It was a share of first place, not the full title, but that doesn't matter to KC Jones.
He has a bronze from the Calgary Stampede ... finally.
Jones, the Colorado cowboy who now lives in Decatur, Texas, is the grand ol' man of the steer wrestlers at age 44, but he's still got it, as shown by the 4.2-second time he planted his steer in Saturday's rodeo action.
It's the first time in his career he's claimed top day-money at the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.
"It's awesome. I forgot they gave away bronzes for the go-round, but I saw a picture of it and thought it would be so cool to win one," Jones said. "We're trying to put together a new house in Texas and it would be awesome to have in it.
"I haven't been here the last five or six years, didn't qualify or wasn't invited. It's a lot easier now to win money because of the format. You have four days of competition to win a round compared to when I used to come up. You had two days of competition and then it was the finals. It was tough to win a round."
It's still tough to win as shown by Saturday's action. Jones, Kyle Irwin, of Robertsdale, Ala., and Tanner Milan, of Cochrane, all stopped the clock at 4.2 seconds each collecting $4,500 go-round money.
Milan is already at $10,000 through the second go-round, which has him in great stead to advance all the way to Sunday's $100,000 showdown.
Jones isn't faring too badly so far, either.
The eight-time NFR competitor has already pocketed $6,500 in winnings, although a big hand goes to Milan, who bailed him out when Jones's rig broke down in Wyoming en route to Calgary.
"I told Tanner I couldn't get my horses up here and he said, 'Just catch a flight and you can ride Smoke,' " Jones said. "He just bought that little horse this year, and it's an awesome horse. I'm tickled the Milans have him. That's a great family. They'll do anything in the world for you."
As much as Jones wants to credit Smoke, he is just as worthy of praise. After all, he's hanging in there with competitors half his age. Then again, maybe that's the fountain of youth.
"They just show up before the bulldogging, crawl on and go. I get here 45 minutes early, start stretching and trying to get the knots out of my body," he said. "I don't know if it's the age or just bulldogging for 20 years. You've made some decisions you shouldn't have, like when you should have rode by a steer but jumped and landed wrong, and you feel those 10 years later.
"I work at it to stay in shape to stay up with these young guys. They're so quick and athletic that I have to do extra work to stay up with them."
-- Randy Sportak
Dakota Buttar was gripping a shiny bronze.
As rain and hail pelted the infield at Stampede Park just moments after the conclusion of Saturday’s afternoon rodeo, the soft-spoken bullrider from Kindersley, Sask., was wishing he had his rope in hand, too.
“It’s laying in the rain right now,” Buttar said. “I hope my dad grabbed it.”
The bulls must have known Mother Nature’s mood was turning sour, because the ornery beasts did their part to speed up the end of Saturday’s show.
In fact, six of the 10 bullriders were ejected from their seats prior to the eight-second whistle, a group of cowboys that included Alberta’s Chad Besplug, Tyler Pankewitz, Scott Schiffner and Tyler Thomsen.
Buttar, though, wasn’t going to get his jeans dirty. The reigning Canadian Finals Rodeo champ climbed aboard Buckington from the Outlaw Buckers’ pen and matched his every move, squeezing 88 points out of the judges.
Buttar split top spot with Brazil’s Joao Ricardo Vieira, who also collected 88 points thanks to an eight-second dance with Outlaws’ Big Rig.
Both bullriders pocketed $5,000 for their efforts. That’s a nice payday for eight seconds of work, but the 22-year-old Buttar was equally excited to have finally climbed onto the stage at an event that he watched on TV every day as a young’un.
“It’s a dream come true for any kid in Canada growing up in rodeo,” Buttar said. “To win a round here, it means quite a bit to me.”
And how ‘bout that bronze?
“It’s pretty neat,” Buttar said. “It’ll probably go in the living room at my parents’ house.”
Buttar arrived in Calgary on a high note after winning the showdown round at the Ponoka Stampede.
Vieira, meanwhile,just returned from a trip to his homeland, where the bullriding star — he’s currently sitting atop the PBR world standings — delivered food and water to needy families in the Sao Paulo region.
“These people give me the strength,” Vieira told PBR.com of his charity efforts. “They are simple people, with humble families and with many problems, but they are always smiling.
“I am blessed to live a great moment in my career, mainly financially, so I decided to help these people.”
After winning the day-money in Friday’s opening go-round, Mike Lee, of Fort Worth, Texas, added a third-place cheque in Saturday’s show and leads the Pool A aggregate standings with $9,000.
-- Wes Gilbertson
Marty Yates claiming the tie-down roping go-round wasn’t the only success story for him and his family coming by the slimmest of margins.
The rising-star tie-down roper had his personal cheering section arrive just in time for Saturday’s run at the Calgary Stampede rodeo.
A delayed flight nearly prevented his mom, aunt and grandmother from making it to the grounds in time, but they were able to see the 20-year-old from Stephenville, Texas, tie his beast in 6.8 seconds to earn the $5,500 cheque.
Having them on-hand for one his biggest days as a pro wasn’t lost on Yates.
“My mom, my grandmother and my aunt. I was raised by (them) and they sure got it done,” he said.
Yates never got to meet his father, Marty Yates Sr., who died in a car accident seven months before he was born, not long after finding out he was to be a dad. You bet, his father was on the young cowboy’s mind.
“I bet he’d be pretty happy,” Yates said.
Pretty proud, too.
But those important women in his life sure have reason to be proud, too, and had a big hand in his quick rise in the ranks.
His mother, Angie, was a competitor in rodeo. His aunt, J.J. Hampton, is a 17-time Women’s Professional Rodeo Association world champion and an inductee in the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, and his grandmother, Barbara Hampton ... well, Yates had to get her blessing to drop out of college and turn professional.
