#NFR16 Round 5 Notebook

 

Wrangler National Finals Rodeo daily schedule — Tuesday, Dec. 6, and Wednesday, Dec. 7

 

TODAY WRANGLER NFR 9-5

8 a.m.-9 p.m.: World Series of Team Roping, South Point Arena and Equestrian Center. Free admission/open to the public.

9 a.m.-5 p.m.: Cowboys Christmas – It’s All Here/Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Hunter & Outdoor Christmas Expo, Las Vegas Convention Center, South Halls. Free admission/open to the public.

Noon-1 p.m.: Outside the Barrel with Flint Rasmussen. Cowboy Christmas, Las Vegas Convention Center, South Halls. Rodeo Live presented by RODEOHOUSTON. Free admission/open to the public.

Noon-2 p.m.: Wrangler NFR Autograph Session, Barrel Racers. The Golden Nugget, The Grand. Free admission/open to the public. First come/first served; contestants depart at 2 p.m.

1:15 p.m.-2 p.m.: Keepin’ it Country with Daryle Singletary. Cowboy Christmas, Las Vegas Convention Center, South Halls. Rodeo Live presented by RODEOHOUSTON. Free admission/open to the public.

WRANGLER NFR IN ARENA — THOMAS & MACK CENTER

6:45 p.m.: Opening, Charlie Daniels; Anthem, Nick Neu (National Anthem Open Division contest winner)

7 p.m.: Sixth go-round.

WRANGLER NFR AFTER DARK

6-6:30 p.m.: Wrangler NFR Countdown Show at MGM Grand. David Copperfield Theater. Free admission.

6 p.m.-10 p.m.: South Point Presents Ram Rodeo Tailgate Party. South Point Convention Center. Free admission.

6:30 p.m.-4 a.m.: The Mirage Presents Rodeo Vegas 2016, the official Wrangler NFR After-Party of the PRCA. The Mirage Race and Sports Book. Free admission/free concerts nightly. More information: www.Mirage.com/NFR.

8 p.m.-2 a.m.: MGM Grand Gold Buckle Zone. MGM Grand Convention Center. Live entertainment featuring free concerts nightly. Free admission. More information: www.mgmgrand.com/NFR.

9 p.m.-2 a.m.: The Legendary Buck’N Ball. The Orleans Hotel and Casino, Mardi Gras Ballroom. Live country music, two-step dancing and drink specials. Free admission. More information: www.BoydEvents.com/WNFR

10:30 p.m.-11:30 p.m.: National Finals Tonight Show hosted by Don Gay, Joe Beaver & Dan Miller. The Orleans Showroom. Re-cap the NFR with the best crew in town and win prizes nightly. Free admission. More information: www.BoydEvents.com/WNFR.

11 p.m.: Wrangler NFR Go Round Buckle Presentations hosted by Flint Rasmussen & Randy Corley. South Point Showroom. Free admission. Free concerts to follow each night. Aaron Watson (Dec. 1-4); Sierra Black (Dec. 5-6); Cody Johnson (Dec. 7-10).

CONCERTS

— Rodney Carrington, MGM Grand, David Copperfield Theatre. 877-880-0880/mgmgrand.com.

— Charlie Daniels, Golden Nugget, The Grand. 866-946-5336/goldennugget.com.

— Davisson Brothers Band, MGM Grand Gold Buckle Zone. 877-880-0880 or mgmgrand.com/NFR.

— Glen Templeton and Chancey Williams, The Mirage Race & Sports Book. 800-374-9000 or mirage.com/NFR.

— LOCASH, Gilley’s at Treasure Island. 702-894-7111/treasureisland.com.

WEDNESDAY WRANGLER NFR 9-5

8 a.m.-9 p.m.: World Series of Team Roping, South Point Arena and Equestrian Center. Free admission/open to the public.

9 a.m.-5 p.m.: Cowboys Christmas – It’s All Here/Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Hunter & Outdoor Christmas Expo, Las Vegas Convention Center, South Halls. Free admission/open to the public.

