postheadericon PBR to debut in Whitecourt

Byrne, other top bull riders to be part of Alpha Bull event in central Alberta community

WHITECOURT, Alberta – The danger and excitement of man vs. beast dates back to the days of gladiators.

Now, though, it’s a nearly orchestrated dance of 150-pound men doing their best to tame nearly a ton of bucking flesh that kicks, spins and stomps beneath them. That raw power allows for some phenomenal athleticism, as the Veteran Oilfield PBR Challenge kicks off Aug. 10 at the Scott Safety Centre in Whitecourt.

“This is going to be our first year in Whitecourt, and I’m excited to bring the PBR there,” said Chad Besplug, founder and CEO of Alpha Bull, which will produce the event. “We want the fans there to be just as excited as we are.”

Tanner Byrne

Tanner Byrne

The inaugural event will be a true showcase of the greatest animals and the top bull riders on the PBR Canada tour, and fans in this central Alberta community will have a chance to see it inside the quaint auditorium.

“I would love to be the first guy to win that,” said Tanner Byrne, 25, of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. “This is my comeback year. I spent most of 2017 out with injuries, so I’ve had some ground to make up.”

He’s done a pretty well. He’s climbed to 21st in the PBR world standings and is one of the seeded cowboys on the Unleash the Beast series, the association’s premier tour.

“My goal is to come back, make the world finals and just get back to where I’m supposed to be,” he said. “It’s been going well this year. I feel good again and have been riding good again.”

He wants that to continue. While the premier tour is taking a few months off, Byrne plans to hit all the important stops in Canada. That’s why he’s excited about making sure he gets to Whitecourt.

“Having the PBR go to Whitecourt for the first time, I’m excited,” Byrne said. “I’ not only showing off myself as a rider but also our bulls with the Flying Four Bucking Bulls.”

Byrne is a co-owner of the livestock company with his father and father-in-law. That means he will be pulling double-duty when it comes time to buck bulls in Whitecourt.

“We’ve been raising bulls for over 10 years and have had some pretty good success with it,” he said. “It seems to be getting better every year. I’ve got 20 bulls that I wouldn’t be afraid to take to any PBR across Canada.”

Byrne said he’s excited to be part of the Alpha Bull event.

“I haven’t been able to get to a lot of those events due to scheduling conflicts, but I always see the highlights and hear the guys raving about the Alpha Bull events,” he said. “Anytime that anybody is trying to grow the sort of bull riding in Canada, I’m all for it.”

postheadericon Rangers ready for college finals

ALVA, Okla. – Maverick Harper is as confident as he’s ever been in his rodeo career, and it comes at a good time.

The Northwestern Oklahoma State University cowboy is competing at the College National Finals Rodeo for the first time, and he likes the opportunities that are before him when the action takes place Sunday, June 10-Saturday, June 16, in Casper, Wyo. But it’s not just an individual confidence; he sees great things for both the Northwestern men and women’s teams.

Maverick Harper

Maverick Harper

“I don’t see how we couldn’t be competitive,” he said, referring to the men’s team of six cowboys competing in seven events and the women’s squad of four competing in five events. “Everybody on our team is capable of winning a national championship in their event.”

Harper, a senior from Stephenville, Texas, won the team roping-heading title in the Central Plains Region, joining his heeling partner, Tanner Nall of Colcord, Okla., for the top spot in the circuit made up primarily of college teams from Oklahoma and Kansas. Harper also finished second in the region’s all-around race, so he will also compete in tie-down roping at the college finals.

He and Nall will be joined in Casper by tie-down roper Ethan Price of Leedey, Okla., who finished second in the region. Also in the mix are a trio of steer wrestlers: Talon Roseland of Marshalltown, Iowa, the regional champ; Cody Devers of Perryton, Texas, who finished second; and Bridger Anderson of Carrington, N.D., the fourth-place bulldogger.

For the women, Jenny Massing of Ponoka, Alberta, finished second in both goat tying and the all-around race, so she will also compete in barrel racing. Taylor Munsel of Arnett, Okla., finished second in breakaway roping, while Brandi Hollenbeck of Hutchinson, Kan., earned the spot on the team by finishing fifth.

Sara Bynum of Beggs, Okla., won the regional title in barrel racing and hopes to carry over that success to Casper.

“Seeing the arena does help,” said Bynum, a senior making her third trip to the college finals. “The ground is always a little bit different every year, so you don’t know what to expect. I think the mental game is easier after you’ve been there a couple times.”

She blazed through the 10-event season on her talented 8-year-old paint mare, Loretta. Bynum knows her success runs through the talented horse’s legs.

