By JOE KUSEK firstname.lastname@example.org
Dustin Bird was presented an opportunity he could not pass up.
So he doubled his fun last weekend in Canada.
The Cut Bank cowboy entered three rodeos and earned more than $9,500 north of the border.
Bird, a three-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier, won team roping titles at two and the tie-down roping at another to put himself and team roping partner Russell Cardoza in good position to not only qualify for the National Finals Rodeo in December but also the high-paying Canadian Finals Rodeo in November.
“Yeah, that was a real nice run,” Bird told the Canadian Pro Rodeo Association. “It would dang sure nice to be at the Canadian Finals Rodeo in two events.”
Bird, 35, won team roping titles at Sundre and High River, Alberta. The tie-down roping title came at Wainwright.
The money won also vaulted Bird into the PRCA all-around race. Bird is third in the world all-around standings and just $7,200 behind leader Ryan Jarrett of Comanche, Okla. Cardoza is second in the all-around standings.
Bird has already won all-around titles for the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit, the Northern Rodeo Association and Indian National Finals Rodeo.
He hadn’t done much tie-down roping in recent years to focus on the team roping where he qualified for the NFR three straight years, 2012-2014.
But circumstances changed when he partnered with Cardoza toward the end of 2015.
“I’ve roped calves in the past but I kind of set that aside while I was concentrating on getting to the NFR in the team roping,” Bird said. “But my partner Russell Cardoza’s got a terrific tie-down roping horse (Rain Drop) so I figured I should start entering the roping again.”
Bird returned to tie-down roping at Grand Prairie, Alberta and picked up his first checks at Hand Hills and Innisfail. He earned $5,445 at Wainwright to vault himself into tie-down roping contention in Canada.
Bird was ready to shut down his 2015 season – he finished 28th in the standings – when Cardoza called needing help to reach the NFR. Cardoza, of Terrebonne, Ore., qualified in the 15th and final spot.
The two have been among the top 15 all year, helped by a $21,000 win in San Antonio during the winter run.
“With our focus on getting to the NFR in the team roping, I know I won’t get to that many Canadian rodeos so I’m going to have to do well at the bigger ones for sure,” said Bird. “The NFR in team roping, that’s our priority.”
Bird and Cardoza will be riding a large wave of momentum heading into Cowboy Christmas, the lucrative Fourth of July run for professional rodeo. Bird is third for team roping headers, while Cardoza is second for the heelers.
“The next 10 days will tell the tale,” said Bird.
He and Cardoza will start with Ponoka and Airdrie in Canada, followed by stops in Oakley City, Utah, Cody, Wyo., Livingston, St. Paul, Ore.,. Eugene, Ore. And Molalla, Ore. They hope to circle back for the short round in Ponoka.
“The good part is with the year we’ve had so far, we’re not having to fly,” Bird added. “We’ve set things up so we can drive everywhere and have our good horses with us.”
Cut the Cards passes away
Powder River’s Cut the Cards, a three-time National Finals Rodeo saddle bronc, died June 23 at the age of 31.
The horse was of the Tooke bloodlines, according to the PRCA release and has sired more than 30 NFR offspring, including Miss Congeniality, a two-time PRCA Saddle Bronc Horse of the Year (2005, 2007) and Craig at Midnight, who was third in the 2015 PRCA Bareback Horse of the Year voting. Craig at Midnight was bucked at last year’s PRCA NILE Rodeo in Billings.
Cut the Cards was buried next to ProRodeo Hall of Famer and world champion Khadafy Skoal on the Franzen Ranch in Riverton, Wyo.