Noon-1 p.m.: Outside the Barrel with Flint Rasmussen. Cowboy Christmas, Las Vegas Convention Center, South Halls. Rodeo Live presented by RODEOHOUSTON. Free admission/open to the public.

Noon-2 p.m.: Wrangler NFR Autograph Session, Bull Riders. Gilley’s at Treasure Island. Free admission/open to the public. First come/first served; contestants depart at 2 p.m.

1:15 p.m.-2 p.m.: Keepin’ it Country with Daryle Singletary. Cowboy Christmas, Las Vegas Convention Center, South Halls. Rodeo Live presented by RODEOHOUSTON. Free admission/open to the public.

WRANGLER NFR IN ARENA — THOMAS & MACK CENTER

6:45 p.m.: Opening, Steve Amerson (Pearl Harbor Remembrance); Anthem: Nellis Airman

7 p.m.: Seventh go-round.

WRANGLER NFR AFTER DARK

6-6:30 p.m.: Wrangler NFR Countdown Show at MGM Grand. David Copperfield Theater. Free admission.

6 p.m.-10 p.m.: South Point Presents Ram Rodeo Tailgate Party. South Point Convention Center. Free admission.

6:30 p.m.-4 a.m.: The Mirage Presents Rodeo Vegas 2016, the official Wrangler NFR After-Party of the PRCA. The Mirage Race and Sports Book. Free admission/free concerts nightly. More information: www.Mirage.com/NFR.

8 p.m.-2 a.m.: MGM Grand Gold Buckle Zone. MGM Grand Convention Center. Live entertainment featuring free concerts nightly. Free admission. More information: www.mgmgrand.com/NFR.

9 p.m.-2 a.m.: The Legendary Buck’N Ball. The Orleans Hotel and Casino, Mardi Gras Ballroom. Live country music, two-step dancing and drink specials. Free admission. More information: www.BoydEvents.com/WNFR

10:30 p.m.-11:30 p.m.: National Finals Tonight Show hosted by Don Gay, Joe Beaver & Dan Miller. The Orleans Showroom. Re-cap the NFR with the best crew in town and win prizes nightly. Free admission. More information: www.BoydEvents.com/WNFR.

11 p.m.: Wrangler NFR Go Round Buckle Presentations hosted by Flint Rasmussen & Randy Corley. South Point Showroom. Free admission. Free concerts to follow each night. Aaron Watson (Dec. 1-4); Sierra Black (Dec. 5-6); Cody Johnson (Dec. 7-10).

CONCERTS

— Rodney Carrington, MGM Grand, David Copperfield Theatre. 877-880-0880/mgmgrand.com.

— .38 Special, Golden Nugget, The Grand. 866-946-5336/goldennugget.com.

— Lady Antebellum, The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. 877-893-2003/cosmopolitanlasvegas.com.

— Josh Thompson, MGM Grand Gold Buckle Zone. 877-880-0880 or mgmgrand.com/NFR.

— Cody Johnson, South Point Casino. 866-791-7626/southpointcasino.com

— Reba, Brooks & Dunn, The Colosseum, Caesars Palace. 888-929-7849/caesarspalace.com.

— Glen Templeton and William Michael Morgan, The Mirage Race & Sports Book. 800-374-9000 or mirage.com/NFR.

— LOCASH, Gilley’s at Treasure Island. 702-894-7111/treasureisland.com.

Junior Nogueira slides into All-Around lead

Kaleb Driggers (11) and Junior Nogueira (10) walk through the tunnels of the Thomas & Mack Center during opening day of National Finals Rodeo on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. Brett Le Blanc/Las Vegas Review-Journal Follow @bleblancphoto

IF YOU GO

What: Wrangler National Finals Rodeo

Where: Thomas & Mack Center

When: Dec. 1-10, 6:45 p.m.