“I think the biggest thing is to go out there and have fun,” she said. “I need to take care of my horses and take care of me, then I need to let it all fall where it does. The big thing is to not to try to do too much. I’ve had to learn that if I just go and enjoy what I do, I usually do better.”

She also realizes what kind of talent will be wearing those black and red NWOSU vests.

Sara Bynum

Sara Bynum

“Having a full team back at the college finals says a lot about Northwestern rodeo and about Stockton (Graves, the rodeo coach),” Bynum said. “He does a very good job recruiting, and having a full team back at the finals gives us a chance to do well as a team.

“I think we have the potential to win it all. We have the right girls, and we have a lot of talent going this year for both teams.”

The CNFR finalists earned the right to compete in Wyoming by finishing the region race among the top 3 in the standings. Only the top two teams in the men’s and women’s divisions advance, so that’s why Northwestern is able to have two full teams comping for the top prizes in the sport.

What they’ve gained through schooling in Alva has definitely paid off.

“Stockton doesn’t know a lot about barrel racing, but he knows how to win regardless of what rodeo event you’re in,” Bynum said, noting that Graves is a seven-time steer wrestling qualifier to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. “He helps any way he can, and he knows the mental game of a big stage. He knows what comes into play and what will keep you competitive.”

At the intercollegiate level of any sport, the mental approach to the game is vital.

“One of Stockton’s key things is learning how to win,” Harper said. “It doesn’t always take a fast run to win. It’s knowing your stage and knowing what you have to do.”

That has worked through the rigors of the regular season. He plans to take that same approach when he competes in both events in Casper.

postheadericon Harrison eager to return to Gunnison

John Harrison, decked out for his Miss Rodeo Universe Act, is one of the funniest men in rodeo. He returns to Gunnison in July for Cattlemen's Days.

John Harrison, decked out for his Miss Rodeo Universe Act, is one of the funniest men in rodeo. He returns to Gunnison in July for Cattlemen’s Days.

GUNNISON, Colo. – Many of the greatest athletes in ProRodeo make their way to this picturesque community every July.

John Harrison is an entertainer, rodeo clown, barrelman and comedian all rolled up in a ball of fun and funny, and he might be the best athlete of them all at this year’s Cattlemen’s Days PRCA Rodeo, set for 7 p.m. Thursday, July 12, to Saturday, July 14, at Fred Field Western Center in Gunnison.

“We’ve had John in Gunnison before, and he does an excellent job entertaining the crowd,” said Kevin Coblentz, president of the volunteer committee that produces the annual rodeo. “He has the perfect personality for our rodeo, and his comedy is family friendly, which is exactly what we like to see.”

Harrison is half-artist, half-entertainer, and he molds those pieces together quite well. On top of that, he utilizes his athleticism in some comedic ways to produce an award-winning showcase throughout each of the three performances.

He is a four-time winner of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Comedy Act of the Year and a three-time winner of the Coors Man in the Can award, an honor bestowed upon the top barrelman in ProRodeo based on peer votes. But those awards don’t define the third-generation cowboy.

“I love my job, but the best part is the traveling and doing things with my family,” Harrison said. “There’s the stress of getting animals and everything ready for a performance, but the reward is great when the crowd comes out to enjoy the rodeo.

“For two hours, they get to get away from their life, and I’m glad I can be part of it.”

Raised in Soper, Okla., to a rodeo family, Harrison began his entertainment career as a trick rider. He joined the PRCA in 1999, and within five years, he had transitioned to being a clown and barrelman. It provided greater opportunities and has allowed him the chance to showcase the funny side of his amazing abilities.

“Everything’s changed since I first started clowning,” said Harrison, 39, the grandson of 1962 world champion bull rider Freckles Brown. “I’m married and have a family and responsibilities. My whole life has changed.”

It’s been pretty good. When possible, his wife, Carla, and their three children travel the rodeo circuit with him.

“What brings me the most joy is for all of us to be on the road and getting to do things as a family,” he said. “I love that my kids are with me for the summer run. They’re going to have memories that will last forever.”

They will be with him in Gunnison, and he’s excited to be part of the historic event. Colorado’s hidden gem is the longest continuous-running rodeo in the state. It also boasts of having the largest Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign in the sport.

“It is a traditional rodeo with a great feel to it, having the track that runs on the outside of the arena,” Harrison said. “That committee finds a cause, and they have delivered on their cause greater than any other committee in the nation. That says something to me.

“You can’t beat being in the Rockies in the middle of the summer. Plus, I think the traditional rodeos are always fun to work.”

And that’s why he’s excited to return to Gunnison.

postheadericon Rumford returns to Rooftop

Justin Rumford gives the thumbs' up from the float he rides with Jimmy Lee, Weston Rutkowski and Andy Seiler during the 2016 Rooftop Rodeo parade in Estes Park, Colo.