“She was the one who wanted me to go (to college) and wanted me to make the college finals,” said Yates, whose uncle, Jeff, was also a pro roper. “When it started going good rodeoing, she said, ‘It’s OK. You can go fulfill your dreams and do what you want to do.’ ”
He’s doing it well. Yates won three of the 10 rounds at last year’s NFR, and more than $58,000 during the event, which vaulted him into sixth place in the final standings.
Among the perks was a spot in Calgary for the first time.
His debut didn’t go well — he was the first competitor out of the chute Friday and missed the calf with his lasso — but made up for it the second time around.
“I’d never even seen a calf run here before. Everybody can tell you, ‘It’s fast. You’ve got to get out there,’ but you don’t understand how fast it is until you watch a couple guys go and you actually run one,” Yates said. “It was a big help today to be last and watch those guys go. It makes a big difference.”
Hunter Herrin (Apache, Okla.) leads Pool A with $8,500 after two rounds, while Blair Burk (Durant, Okla.), who finished one-tenth of a second slower than Yates on Saturday, is second in the aggregate with $8,000 in winnings.
-- Randy Sportak
You don’t hear a rodeo cowboy talking like this very often ...
“That horse, I was actually real scared to get on him,” admitted Rusty Wright, a rising saddle-bronc star from Milford, Utah. “I watched Tyler Corrington get on him at The American (in Dallas) last year, and he made short work of him. So I’m not gonna lie, I was scared ...
“But I guess it all worked out.”
It certainly did.
Wright cashed in on a re-ride opportunity aboard Calgary Stampede’s Texas Cherry, milking the judges for 87.5 points and splitting top spot in Saturday’s go-round with Cody DeMoss, of Heflin, La.
“There ain’t a horse that can’t be rode. That’s what I like to think,” Wright said. “You just try to think basics — stay back, lift on your rein, set your feet. It’s kind of hard to do, but that’s what I try to do. No horse is unrideable — that’s what I like to think and that helps me out, makes me calm down a little bit.”
Thanks to Saturday’s $5,000 payday, the 19-year-old Wright joins his proud papa, Cody, and three other saddle-bronc riders in a logjam atop the Pool A standings.
DeMoss, Chet Johnson and Jim Berry, of Rocky Mountain House, have also earned $5,000 through two days of action at Stampede Park.
While Rusty Wright was admittedly a wee bit nervous with his second assignment Saturday, DeMoss was thrilled to finally score a date with Gross Beetle, another star bucking horse from the Calgary Stampede Ranch near Hanna. It turned out to be a great match, with no re-ride necessary.
“She’s been around forever and I’ve seen lots people get on her, and I’ve always wanted to,” DeMoss said. “I was glad it finally happened (Saturday), and it worked out the way I planned it to.”
-- Wes Gilbertson
It was nearly a missed call ... on purpose.
Tanner Aus is sure glad he didn’t miss out on this opportunity.
About three weeks ago, the 25-year-old bareback rider from Granite Falls, Minn., received an out-of-the-blue call from a Calgary Stampede rodeo official with welcome news — he was invited to pack his boots and spurs for the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.
“It was a number that I didn’t have in my phone. I thought about not answering it, but I was in the car and had nothing to do, so I picked up,” Aus said. “Sure enough, it was a call to come up here.
“Somebody turned out and I was at the top of the alternate list, I guess. I was pretty excited. I’ve been thinking about it ever since, and it’s really a dream come true now that I’m doing well.”
Aus capitalized on the opportunity Saturday afternoon, keeping his seat for an eight-second spin aboard a big, brown bucking horse they call Rum Flavoured.
The announcers were so impressed that they used the replay to educate the crowd on the proper technique for a bareback ride.
The judges were so impressed that they shelled out 86.5 points.
“I knew that horse was a bucker, and he had a really good trip,” Aus said.
Alberta’s own Clint Laye — he hails from the hamlet of Cadogan, not far from the Saskatchewan border — collected the second-place payout Saturday after an 84.5-point hookup with American Thumper.
Laye leads the Pool A aggregate standings with a two-day tally of $9,000.
-- Wes Gilbertson
Getting back to the Calgary Stampede for the first time since the 1980s was already a big deal to Carmel Wright.
Winning the second go-round in Saturday’s barrel racing with a time of 17.72 seconds took that excitement to a new level for the Montana rider.
“Amazing. This is unreal. This has been 13 years in the making,” said Wright, who moved from New Zealand with her husband, David, a saddle-bronc rider.
“We moved to the States 13 years ago with goals like other barrel racers, have a run to the NFR, and this is huge, especially after having to sit out the last two months.”
Wright, who was a barrel-racing champion in her homeland and competed a couple of times in Calgary way back when, returned to the Stampede City with big hopes from her eight-year-old mare, Sweet Heart Special, who she also refers to as Tweety.
Except her mount was injured a couple of months ago and it was up in the air whether she could run in Calgary.
“We were living on the edge. We knew this was coming up,” said Wright, who is tied with Fallon Taylor, of Collinsville, Texas, with $9,000 in winnings through the first two days of Pool A competition.
“Our driving goal has been to make it back to the big leagues. This is a big step for us.”
Expect Wright to take more steps, thanks to Sweet Heart Special.
“She’s a bit of a prima donna,” said Wright, whose son, Lane, is also a bronc rider and daughter, Danielle, is a barrel racer. “She loves peppermints, and when she’s done running, she’s like, ‘Where’s my goodies?’
“And she will pick at you and push you and nudge you until you give them to her.”
-- Randy Sportak