Tickets: Mad Dash (general admission, seat not guaranteed) tickets available by calling Thomas & Mack box office at (702) 739-3267 or www.UNLVtickets.com

By BETSY HELFAND
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL

There’s a new leader in all-around after the fifth day of the 10-day National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas &Mack Center.

Junior Nogueira slid into first as he and his partner, Kaleb Driggers, tied for first with Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler in the team roping competition.

Nogueira now leads Dustin Bird and Russell Cordoza, who are second and third. Bird and Cordoza took a no-time on Monday.

For the first time in five days, 18-year-old Ryder Wright didn’t win the saddle bronc riding go-round.

Instead, world leader Jacobs Crawley padded his lead with a first-place finish, posting a score of 89.0.

“I haven’t had that breakout check come around yet and it was nice to do it on the (PRCA) Horse of the Year,” Crawley said.

J.D. Struxness took first in the steer wrestling after winning Sunday and tying for first on Saturday.

“A bad day bulldogging is better than a good day working, we always say,” Struxness said. “But when you can win money like this doing it, it just puts icing on the top.”

And for the second straight night, Jake Vold won the bareback riding, this time posting an 89.0.

“I feel good, but we’re only at the halfway mark, and we have five more to go,” Vold said. “I’m looking forward to these next five rounds. You can’t get carried away with a few big rides because this is a marathon.”

Caleb Smidt took first in tie-down roping while Amberleigh Moore won in barrel racing and Scottie Knapp in bull riding.

Contact Betsy Helfand at bhelfand@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BetsyHelfand on Twitter.

 

Events around town master art of handling livestock for WNFR

 

By PATRICK EVERSON
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL

This whole week in Las Vegas will be a load of bull. And that’s no lie.

It will also be a load of horses, calves and steers, as livestock not only take over the Thomas & Mack Center for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, but points all around town for a variety of other rodeo events. The WNFR will have approximately 705 head, the All In Barrel Race brings in 820, the Junior NFR houses 797, and the Boyd Gaming Chute Out adds another 164.

Then there’s the World Series of Team Roping, with more than all of the aforementioned events combined, at 3,600 horses, plus 900 steers. That’s a total of nearly 7,000 head of livestock. Pity the guy who wields the shovel!

So what’s it like to handle that much horsepower, and bullpower, and so on? Let’s start with the centerpiece event, the Wrangler NFR.

Shawn Davis has been with the Wrangler NFR since it moved to Las Vegas, and even before then. Throughout much of the Super Bowl of Rodeo’s run at the Thomas & Mack Center, Davis has been the general manager, ostensibly in charge of everything — including all those animals.

“Here’s what I’ve learned about the whole event: Be totally prepared and organized, and you’ll still have more than you do to keep up,” he said. “You just make it the best and safest you can for the animals and the contestants, and have the best people there for the livestock.”

The corral northwest of the Thomas & Mack houses pretty much all of the NFR’s animals. Davis said top-flight stalls are shipped in from the East Coast, along with “first-class quality tents.” Davis has to work around UNLV, as well.

“As the campus grows, the less space we have,” Davis said. “But up to this point, we’ve been able to house them all here and care for them properly. If we had to transport that much livestock in every day, it would be almost impossible.”

Even with all the animals right near the arena, it takes a sound plan to keep the animal community running smoothly, and the ability of Davis and his extensive staff to not only execute the plan, but make it better.

“We have an exact schedule of how everything is taken care of, and we improve those everywhere,” he said. “We also take notes on all personnel and try to make sure we’ve got the best people we can possibly hire.”

And the animals are never out of sight.

“We have complete system, with a command post, observation posts and cameras, so it’s well-secured at all times,” Davis said. “There’s 24-hour watch and 24-hour veterinary care.”

Davis said proof the animals are well-cared for shows up every night on the arena dirt.

“The way you can tell is the animals perform as well at the last performance as the first performance,” he said. “We’ve always done things first-class, and that includes taking care of the livestock.”