Justin Rumford gives the thumbs’ up from the float he rides with Jimmy Lee, Weston Rutkowski and Andy Seiler during the 2016 Rooftop Rodeo parade in Estes Park, Colo. He returns to Rooftop Rodeo this July.

Celebrated rodeo clown joins Sanders, Hilton as award-winners working rodeo

ESTES PARK, Colo. – Justin Rumford is just naturally funny, and that’s a good thing.

He’s a comedian by nature, something he picked up years ago on his family’s Kansas ranch. Now he is the preeminent funnyman in professional rodeo, having been named the Clown of the Year five times in the past six years.

Rumford will lend his talents and his comedic poetry to Rooftop Rodeo, set for 7 p.m. Thursday, July 5-Tuesday, July 10, at Granny May Arena inside the Estes Park Fairgrounds.

“We’re bringing Justin back because he’s the fans’ favorite every time he’s here,” said Mark Purdy, chairman of Estes Park Western Heritage Inc., a group of volunteers that works with the town of Estes Park to produce the annual rodeo. “He’s funny, engaging and makes our rodeo better just because he’s here.”

Deep in his roots, Rumford is a third-generation stock contractor. Rodeo is in his blood. He’s roped and bulldogged; he’s ridden broncs and fought bulls; he’s even driven the semi-tractor trailers that haul prized steads.

Now he’s living a dream.

“This clowning deal is the best thing I’ve ever had,” said Rumford, who lives Ponca City, Okla., with his wife, Ashley, and their triplets, Livi, Lola and Bandy. “It’s something in rodeo that I can have a lot of longevity in. There’s not just a ton of risk, and it’s something I enjoy so much.”

He isn’t the only award-winning piece of the Rooftop Rodeo equation. Of course, the rodeo is a winner, named six times as Rodeo of the Year, and this year will also feature two other 2017 honorees: Secretary of the Year Amanda Corley Sanders and Music Director of the Year Josh “Hambone” Hilton – Hilton is the first person to ever be recognized in that category.

“We’ve had Amanda and ‘Hambone’ working Rooftop for several years, and both are integral parts of what we do in producing this rodeo every year,” said Ben Vigil, president of Western Heritage. “They handle a lot of the behind-the-scenes things that must happen for a rodeo to be successful in this day and age, but they are relatively unseen. Still, none of our success happens without people like that on your team.”

Like Rumford, Sanders and Hilton were raised around rodeo. Each provides a laundry list of experiences to their duties, and the cowboys have rewarded them for it. While they tend to handle their tasks under the cover of darkness, Rumford happily welcomes his place in the spotlight.

“People want to laugh at each other more than they want to laugh at something,” Rumford said. “When I’m in the arena, I’m saying the same stuff I’d say if I wasn’t clowning.

“It’s just me being me.”

That’s all anybody in Estes Park wants.

postheadericon Pharr speeds to Claremore title

CLAREMORE, Okla. – The dirt on their faces said something about Conner and Sterling Pharr.

They’re having fun on the rodeo trail with their daddy, Tim. So is he, for that matter. He has set up his rodeo schedule around his sons’ education; not that school’s out for the summer, the boys jumped in the rig with him.

On Sunday night, Pharr proved how much fun he’s having by roping and tying his calf in 7.9 seconds to win the tie-down roping on the final night of the 2018 Will Rogers Stampede PRCA Rodeo.

“This is the second run on these calves, and they missed her the first time,” said Pharr, the No. 38 man in the world standings heading into Memorial Day weekend. “There wasn’t much to know. You can’t really make a game plan, so you just wing it.”

Improvising worked for the Resaca, Ga., cowboy. He pocketed $1,659 in Claremore; when added to his earnings for finishing second at the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo to kick off May, Pharr has earned more than $4,400 in Oklahoma this month.

“There were four guys going after me, so I knew if I’m under 9.4, I’m in the money,” he said. “It’s still a competition between you and your calf. Some of the calves tonight really ran, and my wasn’t so fast, so it gave me an advantage.”

Pharr and the boys left their Georgia home and arrived 670 miles later in Fort Smith, Ark., in time for him to compete Sunday morning there. They then traveled another 125 miles to Claremore to partake in the four-time PRCA Small Rodeo of the Year. It’s a lot of miles, but it’s important for Pharr to have that time with his kids; Conner is 7; Sterling, 5.

“There’s nothing more important to me than family,” he said. “They just got out of school, so I just loaded them up, and here we go. I’ve got them for two weeks, then their junior rodeo finals is June 9.

“Whatever I can do to have them with me is what I do. I have a great family and a lot of support behind me, and they’re more than willing to help me.’

With Conner and Sterling right here with him, Tim Pharr has found a winning formula.

