy Thanksgiving to all you true cowboys and cowgirls, whether it’s because you rope and ride or because you’ve always dreamed of being one.
Long before he won three Canadian championships and qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo seven times, Tyson Durfey dreamed of being and rodeo cowboy
“As a kid, I was surrounded by cowboys,” said Durfey, who burst onto the rodeo scene by becoming the first American-born contestant to win a Canadian Professional Rodeo Association title when he earned the championship in 2006. “My dad was a cowboy, my grandfather was a cowboy and my brothers were cowboys. All I wanted was to be a cowboy.”
Durfey looked up to all the cowboys in his life. There were many. His father, Roy, is recognized in rodeo circles as one of the elite trainers of tie-down roping horses and calf ropers. It’s a craft he continues to practice on his land just outside of Savannah, Mo., in the state’s northwestern corner.
It’s in those rolling hills that 4-year-old Tyson Durfey would ride his pony alongside his father and hear the stories of true cowboys. He learned that Jesse James had ridden through the same brush, and he learned all the fine details of being a cowboy: Riding horses is just one thing; cowboys needed to know what it meant to stand up for people who needed it and to live by a strong moral code.
“One thing I still hold onto today is that when I give someone my word, that’s as good as anything I can give them and that I will stand by it,” he said. “For my dad, it was a way for him to babysit me. For me, it was a lifestyle. It was something I wanted to be and how I wanted to live my life.”
He watched deer bound across corn fields and cattle feast on grain. He hunted rabbits and squirrels and held tightly those ideals that had been passed along to him through the generations and in his own imagination.
Part of that is being the son of Roy Durfey. Part of it is having two older brothers who also were cowboys and talented ropers. Wes is the oldest, 10 years older than Tyson. Travis is in the middle, five years removed from both siblings.
That was an amazing influence on Tyson, who has taken the competitive edge further than anyone in the family. He won Canadian titles in 2006, ’08 and 2011, and this December will compete at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the seventh time in eight years.
But his influences are deeper than that. Tyson Durfey recalls watching greats like Joe Beaver and Troy Pruitt inside his home, taking those same lessons he was receiving. He saw the biggest names in the game compete on his father’s horses.
“At a young age, we were at the American Royal in Kansas City, and I was sitting on a horse and saw Fred Whitfield there,” Durfey said. “I had always heard my dad talking about him. Then all of the sudden, Fred Whitfield was walking over to me, this little redheaded kid sitting on a huge horse.
“He stuck his hand up to mine to shake it. It was a massive hand. He looked at me with a really serious look on his face and asked me if I was going to be good. I just nodded my head and said, ‘Yes, sir.’ That was my first chance to meet Fred Whitfield, but it stuck with me all my life.”
Each meeting became a huge blessing and further fueled Durfey’s fire. That ignition switch has paid plenty of dividends over his 31 years. In 2001 and ’02, he earned the Missouri High School Rodeo Association tie-down roping championship. Shortly afterward, he set out on his career in ProRodeo.
Along the way, he has racked up more than a million dollars in Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association earnings. That doesn’t include the cash he’s earned north of the border, nor money earned at countless jackpots, amateur rodeos and that cool $100,000 prize he earned earlier this year by winning RFD-TV’s The American.
As a redheaded youngster, he learned the lessons of great horses and what it takes to ride them correctly through each run. He got a front-row seat as Roy Durfey made his name as one of the greatest calf-roping horsemen in the game.
“I wanted to make my name competing, winning,” Tyson Durfey said. “I believe in the horsemanship, and I feel like I’m a work in progress. I continue to work on it every day. If you get to where you think you’re good, then you’re not going to work at getting better. That’s what keeps all of us involved in the sport. It’s a never-ending story that keeps getting rewritten.”
Like any good novel, Durfey’s story line has changed over the years. He was just 23 years old when he won that first Canadian buckle, just 24 when he played in Las Vegas for the first time. Though he called his 10-night run at the NFR a struggle that year, he learned a lot.
“If you would’ve told me in 2006 that I would’ve finished in the top 15 in the world, I would’ve been ecstatic, but instead, I felt like 2007 was a huge letdown,” he said. “I felt a lot of pressure that first year. I was so young and was so structured in the way I did things. I didn’t realize that there is more than one way to skin a cat.
“I just wanted to win and beat them, but at the end of the day, it boils down to being the best person you can be and doing the best you can do every time. I was more focused on trying to win than I was at trying to be the best I could be at the rodeo.”
Durfey’s second NFR went much better. He won a go-round and placed in five others. Most importantly, he finished second in the average. In 2009, he finished third in the 10-run aggregate while placing in seven rounds. He moved up nine spots to finish third in the final world standings. That is his best finish to date.
“The thing about Las Vegas is you never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “You can look at everything and expect someone to have a great finals, and it just doesn’t work out that way.”
