Chet Johnson at the Strathmore, August 1st, 2016. Photo by Terry Middleditch, Rodeo Country Radio
By Ted Harbin/for the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo committee
DODGE CITY, Kan. – Several things in his life have carried Chet Johnson away from the sport he loves over the past few years.
In 2014, his sister, Tracy, died unexpectedly, and the cowboy needed to be in Wyoming with family. Last year, a nagging injury kept him on the sidelines. For the saddle bronc rider with four qualifications to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, he longed for a return to “normalcy” of the sport: bucking horses, buddies and all-night drives.
“A few years ago, my sister passed away, so I stayed at home a lot that year,” said Johnson, 35, of Douglas, Wyo. “Coming into this (possibly) being the third year of not being able to do much, I just really wanted to start riding good again, get in a groove.”
He’s found it and showcased it on Aug. 4 during the second performance of the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo with an 84.5-point ride on Frontier Rodeo’s Griz for a share of the lead with traveling partner Clay Elliott of Nanton, Alberta.
“They win a lot of money on that Frontier horse,” Johnson said of Griz. “He gets bucked quite a bit, but he’s always a money horse. He’s yours to screw up. He’s going to give you every chance there is and give you a chance to show off how you want to ride. He’s a lot of fun, and you can’t ask for anything more.”
The past couple of years have been anything but fun. This season is different; he sits 19th in the WEATHER GUARD PRCA World Standings with $35,037 in earnings. He needs to finish the regular season among the top 15 to return to the WNFR in Las Vegas for the fifth time.
“This year I took a different approach and got my knee fixed,” he said, noting that he competed in Billings, Mont., last fall, then opted for surgery; he returned to ProRodeo in February. “I got healed up. My whole approach was just (to) just get on the good (horses) and just go to the rodeos I want to go to.
“I’ve only been to 33 rodeos this year. It’s a good schedule for me, because it keeps me from getting sore, and I’m enjoying it. A lot of people are getting burned out now, and I’m getting geared up.”
Bareback rider Evan Jayne of Marseille, France, is one of those who is feeling sluggish at this stage of the rodeo season. He is eighth in the standings with more than $57,000.
“I’m just happy to be in the pack right now,” said Jayne, who last year became the first European-born cowboy to qualify for the WNFR. “I need to secure another $15,000 to be really secure (for a return to Vegas).”
He sits tied for the lead in bareback riding after his 83-point ride Thursday night on Frontier’s Short Night, matching the same score earned by Blake Smith on Wednesday. Jayne knows he will return to western Kansas for Sunday’s championship round, where he will have an opportunity to get closer to that magical dollar figure.
“I’m a little tired of being on the road, and I’ve got a little one back home,” he said. “I’m ready to be back home with her.
“The better I do at the rodeos right now, the faster I get to be in my little girl’s arms.”
Those types of priorities are important, especially in a sport that takes cowboys and cowgirls away from their families for weeks, even months, at a time. But there’s a passion in rodeo that is unmatched in other professional sports.
Sometimes that passion is sitting atop bucking horses one night at a time and enjoying the ride. For Johnson, he’d like to earn the Roundup championship at least one time in his career.
“It would be a dream come true,” he said. “Dodge City is one of those bucket-list type of rodeos, where everyone wants to win it. It’s got such a history to it, and it’s an icon in the sport. To put that notch on your belt is a huge one.”
Both Jayne and Johnson will have that opportunity on Sunday night.
Doescher begins Roundup with a bang
By Ted Harbin/for the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo committee
DODGE CITY, Kan. – Cody Doescher had planned to only compete in one event at the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo this week.
That changed a couple of weeks ago for the all-around cowboy from Oklahoma City. When 1996 world champion heeler Steve Northcott opted to return to his Odessa, Texas, home, header Cale Markham of Vinita, Okla., was looking for a temporary partner.
Enter Doescher, who was scheduled to compete only in steer wrestling this week. When Markham called, Doescher answered.
“(My) dad was going to come up here and see me, so he brought my heel horse with him,” Doescher said.
It worked out great Aug. 3 during the opening performance at Roundup Arena. Markham and Doescher lead the first go-round with a 5.6-second run on Wednesday morning. They followed that with a 7.1 in the second round; their two-run cumulative time of 12.7 seconds leads the average race and virtually secures their spot for Sunday’s championship round – the top 12 times and scores from the four preliminary performances advance to the short round.
“I’ve made the short round here twice” in team roping, said Doescher, 26, who also sits fourth in the steer wrestling average. “Right now I’m making it back in two events. Hopefully the bulldogging will hold up and I can make it back in two.
“Tonight we just went and caught one. We could’ve exposed ourselves a little more, but we decided to do the safe thing and just go catch.”
Safe is the smart thing this early in the game. The ultimate goal in Dodge City is to make it back to the final round for a chance to win the championship.
“It’s always good to make the short round,” he said. “There are less guys and more money. We were just fortunate to draw two pretty good steers.”
Doescher has competed in ProRodeo for eight years and spent much of his time focused on team roping. He has turned his attention more toward steer wrestling in the past couple of years, and it’s paying off. In the Prairie Circuit – comprised of events in Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska – he sits sixth in the all-around standings, eighth in heeling and 14th in steer wrestling.
He would like to not only excel at the circuit level but carry that over toward qualifications to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
“Eventually I’m going to chase the all-around hard,” he said. “I’m trying to get my ducks in row with the business part of it.
“My ultimate goal is to make the NFR in two events. I have gold buckle dreams, of course. I just don’t want to be forgettable.”
Doescher is making himself hard to forget in Dodge City.