WORLD SERIES OF TEAM ROPING

The World Series of Team Roping returns to the South Point for its 11th year, bringing with it a cavalcade of horse trailers and of course, all the horses in those trailers. Denny Gentry, president of the World Series of Team Roping, expects 3,500 teams, but that doesn’t equate to 7,000 horses, because many contestants are in multiple divisions.

Still, 3,600 horses and 900 steers is a ton of livestock for the seven-day competition, which started Monday and goes through Sunday. When this event started back in 2006, there were 400 horses and 200 steers. Gentry echoed Davis in discussing how to handle 4,500 head of livestock, 2,800 of which are kept at the South Point, and the rest in a nearby lot.”

“It’s a lot of preparation, and our staff has grown to handle that,” he said. “It’s been a challenge, and obviously we wouldn’t have been able to handle it without the South Point. Las Vegas Events has gotten involved, and a lot of other people have gotten involved, but none more than the South Point.

“The issue of people is not a problem,” he added of the explosive growth. “It’s a whole other thing handling the livestock and the trailers that transport the livestock. The trailers are 30, 40, 50 feet long. You’re not dealing with parking cars!”

On the bright side, parking those trailers and housing that livestock has started to settle down, as the World Series of Team Roping is about at its peak for capacity.

“We felt like the last two years, we kind of maxed out,” Gentry said. “There’s not enough space to do more, but that’s a good spot to be in. Once we stop the growth, we try to develop customer relations, and make them feel better about the experience.”

ALL IN BARREL RACE

A newcomer to this year’s party is the All In Barrel Race, a unique event that employs five divisions and a handicap system. Competition takes place in a full-sized competition arena with bleachers at the Country Christmas expo, being held downtown at the World Market Center.

The All In has two sets of competitions, each four rounds. The first set wrapped up Sunday, and the next one runs Wednesday through Saturday.

“This is our first year for it,” said Chris Woodruff of Group W Productions, which puts on this event and is based in Weatherford, Texas. “The success the team ropers have had at the South Point over the years, a rodeo event with a lot of participants, we’re looking to do the same thing with barrel racing.”

Woodruff said the total draw will be approximately 710 horses with their respective racers in the saddle, but another 110 head of livestock will also be on hand.

“We’ve also got a tie-down roping event, and on Sunday (Dec. 11), we have The American Qualifier,” he said of an additional barrel racing competition that serves as a qualifier for February’s huge-paying, one-day RFD-TV’s The American at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The horses are being housed at the old Helldorado lot, and just like all the other rodeo events around town, the All In Barrel Race requires strong organizational skills.

“It’s quite an undertaking,” Woodruff said. “It takes 50 people just to execute over the 10 days – housing, security, maintenance, cleanup.”

Ah, the guy with the shovel!

“And logistically, just putting the event on,” Woodruff added. “Nobody’s done this with barrel racing. We’ve seen a need for it, and we really think it can grow in Las Vegas and be a big piece of the barrel racing world.

“The city loves it, because of the downtown alliance with hotel properties, who now have another event during the NFR that they haven’t had in the past. Now, there’s an opportunity to do something downtown.”

For more information, go to lvbarrelrace.com.

BOYD GAMING CHUTE OUT

Of all the competitions in town along with the Wrangler NFR, only one is a full-blown rodeo: the Boyd Gaming Chute Out at Orleans Arena. This Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoon, cowboys and cowgirls will compete in all seven events.

The event will include 66 horses, 50 steers, 23 bulls and 25 calves.

“Out of all the groups in town, I’ll have the least amount of animals, but it’s still a lot to handle,” said Rorey Lemmel, producer of the Boyd Chute Out.

Most of the stock will be housed at Horseman’s Park across town, though Lemmel said some animals will be on-site near the arena. And it will be top-shelf rodeo stock.

“It’s the same contractors as the NFR for the rough stock,” Lemmel said of the bucking horses and bulls. “It’s extra stock that my guys will house for three weeks.”

All that stock started heading to town right after Thanksgiving, then fell under the direction of Pahrump’s Ted Groene, a top-shelf manager of the daily logistics of rodeo.