Will Rogers Stampede
Claremore, Okla.
May 25-27
Bareback riding:
1. Jamie Howlett, 83.5 points Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s River Blast, $1,225; 2. (tie) Taylor Broussard and Tanner Aus, 81.5, $798 each; 4. Lane McGehee, 81, $456; 6. (tie) Justin Pollmiller and Jared Keylon, 80.5, $223.

Steer wrestling: 1. Shane Frey, 3.7 seconds, $1,951; 2. Matt Reeves, 4.3, $1,697; 3. (tie) Jason Tapley and Blake Mindemann, 4.4, $1,315 each; 5. (tie) Kyle Whitaker and Jule Hazen, 4.5, $806; 7. John Kloeckler, 4.7, $424; 8. Hunter Washburn, 4.8, $170.

Tie-down roping: 1. Tim Pharr, 7.9 seconds, $1,659; 2. Trent Creager, 8.4, $1,443; 3. Riley Pruitt, 8.7, $1,226; 4. Shane Hanchey, 9.1, $1,010; 5. (tie) Cole Bailey and Tyler Milligan, 9.4, $685 each; 7. Cody Quaney, 9.6, $361; 8. Scot Meeks, 9.7, $144.

Saddle bronc riding 1. Louie Brunson, 85 points on Pete Carr ProRodeo’s Django, $1,365; 2. Colt Gordon, 84, $1,034; 3. Joe Lufkin, 83.5, $744; 4. Dalton Davis, 83, $496; 5. (tie) Wyatt Casper, Tyrel Larsen and Roper Kiesner, 80, $165 each.

Team roping: 1. Dalton Turner/Heath Williams, 5.4 seconds, $1,729; 2. Cody Graham/Jason Stroup, 5.8, $1,504; 3. Cory Kidd V/Caleb Anderson, 5.7, $1,278; 4. Quentin Sawyer/Jordan Reynolds, 6.0, $1,052; 5. Brenten Hall, 6.1, $927; 6. Jesse Stipes/Jake Smith, 6.2, $601; 7. Andrew Ward/Reagan Ward, 6.4, $376; 8. Branden Duff/Jeff Brown, 6.5, $150.

Barrel racing: 1. Jessica Routier, 17.11 seconds, $1,905; 2. Jody McKay, 17.20, $1,633; 3. Stevi Hillman, 17.25, $1,361; 4. Tiany Schuster, 17.27, $1,179; 5. Kylie Weast, 17.28, $907; 6. Cheyenne Kelly, 17.33, $726; 7. Ericka Nelson, 13.37, $544; 8. Ali Armstrong, 17.38, $363; 9. Sandy McElreath, 17.50, $272; 10. Sabra O’Quinn, 17.54, $181.

Clem McSpadden Tub-Handle Classic Steer roping: First round: 1. Roger Branch, 10.7 seconds, $1,554; 2. Will Gasperson, 10.9, $1,286; 3. Tony Reina, 11.3, $1,018; 4. Cody Lee, 11.9, $750; 5. Mike Chase, 12.2, $482; 6. Trenton Johnson, 12.5, $268. Second round: 1. Corey Ross, 9.9 seconds, $2,554; 2. Mike Chase, 11.8, $1,286; 3. Brady Garten, 12.0, $1,108; 4. Rocky Patterson, 12.4, $750; 5. Martin Poindexter, 12.7, $482; 6. (tie) Vin Fisher Jr. and Cody Lee, 13.1, $134 each. Third round: 1. Tuf Cooper, 10.1 seconds, $1,554; 2. J.P. Wickett, 10.7, $1,286; 3. Vin Fisher Jr., 10.8, $1,018; 4. Corey Ross, 10.9, $750; 5. Brady Garten, 11.8, $482; 6. Jim Locke, 12.0, $268. Average: 1. Cody Lee, 39.7 seconds on three runs, $2,331; 2. Roger Branch, 41.2, $1,929; 3. Trenton Johnson, 45.7, $1,527; 4. Billy Good, 48.8, $1,125; 5. Kelton McMillen, 50.3, $723; 6. Corey Ross, 20.8 seconds on two runs, $402.

Bull riding: 1. Lane Clark, 86.5 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Lloyd Did WHAT, $1,458; 2. (tie) Boudreaux Campbell and Kole Bowman, 86, $950 each; 4. Dusti Boquet and Shane Proctor, $420; 6. Cullen Telfer, 82.5, $221.

postheadericon Reeves slides into No. 2 position

Matt Reeves, a six-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Cross Plains, Texas, transitions to his steer during a 4.3-second run. He sits second in the steer wrestling race at the Will Rogers Stampede in Claremore, Okla. (PEGGY GANDER PHOTO)

Matt Reeves, a six-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Cross Plains, Texas, transitions to his steer during a 4.3-second run. He sits second in the steer wrestling race at the Will Rogers Stampede in Claremore, Okla. (PEGGY GANDER PHOTO)

CLAREMORE, Okla. – Matt Reeves just missed his seventh qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo a season ago.

