Most people no longer answer their phones when it’s a strange number and Tanner Aus usually is one of them. Three weeks ago, though, he was driving along “doing nothing” and decided to pick up.
It was the Calgary Stampede calling to tell him someone had pulled out of bareback competition and, to his surprise, he was on top of the alternate list.
“I thought about not picking it up,” said the 25-year-old Granite Falls, Minn., man.
It was at least a $5,500 call, maybe more. The Stampede rookie picked up a day win Saturday in just his second appearance before the raucous Calgary crowd. He rode Rum Flavoured for 86.5 points and is now trying not to look ahead to riding for $100,000.
“This doesn’t change anything for me. I’m just here to ride bucking horses and I’m going to ride every horse the best I can and if it works out, fine. If it doesn’t it’s been great being up here,” he said.
Aus’ experience in these parts involves going to the Ponoka Stampede once. He had a 78.5 score in his Calgary debut on Friday and missed out on fifth-place money by a point.
“I really like coming up here,” he said. “They have great bucking horses up here and I really like the atmosphere and everyone is really nice.”
Milan wins again
For about a second on Saturday Tanner Milan of Cochrane thought he had a second straight solo win to open the steer wrestling.
After winning Friday’s opening round, the reigning Canadian champion posted a 3.9 second time as the last man out on Day 2. After Milan raised his arms the crowd’s cheers were suddenly silenced when a timing error was announced. His time was pushed back to 4.2, giving him a share of first with Kyle Irwin of Robersdale, Ala., and K.C. Jones of Decatur, Texas.
Along with the $5,500 he won Friday with a 3.6 run, it gives Milan $10,000 after two days and leaves him in great shape for reaching the final four, though he is hesitant to talk about it.
“(I’ll feel safe) after I run my fourth one, after I see it in writing,” he said. “I don’t want to back off. I’m just going to keep at it and hopefully keep pulling a few cheques here and be back at it Sunday.”
For Jones, who is from Decatur, Texas, the day win was his first after many years of coming to Calgary. The 44 year old has been rodeoing for 20 years.
“The last few years I haven’t been able to come up, so I was real excited about getting an invite this year,” he said.
The Wright stuff, again
After father Cody Wright won the saddle bronc on Day 1, his boy Rusty got his own win Saturday, sharing day money honours with Chet Johnson of Douglas, Wyo., and Cody Demoss of Heflin, La. All three recorded 87.5s.
The younger Wright is making his first Stampede appearance in the open category. He won the novice title here in 2013.
“I love for (my dad) to win but if I can get it it’s OK with me,” said Rusty, drawing laughs from the gathered media.
Wright reluctantly climbed on Calgary horse Texas Cherry for a re-ride on Saturday and it worked out.
“I was actually really scared to get on him,” he said. “I watched Tyler Quarrington get on him last year and it made short work of him. I’m not going to lie, I was scared.”
New Zealander Carmel Wright had not competed at the Stampede since the 80s, but it was always on her mind after she returned home to raise a family.
Wright happily picked up her first bronze statue Saturday, winning the barrel racing with a time of 17.97.
“We moved back to the United States 13 years ago and this has always been our driving goal to make it to the big leagues,” she said.
This is the first invitation-only Stampede she has attended and she arrived not knowing if her horse, Blue Light Special, was going to be healed up from an injury.
“We’ve been living on the edge for the past two months knowing that this was coming up,” she said.
Another rookie win
Another Stampede newcomer, Marty Yates of Stephenville, Texas, captured the tie-down with a 6.8 second effort.
The 20 year old earned his invitation to Calgary after qualifying for the 2014 National Finals Rodeo.
Yates was the first guy out of the gate on Friday in his first appearance in Calgary and did not earn a time.
“Yesterday I wasn’t having much fun but today, to get a win, is always fun,” said Yates, the nephew of J.J. Hampton, a 17-time all-round champion in the Professional Women’s Rodeo Association.
BRIEFLY — Reginald Lecourt of Mirabel, Que., posted a 58.0 in the novice saddle bronc . . . Clay Deley of Bashaw scored a 74.0 in the novice bareback.