Those are the ups and downs of being a professional cowboy. Durfey knows the rodeo roller coaster is filled with equal parts queasiness and thrills, whether the ride is in Las Vegas or near the Washington coast.
When he first started making a name for himself, Tyson Durfey traveled the rodeo trail in a stock trailer hauling a borrowed horse.
“Half that year, I slept in the back of my truck,” he said.
Much has changed along his roller-coaster ride. A little more than a year ago, he married Australian-born country singer Shea Fisher, and the couple took its honeymoon shortly after the 2013 NFR. He finds great comfort in having a great home life, despite the gypsy lifestyle that comes with being a rodeo cowboy.
“My life has changed astronomically since I first got started,” Durfey said. “I’m married now, I have my own house, my own place, my own indoor arena. I’ve been extremely blessed. I feel more grounded, more down to earth.”
That comfort has enabled Durfey to live the life he always has dreamed about. He’s a rodeo cowboy, just like his heroes. He has sponsors who not only support him but appreciate that he’s the perfect identity for their brands.
He’s built his reputation through hard work, God-given talent and integrity. It has allowed Tyson Durfey many blessings throughout an already distinguished career. It’s allowed him to chase his gold-buckle dreams, ride fast horses and compete on his sport’s biggest stages every year.
It sounds like an amazing country song, most likely performed by Shea Fisher, who has fallen in love with a redheaded rodeo cowboy that is just carrying on a family legacy.
REXBURG, Idaho – When Wyatt Smith looks back at 2014, he points to a certain moment as the turning point and a key reason as to why he qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
“San Antonio was a huge boost for me,” said Smith, who won the steer wrestling title in San Antonio this past February. “I got a lot of confidence from that, and I was able to stay very consistent through the year.”
It paid off. Smith pocketed $57,188 through the regular season, which ran through the end of September. He heads to Las Vegas next week as the 13th ranked bulldogger – only the top 15 contestants in each event earn the right to compete for the biggest pay in the game. Go-round winners will earn $19,000 each night for 10 nights.
“It still hasn’t really set in; all I’m doing is living out a dream,” said Smith, 26, of Rexburg, Idaho.
The dream started two decades ago as a youngster in a rodeo family. His father, Lynn, and mother, Valorie, provided the tools for Wyatt and his younger brother, Garrett.
“Rodeo is a lifestyle,” Wyatt Smith said. “My family is the big boost in every way that they can, from helping me take care of horses all the time to helping take care of everything when I’m gone. Everything we do is rodeo, rodeo, rodeo.
“My mom helps me a lot with goal-setting. It would help me keep my focus and drive and take care of practice and everything else. When school was out, I was saddling horses, and we were practicing. My dad had everything ready for us when we needed.”
That type of support means everything to Smith, who also won event titles in Evanston, Wyo., and Salt Lake City.
“There’s never a negative moment in our house,” he said. “We were just a little small family from Rexburg, Idaho. I’ve always had that positive influence and the push and drive.”
That influence and a true passion has been a guiding force for Smith, who won both the National High School Rodeo Association and the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association championships in the all-around and steer wrestling. A big part of that was the dedication he had to getting better.
“When I was younger, my idol was Ty Murray,” Smith said of the nine-time world champion. “He did lots of gymnastics, learning to use his body and control his body. He was one of the greatest and a legend. If he was doing it, I wanted to learn.
“It was just a way to stay in shape and keep the flexibility and control in my body.”
It seems to have worked well for Smith, who began competing in ProRodeo in 2008. He has finished among the top 55 cowboys in the world standings each of the previous three years, but his run in 2014 is his best so far.
Through all the greatness that came his way over the last 12 months, there was one major challenge. In mid-May, he lost his main partner, a 14-year-old gelding he called Short Bus.
“It was dang sure tough,” Smith said, his voice cracking. “When we travel around, it’s just just the traveling partners that become our family; our horses are, too. It’s how we make money and how we survive. Losing a good horse is tragic to a lot of things. I was just fortunate to have other horses to get on this year.”
Short Bus suffered a brain aneurism while Smith was at the rodeo in Ramona, Calif. The horse died just before Smith was to compete.
“That made it awful tough for the night,” he said. “I held it together to bulldog and haze a few steers, then I handed the horses off and headed to the truck. I was done for the night.”
That painful moment could have derailed everything Smith had worked for, but he viewed it more as a challenge to overcome. He knew there still was business ahead of him, so he tended to it, all while traveling with a team of steer wrestlers called “The Recking Crew”: Smith, Tom Lewis, Sean Santucci and Christin Radabaugh.
“What I like most about rodeo is the lifestyle,” he said. “We get to travel around the country and see different places. We get to go anywhere we want and get to do what we love. You set yourself up to be around great people all the time.”
Now he has the opportunity to ply his trade on rodeo’s grandest stage, the NFR.
“There are a lot of guys who could be at the finals right now that just didn’t have the luck,” Smith said. “There are so many bulldoggers out there that bulldog outstanding. It’s such a privilege to be one of the top 15 in the world and get to go to the finals.
