Bobby Welsh closes Days of '76 with big bull ride

•  Joe Kavanaugh Journal correspondent

From 2005 to 2011, bull rider Bobby Welsh was a fixture under the bright lights at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. Every year Welsh qualified as one of the top 15 bull riders in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

Judging by an 89-point bull ride aboard Bar T Rodeo's Phe Phe's Secret on Saturday’s final day of the 93rd annual Days of ’76 rodeo, Welsh served notice on a return trip to Las Vegas as the Gillette, Wyo., cowboy held the lead heading into Saturday night’s action, which was not completed at press time.

“It was an older bull who is patched into bigger rodeos, and I’d seen him three or four years ago and I was really happy to have him,” Welsh said. “My buddies told me he would be a dream and he was. He turned back to the left and bucked hard and that was exactly what he did when I last seen him.”

Standing 22nd in the PRCA standings coming into the week, approximately $6,000 out of a coveted top-15 position and a ticket to the NFR, a big check in Deadwood will certainly jumpstart a push over the final two months of the season.

“Deadwood has been good to me. I won it in 2013 and I think I’ve won second or third here four or five other times," said the 31-year-old cowboy. “It’s always fun coming down here and riding bulls. I like afternoon (performances) and I was glad to be up here today. It was an absolutely gorgeous day for a rodeo, a day to have fun and enjoy it in its entirety.”

A father of four, Welsh’s commitment to family had much to do with the three-year absence from the NFR.

“The first year it just didn’t work out, and the second year, I didn’t go very hard and then last year I just went to 10 rodeos. I was doing some regrouping and doing kid’s stuff and family stuff,” Welsh said. “I had a great time growing up rodeoing and doing stuff kids do, and if I go to a 100 rodeos a year I’m going to rob my kids of some of that childhood I want them to have.”

River Voigt, of Killdeer, N.D., leaps from his horse during the steer wrestling competition Saturday afternoon during the PRCA Rodeo at the Days of ’76 celebration in Deadwood.

A couple of Texas cowboys dominated the tie-down roping event on Saturday with Caleb Smidt (Bellville, Texas), a 2013 NFR qualifier, turning in a standout 7.8-second run in the evening performance to top Cade Swor (Winnie, Texas), a four-time NFR qualifier and 2013 Days of ’76 winner, who had stopped the clock in nine seconds during the matinee performance for a two-head aggregate of 17.7 seconds. Smidt’s quick evening run bettered that mark with an aggregate of 16.3 seconds.

One of South Dakota’s best all-around cowboys, Joe Wilson of Long Valley, turned in the quickest bulldogging run in the Saturday matinee as the multi-time Indian Finals Rodeo champion tracked and tipped his steer in 4.0 seconds. Stockton Graves of Alva, Okla., won the average off some excellent work earlier in the week, posting a 9.3-second aggregate on two head.

Bill Tutor, of Hunstville, Texas, holds to the horse Blue Sugar during bareback riding competition Saturday afternoon during the PRCA Rodeo at the Days of ’76 celebration in Deadwood. Bill Tutor, Hunstville, Texas,

Two-time world champion Chad Ferley and Chuck Schmidt, currently ranked No. 3 in PRCA world standings, led a host of South Dakota’s finest saddle bronc riders looking to top the 84-point ride posted by Wade Sundell on Friday night. Ferley had the best bronc ride of the Saturday performances, an 81-point ride that tied for third overall.

Ty Breuer of Mandan, N.D., notched the best bareback trip of the day with an 85-point ride, good enough for second in the overall behind Evan Jayne’s 87-point Friday night ride.

A southern lady pulled off the biggest surprise in Saturday’s final day of Days of ’76 action as Michelle Lummus, currently ranked 65th in Women’s Professional Rodeo Association standings, spun through the barrel racing cloverleaf in 17.88 seconds to wrest the lead from association point’s leader Lisa Lockhart of Oelrichs (17.93).