He doesn’t want to do that again. On Saturday night during the second performance of the Will Rogers Stampede PRCA Rodeo, Reeves wrestled his steer to the ground in 4.3 seconds to move into second place in the bulldogging race.

“With one day left at this rodeo, I should win something,” said Reeves of Cross Plains, Texas. “I don’t know if I’ll (finish) second, but I’ll win something.

“The horses worked outstanding. The start is really fast. I took a chance and was a little behind at the start. The steer let me catch up to him fast.”

Shane Frey of Duncan, Okla., leads steer wrestling in Claremore with a 3.7-second run, so moving into the No. 2 spot is important to Reeves. He understands that placing throughout the season gives him the best shot earning a better living.

In rodeo, money not only helps pay the bills, but dollars equal championship points. At the conclusion of the regular season, only the top 15 on the money list in each event advance to the NFR, ProRodeo’s grand finale. When the campaign comes to a stop on the 10th night in Las Vegas, the contestants with the most money won will be crowned world champions.

“Last year was the first year I hauled this horse all the time,” said Reeves, who finished 21st in the world standings in 2017. “We had some issues toward the end of the year. I had some distractions with us having our second kid coming, but you can’t be distracted and win. That’s just life.

“I’m going to try not to do that again. My hope is to have enough money by Dodge City (Kan., the first of August) to have qualified for the NFR before we got up north, then we’re just fighting for position when we get there.”

Reeves has already had a pretty successful 2018. He won the bulldogging title at The American, a stand-alone event that has been unsanctioned by any association. While the $433,000 he earned the end of February will count for a lot of things in his life, it doesn’t work toward his place in the world standings. He was 13th in the PRCA world standings heading into this weekend.

“That money didn’t really affect how I rodeo,” he said. “We did get another trailer so I could haul five horses, which makes it easier to go with guys. But the majority of that money … we bought some cows and bought a cube feeder; my kids can go to college debt-free, and I’ve got some retirement.”

For now, though, he’s just enjoying his life on the rodeo trail.

Will Rogers Stampede
Claremore, Okla.
May 25-27
Leaders through second performance
Bareback riding:
1. Jamie Howlett, 83.5 points Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s River Blast; 2. Taylor Broussard, 81.5; 3. Lane McGehee, 81; 4. (tie) Justin Pollmiller and Jared Keylon, 80.5; 6. Mark Kreder, 78.

Steer wrestling: 1. Shane Frey, 3.7 seconds; 2. Matt Reeves, 4.3; 3. (tie) Jason Tapley and Blake Mindemann, 4.4; 5. Jule Hazen, 4.5; 6. John Kloeckler, 4.7; 7. Hunter Washburn, 4.8; 8. (tie) Cody Doesher and Tristan Martin.

Tie-down roping: 1. Trent Creager, 8.4 seconds; 2. Riley Pruitt, 8.7; 3. Shane Hanchey, 9.1; 4. (tie) Cole Bailey and Tyler Milligan, 9.4; 6. Cody Quaney, 9.6; 7. Scot Meeks, 9.7; 8. Layton Little, 10.0.

Saddle bronc riding 1. Louie Brunson, 85 points on Pete Carr ProRodeo’s Django; 2. Colt Gordon, 84; 3. (tie) Wyatt Casper and Tyrel Larsen, 80; 5. Bradley Harter, 78.5; 6. (tie) Jake Finley and Clint Lindenfield, 76.

Team roping: 1. Dalton Turner/Heath Williams, 5.4 seconds; 2. Cory Kidd V/Caleb Anderson, 5.7; 3. Quentin Sawyer/Jordan Reynolds, 6.0; 4. Brenten Hall, 6.1; 5. Jesse Stipes/Jake Smith, 6.2; 6. Andrew Ward/Reagan Ward, 6.4;76. (tie) Dilan Rucker/Whitney DeSalvo, Will Clark/Tanner Ward and Adam Wallace/Tyler Young, 6.6.

Barrel racing: 1. Jody McKay, 17.20 seconds; 2. Stevi Hillman, 17.25; 3. Tiany Schuster, 17.27; 4. Kylie Weast, 17.28; 5. Cheyenne Kelly, 17.33; 6. Ericka Nelson, 13.37; 7. Ali Armstrong, 17.38; 8. Sandy McElreath, 17.50; 9. Sabra O’Quinn, 17.54; 10. Skyla Whitters and Kynder Starr, 17.58.