“There’s a reason why he does the rodeo at Madison Square Garden, the Pro Bull Riders at T-Mobile Arena,” Lemmel says. “He’s the best in the world. I am very confident these animals are the best-taken-care-of anywhere. It will show in the performances. When you’ve got the best people, you get the best results.”

And the stock at the Chute Out are on the brink of NFR par.

“My animals would be some just under that cut, or young superstars you’re going to see at the NFR,” Lemmel says. “Several of mine from last year are at the NFR this year. I owe it to my stock contractors. They do a great job.”

The Chute Out has taken a page from the on-time machine the NFR has become, with Lemmel’s event actually working in concert with the NFR.

“The challenge really is getting in there and transporting the animals back and forth. Everything worked awful smooth last year, and I’m expecting it will again,” he says. “Timing is everything. Our job is to enhance the experience of the NFR. We put on a quality show, an hour and 45 minutes long in the afternoon, which gives fans a chance to eat and then go to the NFR.”

JUNIOR NFR

The first official Junior NFR takes place this year, in an arena built up on the second level of the Las Vegas Convention Center’s South Halls, the same building where Cowboy Christmas and the Hunter & Outdoor Christmas Expo are housed. And interestingly enough, there are more animals at the Junior NFR — 797 total head — than the big-time Wrangler NFR down the street.

Kelly Kaminski, a two-time world champion in barrel racing, oversees that part of the operation for the Junior NFR, which runs over two sets of three days. The first was last Friday through Sunday, and the second is Thursday through Saturday.

Sixty barrel racers are on hand, split among the 12-16 age group and the 11-under age group. So that means at least 60 horses, and perhaps some backup horses.

“I set up a deal for most of them to stay at Horseman’s Park. Some people know people who live here, so they keep their horses there, or find a private facility,” Kaminski said, noting it’s logistically impossible to keep stock at the convention center. “It’s easier to keep animals on the grounds than to haul back and forth. But the animals are not on the grounds here, unlike at most places. Those are the challenges we have to deal with. It’s totally different.”

So one of the biggest parts of Kaminski’s job is handling those horses — and the trailer rigs they’re hauled in on — as they go into and out of the arena. She leans on her past experience as a school teacher to make it all come off smoothly.

“It’s really like a big class project for me,” she said.

Kirby Cannon handles the bucking horses for the Junior NFR, and he echoed many of Kaminski’s sentiments. His animals also settle in at Horseman’s Park, which becomes quite popular this time of year.

“We have a metric ton of horses coming in,” Cannon said. “For everything that goes on — roping calves, mini bulls, bucking horses, barrel racing — the animals have to be hauled in every day. Every single day, 200 to 300 are shipped back and forth. It’s an amazing feat. We’re working 14- to 15-hour days.”

Yet Cannon, like Kaminski, wouldn’t have it any other way, throwing himself and his staff into the work to make sure the animals are well-cared-for and the Junior NFR contestants get a first-class competition.

“It’s madness, but there’s a method to the madness,” he said. “It’s a tremendous chore, but it’s also a tremendous event for the kids and for this city.”

And that, my friends, is no bull.

Age is just a number — for barrel racer Mary Burger it’s 1

 

Mary Burger competes aboard her horse Mo in barrel racing during the first go-round of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. As the leading regular-season money winner among all of the Wrangler NFR contestants, Burger is wearing the No. 1 back number this week, (Miranda Alam/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @miranda_alam

 

By PATRICK EVERSON
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL

There are plenty of great accomplishments that riders, ropers and racers bring into the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo every year. And it’s the goal of all the contestants just to make it to the Super Bowl of Rodeo at the Thomas &Mack Center.

But getting to ride with the No. 1 on your back — signifying that you are the top money winner heading into the Wrangler NFR, regardless of event — is a pretty major deal, too. Doing it when you’re approaching 70 years old? Well, that’s practically unbelievable.