“I’d love to win a round buckle. I want to go at it like I do at every rodeo I go to, and that’s to win as much money as I can.”
When the dust settles on the final night of the 2014 season, the contestants who have earned the most money in each event will earn the gold buckle awarded to the world champion.
“That would be outstanding and would be a lifelong achievement,” he said. “It is dang sure a possibility and is within reach if everything goes right. You’re always reaching for that, but in the back of your mind, you’re going to take each pen of steers one at a time.
“I don’t have to beat all the greats. I have to throw my steers down and let them play out the rest.”
LAS VEGAS – Terri Powers thinks there are more pertinent story lines about the Western lifestyle than most books written on the subject portray.
“When I decided to write books for the rodeo crowd, I saw that most cowboy books out there are either historical, old-timey stuff or Western romance novels,” said Powers, an author from Albuquerque, N.M. “Instead, I want to do entertaining books that are more relevant to today’s cowboy.”
She’s done it so far. Powers wrote Gold Buckles Don’t Lie, the Untold Tale of Fred Whitfield, which was released in 2013. It’s been quite a success, especially among rodeo fans that have followed the career of Whitfield, an eight-time world champion calf roper and pro rodeo’s most decorated African-American cowboy.
This December, Powers releases “Cowboy Tails, Good Ol’ Gals Tell All,” a collection of short stories from women who have loved cowboys “to varying degrees of success.” She will be in Las Vegas from Dec. 5-14 for signings and appearances during the upcoming National Finals Rodeo.
“The book is based on my decision at 8 years old to never marry a cowboy,” Powers said. “I remember being quite certain, even as a little kid, that I didn’t want to end up with a cowboy.”
It’s something she never thought about again until writing Whitfield’s story.
“It was then that I realized there are some really awesome women out there who would not have anything but a cowboy,” she said. “I wondered what they knew that I didn’t, and Cowboy Tails was born. Regardless of the specifics, I figured the women’s stories would be a good time, and they are.”
Rodeo life is nothing new to Powers, whose father designed and built rodeo equipment during the 1960s. Her older brother was a tie-down roper, and her son is a team roper. Having seen the heartbreak rodeo can bring, she was never interested in it herself.
“I have always loved horses and still do,” she said.
Though she wanted to remain tied to cowboys and the rodeo way of life, Powers wanted her second book to be as far removed from her first as she could get.
“Gold Buckles was about somebody; Cowboy Tails is about everybody,” Powers said. “I started with my friends, women that I knew had been with cowboys. Very early, I knew I was on to something, so I next took it to the cyber crowd and talked to woman all over the country. I listened to them tell of the perks and perils of life with a cowboy, then, at the end, I analyzed my decision based on their stories.”
And, oh, what stories.
“There are 43 chapters,” Powers said. “The majority of them are one woman telling one story in one chapter, however, there are three or four women with stories throughout the book, which is structured to follow the course of a woman’s life: The first ones, the last ones and all the ones in between.”
Powers interviewed every woman, most of whom remain anonymous.
“The only common thread among the woman was that they had loved a cowboy, so their stories are all over the map,” she said. “I heard stories about stereotypical ornery, rotten rodeo cowboys, as well as stories of men who made me proud to me an American. They were very funny, but also very heart-warming.”
There are stories from women through the generations.
“One of my favorite stories is from a woman whose father was a cowboy, but her mother was a city girl from San Diego who fell for all of his outlandish stories,” Powers said. “He once told her that cockleburs were porcupine embryos, and if you put them into the oven, they would hatch. She believed him.”
Bull riders really took a hit in this book, and Powers said there were some wild stories about them. While she wasn’t too surprised about the bull riders, Powers said she was surprised to hear about another side of often chauvinist cowboys.
“Many women talked about how their cowboys pushed them to do more than they ever thought they could,” she said. “I found that paradox interesting. These supposed chauvinists often had more faith in their women’s abilities than the women themselves had, and pushed them far beyond their comfort zone.”
Updated information on Las Vegas signings and appearances will be made on the book’s website, www.CowboyTails.com. Some of the storytellers will be with her periodically during the NFR.
So why is this the best time to release the book?
“I wanted to get the biggest start I could,” she said. “I think it will make an awesome Christmas gift. This book is angled toward women, but in the end, I think it appeals to everybody.”
She also will begin investigating her next book while in Las Vegas.
“The women have had their turn, but I think my next book will allow the cowboys to have their say,” Powers said. “I’ll be talking to as many cowboys as I can during this year’s NFR and have Cowboy Tails II ready to release at next year’s NFR.”
When the National Finals Rodeo heads to Las Vegas every December, 119 contestants will battle for the top prize money in the game. They bring with them hundreds of thousands of fans to the Nevada desert looking for stories of cowboys, cowgirls and the Western lifestyle.
Terri Powers has found a perfect niche with rodeo fans and plans to stay there for years to come.