Bull riding: 1. (tie) Boudreaux Campbell, on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Kracker Jack, and Kole Bowman, on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Tequila Worm, 86 points; 3. Cullen Telfer, 82.5; 4. Chase Hamlin, 78; 5. Sage Kimzey, 75; no other qualified rides.

postheadericon Brunson spurs to Claremore lead

Louie Brunson rides Pete Carr's Django for 85 points to take the saddle bronc riding lead at the Will Rogers Stampede in Claremore, Okla. (PEGGY GANDER PHOTO)

Louie Brunson rides Pete Carr’s Django for 85 points to take the saddle bronc riding lead at the Will Rogers Stampede in Claremore, Okla. (PEGGY GANDER PHOTO)

CLAREMORE, Okla. – Louie Brunson has been ever so close to qualifying for ProRodeo’s grand finale, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

If he keeps riding like he did Friday night at the Will Rogers Stampede PRCA Rodeo, he might make it there yet. Brunson matched moves with Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Django for 85 points to take the early lead in saddle bronc riding.

Louie Brunson

Louie Brunson

“That’s a nice little horse that’s good to get on,” said Brunson, 32, of New Underwood, S.D. “This dang sure helps my confidence. He kind of pumped his head a little bit, which made it tough to work my rein, but the hard part was to not have too much fun. He was so nice, I just didn’t want to fall off him.”

While the smile was wide, the spur stroke was solid. In rodeo’s classic event, cowboys must spur the horse from the animal’s neck to the back of the cantle on the saddle. When done in perfect rhythm with the bronc’s bucking motion, scores get high. That’s exactly what happened for Brunson.

“I’ve been staying pretty close to home,” he said. “When I’ve gone, it’s been good, but this dang sure is a good start to my summer.”

Now he’ll have to hold out through the final two performances to see if his score holds up to claim the Claremore title. For now, though, he holds a 6.5-point lead over the No. 2 man, Bradley Harter of Loranger, La. Is this his time to make a big move to finally make it to Las Vegas in December?

“We’ll see how things go in June,” Brunson said. “If things keep going good, I’ll stay out on the road and see what happens.

“I’d like to make the finals. That’s a huge goal, but taking care of my family comes first.”

With priorities like that, Brunson is already winning.

Will Rogers Stampede
Claremore, Okla.
May 25-27
Leaders through first performance
Bareback riding:
1. Lane McGehee, 81 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Sundowner; Colton Delgado, 67; no other qualified rides.

Steer wrestling: 1. Shane Frey, 3.7 seconds; 2. (tie) Jason Tapley and Blake Mindemann, 4.4; 4. Jule Hazen, 4.5; 5. John Kloekler, 4.7; 6. Hunter Washburn, 4.8; 7. (tie) Cody Doesher, Tristan Martin and Eric Manos, 4.9.

Tie-down roping: 1. Trent Creager, 8.4 seconds; 2. Riley Pruitt, 8.7; 3. Shane Hanchey, 9.1; 4. (tie) Cole Bailey and Tyler Milligan, 9.4; 6. Cody Quaney, 9.6; 7. Scot Meeks, 9.7; 8. Layton Little, 10.0.

Saddle bronc riding 1. Louie Brunson, 85 points on Pete Carr ProRodeo’s Django ; 2. Bradley Harter, 78.5; 3. Jake Finley, 76; 4. Jacob Lewis, 73; 5. Mason Laviolette, 66; 6. Joey Sonnier, 65.

Team roping: 1. Cory Kidd V/Caleb Anderson, 5.7 seconds; 2. Quentin Sawyer/Jordan Reynolds, 6.0; 3. Brenten Hall, 6.1; 4. Jesse Stipes/Jake Smith, 6.2; 5. Andrew Ward/Reagan Ward, 6.4; 6. (tie) Dilan Rucker/Whitney DeSalvo and Adam Wallace/Tyler Young, 6.6; 8. Blake Deckard/Cody Heflin, 6.8.

Barrel racing: 1. Jody McKay, 17.20 seconds; 2. Stevi Hillman, 17.25; 3. Tiany Schuster, 17.27; 4. Kylie Weast, 17.28; 5. Cheyenne Kelly, 17.33; 6. Ali Armstrong, 17.38; 7. Sandy McElreath, 17.50; 8. Sabra O’Quinn, 17.54; 8. Kynder Starr, 17.58; 10. Savannah Pearson, 17.60.

Bull riding: 1. (tie) Boudreaux Campbelll, on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Kracker Jack, and Kole Bowman, on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Tequila Worm, 86 points; 3. Sage Kimzey, 75; no other qualified rides.

postheadericon McSpadden honored in Claremore

The new stone, bearing the likeness of legendary announcer and statesman Clem McSpadden, is put on display near the front of the under-renovation Stampede Park.