You better believe it, though, because barrel racer Mary Burger has done just that in the 2016 season. The 68-year-old from Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, rode into town with nearly $191,000 in earnings this season, putting her not only No. 1 in the barrel racing standings but also atop all 120 contestants, grabbing that prestigious back number of 1.

“I really didn’t know I was No. 1 until I got to Cheyenne, after Calgary,” Burger said, alluding to the Frontier Days rodeo in late July, which came right after an extremely lucrative Calgary Stampede.

Burger pocketed $122,000, the maximum amount possible, at the renowned Canadian rodeo. Of that, $72,000 counted toward the barrel racing standings in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, more than a third of her season earnings in just one big rodeo.

As the summer bled into September, it got a little interesting in the race for No. 1. Saddle bronc rider Jacobs Crawley, the defending world champion in that event, was putting the finishing touches on a huge regular season. Ditto for bareback rider Tim O’Connell.

“I saw a couple of rough-stock guys had won a lot of money,” Burger said. “I really didn’t want to lose No. 1. So we entered a few more rodeos in later September.”

Burger and her prized horse Mo ultimately held off O’Connell and Crawley, who finished the regular season with $178,964 and $172,304 respectively. That put Burger in rarefied air previously breathed by Charmayne James in 1987 and Sherry Cervi in 1995, the only other barrel racers to don the No. 1 back number.

“It’s such an honor, especially at this time in my life, to wear that number,” said Burger, who also became the oldest NFR qualifier, with her age of 68 years, four months shattering the previous mark of 62 years, six months set by June Holeman. “You never plan or expect anything like this to happen. It’s been awesome.”

It could get even more awesome over the course of this 10-day rodeo. Burger, the 2006 world champion, came into the WNFR more than $74,000 ahead of second-place Jackie Ganter ($116,387), and she was still up about $40,000 through four go-rounds, with her season total up to $209,438. But her hanging on this week could depend largely on the health of Mo. The horse has been working his way back from a deep flexor tendon injury in his front left foot.

“He’s probably been almost two months without competing,” said Burger, who resumed light workouts aboard Mo just before Thanksgiving. “He’s pretty sound, so we’re hopeful. He’s doing much better, really well, so we’re going to be optimistic. I’m just hoping he comes back sharp.”

Burger has a couple of good backup horses, but with the amount of money on the line nightly at the WNFR — the go-round winner collects $26,231 — even big leads in the world standings can dissipate quickly.

“Hopefully he’s good enough to make some runs,” Burger said, noting she’s been with Mo since he was 2, and he’s now 7. “I knew he was capable of anything. He’s been immature since Day 1. He likes to play and roughhouse. But he doesn’t have a mean bone in him. He just plays rough.”

And he races tough. The breakout this year allowed Burger to break Lindsay Sears’ regular-season barrel racing earnings record of $184,567, set in 2008. Sears went on to win the first of her two world titles that year, and Burger would surely like to follow in those footsteps to grab her second world championship.

“So many people tell me I was inspirational,” Burger said, understanding that just being in another Wrangler NFR is achievement enough. “You never plan or expect anything like that to happen. My horse has had a super year. The main thing I’m looking forward to is just coming through that alley again, at my age. I know a lot of people out there are pulling for me. I hope when we come through the alley, we can perform well.

Jacobs Crawley letting it wail at National Finals Rodeo

Ron Kantowski is a sports columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal,covering a variety of topics and the Las Vegas sports scene. His column appears in Sports.

 

THE CRAWLEY FILE

Name: Jacobs Crawley

Age: 28

Residence: Stephenville, Texas

World Titles: (1) 2015

NFR qualifications: (5) 2011-2015

PRCA earnings: $926,187 (pre NFR)

Education: Texas A&M, degree in industrial and systems engineering.

Wife: Lauren

Did you know: Crawley, his brother, Sterling, and Jeremy Melancon used to travel the rodeo circuit in an old ambulance they converted into sleeping quarters with bunk beds and a shower.

By RON KANTOWSKI
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL

He used to ride to and from the rodeo in an ambulance.