The new stone, bearing the likeness of legendary announcer and statesman Clem McSpadden, is put on display near the front of the under-renovation Stampede Park.

CLAREMORE, Okla. – The opening night of the Will Rogers Stampede PRCA Rodeo was the perfect time to celebrate all that Clem McSpadden was.

“We’re here to pay tribute to a man who gave us a lifetime of public service to his community, to his rodeo and to his country,” Claremore City Manager Jim Thomas said Thursday during a dedication for McSpadden and the updated Stampede Park, which is undergoing a transformation and is in the first phase of a three- to five-year renovation plan.

“Stampede Park is a dream for all. It’s a place for cowboys, cowgirls, city slickers, wannabes and families to gather. It’s a park connected by pioneer traditions going back many years. Our generations today area the benefactors of the blood, sweat and tears, which has been produced, the last four years, the PRCA’s best small rodeo of the year. We are indebted to those who came before us.”

The renovation is the brain child of the newly formed Arena Co-op, which includes private entities working alongside the city and county. But the dedication also was a tip of the hat to McSpadden, a longtime rodeo announcer who served as a U.S. Congressman for his home state of Oklahoma. He died in 2008.

A stone with McSpadden’s likeness stands as a welcome to Stampede Park, and that was reveled during the dedication.

“With this being the 10th anniversary of his passing, we thought this was a great time to honor Clem,” said David Petty, chairman of the volunteer committee that produces the annual rodeo and a member of the co-op. “Clem was a friend to all of us. Clem announced this rodeo for 50 years. It says at the bottom of this stone here, ‘He was one of us.’

“That’s one of the things Clem would say about everybody … either that or, ‘He’s got his hat shaped right.’ If he said one of those two things, you knew he liked you.”

The evening also included the inaugural Clem McSpadden Tub-Handle Classic, with three rounds of steer-roping competition. It was the perfect accompaniment to the dedication – McSpadden was the longtime voice of the National Finals Steer Roping, which also now bears his name.

“If Clem McSpadden were here right now, he would say, ‘Fellers, I really like this, but why didn’t you take the money and pay the cowboys more?’ ” said Donna McSpadden, his widow.

McSpadden was all about the cowboys. He served as general manager of the National Finals Rodeo during its run in Oklahoma City from 1965-84 and has been inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, to name a few.

“Clem was from Rogers County, but he belonged to a whole bunch of other folks around the state of Oklahoma and around the rodeo country,” said Bill John Baker, the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

But he also was the driving force behind Claremore’s rodeo for half a century.

“He was more than a rodeo announcer,” Petty said. “He was a statesman and a true Oklahoma legend.”

Will Rogers Stampede PRCA Rodeo
May 24-27
Claremore, Okla.
Clem McSpadden Tub-Handle Classic Steer roping: First round: 1. Roger Branch, 10.7 seconds, $1,554; 2. Will Gasperson, 10.9, $1,286; 3. Tony Reina, 11.3, $1,018; 4. Cody Lee, 11.9, $750; 5. Mike Chase, 12.2, $482; 6. Trenton Johnson, 12.5, $268. Second round: 1. Corey Ross, 9.9 seconds, $2,554; 2. Mike Chase, 11.8, $1,286; 3. Brady Garten, 12.0, $1,108; 4. Rocky Patterson, 12.4, $750; 5. Martin Poindexter, 12.7, $482; 6. (tie) Vin Fisher Jr. and Cody Lee, 13.1, $134 each. Third round: 1. Tuf Cooper, 10.1 seconds, $1,554; 2. J.P. Wickett, 10.7, $1,286; 3. Vin Fisher Jr., 10.8, $1,018; 4. Corey Ross, 10.9, $750; 5. Brady Garten, 11.8, $482; 6. Jim Locke, 12.0, $268. Average: 1. Cody Lee, 39.7 seconds on three runs, $2,331; 2. Roger Branch, 41.2, $1,929; 3. Trenton Johnson, 45.7, $1,527; 4. Billy Good, 48.8, $1,125; 5. Kelton McMillen, 50.3, $723; 6. Corey Ross, 20.8 seconds on two runs, $402.

postheadericon A day of remembrance

I’m not sure why, but today hit me hard.

It’s been 18 years since my mom died. Maybe it was my aunt’s post about missing her sissy. Maybe it was the comments that revealed a certain specialness about my mom.

Nonetheless, there have been a wide range of tears shed over the last 12 or so hours. Most are happy, recalling the best parts of our lives together. But there were recollections of her cancer, the day the doctors told us it was terminal and that she had but a few weeks to live.

My mom and me in 1979, taken at a photo booth at Six Flags over Texas.

There was that Mother’s Day weekend of 2000, the last time I saw my mother alive. The overnight drive from Oklahoma City to western Kansas to spend what I was expecting were a few short hours with her. Seems the dying body is resilient, though, and she responded. She got better and better every hour, from the weak, “Hello,” upon my arrival to the stern and motherly, “You need to go back to Oklahoma; you have a new job, and you need to take care of that,” when it was time for me to leave.

Truth was, Mom couldn’t go in front of her boys. It was her way of protecting my brother and me, I guess, so I honored her wishes. A few days later, we all returned together to that same home as a community mourned and my family laid her to rest.

Mom was the third child of nine, the oldest sister, and they were raised on the family farm in Kearny County, Kansas. That was part of her life until her death, and she was awfully proud of her roots and her family. She still would be, if you ask me, and I understand why.

She was my biggest cheerleader and the one who could keep me in line with just a look. The one time I remember getting swatted, I jumped out of the way, and she hit her hand on the wall; I swore she broke her finger, and I still feel guilty about it today – some 45 years later.

My mom impacted many lives in her time on this Earth, and I’m so thankful to still see it some 18 years after she left it. I’m thankful for so many things, and maybe these tears have been the perfect reminder for me.

postheadericon Stampede drawing top cowboys

Four-time world champion Sage Kimzey will be one of the hundreds of contestants who will compete this weekend at the Will Rogers Stampede, the four-time PRCA Small Rodeo of the Year in Claremore, Okla. (GREG WESTFALL PHOTO)

Four-time world champion Sage Kimzey will be one of the hundreds of contestants who will compete this weekend at the Will Rogers Stampede, the four-time PRCA Small Rodeo of the Year in Claremore, Okla. (GREG WESTFALL PHOTO)

CLAREMORE, Okla. – The word about the Will Rogers Stampede is spreading across ProRodeo.

This year’s Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 25-Sunday, May 27, at Will Rogers Stampede Arena, and it will feature more than 550 entrants for the competition. That says something about Claremore’s rodeo.

“We’re just continuing to grow, and I think that’s a great thing for this community,” said David Petty, chairman of the volunteer committee that produces the annual rodeo. “At the close of books, we had 631 entries, which is astonishing to me. Based on the most recent ProRodeo Sports News, there are 17 cowboys listed in the all-around standings, and 12 of them are entered for Claremore.”

The event has become a must-see for fans and a place on the schedule for the biggest names in rodeo: 23-time world champion Trevor Brazile, four-time champs Rocky Patterson and Tuf Cooper, two-time titlist Tim O’Connell are just a few of the men scheduled to compete.

“This is really my hometown rodeo, and it’s one of the best in the nation,” said Brodie Poppino, a Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping qualifier from Big Cabin, Okla. “That committee treats the contestants good. They want to win Rodeo of the Year, and there’s a reason they do.”

The Stampede has been recognized as PRCA’s Small Rodeo of the Year for each of the past four seasons, and that distinction was voted on by the cowboys themselves. It’s a regular home to many of the sport’s greatest stars.

In fact, there are more than 60 contestants that have qualified for the national finals, and a dozen of those have claimed world championships. In all, they account for more than 50 gold buckles. All will be testing their talents in Claremore over the Memorial Day weekend.

“It’s good for our schedules to be able to work a good rodeo in like Claremore,” said Sage Kimzey, the reigning four-time world champion bull rider from Strong City, Okla. “It’s a good, central location, and you know the stock’s going to be great.”

That’s because the rodeo teams with Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, one of the leading livestock producers in the game. But there’s much more that goes into making the Will Rogers Stampede a success every year.

“They appreciate us being there, but we’re the ones who should be appreciating them,” Kimzey said. “They’re hard-working, and they are happy to put on a great event. They’re a fun group of people to be around.”

That’s been paying off. The number of entries has more than doubled the last nine years, so that says quite a bit about what’s happening in Rogers County.

“One of the things we’re doing is featuring our steer ropers with the Clem McSpadden Tub-Handle Classic,” Petty said of the event, set for 7 p.m. Thursday, May 24. “Clem meant so much to this area, and on the 10th anniversary of his death, we thought this would be a great time to introduce it.”

It is the only rodeo in Oklahoma to feature steer roping, which makes it special to the cowboys who compete in that specialized event.

“You have to hand it to David Petty and that committee for featuring our event,” Poppino said. “Other than the Signature Series Steer Roping, Claremore is the only rodeo that we go to all year that features it, so that’s pretty special. It’s going to have a great purse. When you mix that with a great arena and a great setup, it’s going to be outstanding.”

That’s just what everybody has come to expect with Claremore’s rodeo.

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