He has a degree in industrial and systems engineering from Texas A&M.

He made his final dissertation via Skype wearing a suit jacket and athletic shorts while sitting at an ironing board at Aria during the National Finals. On that Saturday, he wore spurs; on Thursday, a cap and gown.

He’s the defending saddle bronc world champion.

He played college football … in high school … with a football carved from a coconut and giraffes for goalposts.

OK, so the last one isn’t true. Yet. But the other four are, and that probably makes Jacobs Crawley the Most Interesting Man at this year’s NFR running through Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center.

“I don’t know about that — you’re making me blush,” the obliging Texan said Monday before winning Monday’s go-round.

I do know about that, because when Jacobs still was an Aggie, I met him and younger brother, Sterling, and their rodeo travel partner, Jeremy Melancon. This was when they were traveling to and from Cheyenne and Calgary and dusty cow towns with fewer places to eat via an old ambulance they bought off some guy from New Jersey, converted into sleeping quarters, and painted jet black.

“People thought we were a SWAT team,” Jacobs Crawley said.

They drove that old ambulance until the wheels literally fell off, and then they sold it, and now the wheels are back on. The old ambulance still makes the rounds on the rodeo circuit, as a rolling billboard/apparel truck for a company called Hooey.

People wrote all kinds of stories about the young cowboys and that old ambulance, but that’s not why they purchased it. There was room to sleep in back, and room to put in a shower, which beat putting on swim trunks and turning a hose on one another, which is what they sometimes did in some of the smaller cow towns, or at Motel 6 when the hot water ran out.

But Jacobs Crawley is 28 now. He has attained maturity, or at least a helping of it. He’s a college grad and a husband and the reigning saddle bronc champion of the world, with an eye on gold buckle No. 2.

Sometimes he travels to rodeos in airplanes now. Scary planes, he says. With propellers. 

 

He has earned more than $1 million riding broncs, and much of which he hasn’t spent on traveling the circuit he has invested in real estate. He hasn’t yet used his engineering degree, though it will be nice to fall back on if this kid from Utah, the aptly named Ryder Wright, keeps winning saddle bronc go-rounds here.

Now, instead of getting hosed in a small arena, he and wife Lauren beat a hasty retreat to their spread near Stephenville, Texas. Or, when they are on the circuit, to a quiet booth in a nice restaurant after the roping and the riding and the racing around barrels.

After Monday night’s winning ride, the Crawleys were headed to Battista’s Hole in the Wall for Italian fare with red sauce, all the wine one can drink and accordion music. That’s the best thing about the NFR and Las Vegas, Jacobs said. Every night, there’s a different restaurant.

Perhaps by Saturday when the NFR ends, the saddle bronc competition will be like that, too: Every night, a different winner. Maybe Monday was the start of that, or the start of Crawley putting together a string of his own.

With 18-year-old Wright having monopolized the NFR with four consecutive round wins, Crawley’s lead had shrunk to a minuscule $1,008 until the champ won Monday with a score of 89 aboard Medicine Woman of the Frontier Rodeo Company. This was just after Wright got tossed off a former bucking horse of the year called Spring Planting.

Crawley improved from 11th to fifth in the all-important NFR average. Wright slipped from first to fourth.

“Rodeo’s a funny sport, and in a draw event, you need the right animal,” Crawley had said earlier in the day about the threat posed by young Wright. “Sometimes a guy can get on a roll and do no wrong.

“He’s so young, it’s like he doesn’t know (about the pressure). He’s yawning in the locker room.”

If Crawley hadn’t driven the wheels off that old ambulance, and the flashing red light and siren hadn’t been disconnected for legal reasons — and rodeo contestants didn’t pull for one another like they do — he might have considered letting it wail to startle his young challenger.

“Rodeo is such a humble sport, you never wish anything but positive for everyone,” he said.

But where other cowboys might have sighed about the turn of events, Jacobs Crawley chuckled.

He knew there still was time to make a run before coconut footballs were kicked between giraffe heads.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.