National rodeo final not for timid

By Glenda Price: CNJ columnist

The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, 10 days in early December in Las Vegas, just finished.

Events include bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, tie-down roping, team roping, steer roping, women’s barrel racing, bull riding.

The top 15 competitors of the year in each event could compete for the world title.

To be eligible for the prestigious all-around title a contestant must compete in more than one event. Ten days and 10 go-rounds, along with earnings during the year, decide the champions.

By the last go-round the injury list is extensive, including concussions, broken bones, torn ligaments and various other body damages — exacerbated by general soreness.

A healthy dose of humor, which cowboys and cowgirls possess in abundance, eases the pain. Bullfighter Clay Collins wrote a blog in which he mentioned a cowboy who couldn’t find one of his spurs. The cowboy’s comment, which his fellow contestants found hilarious was, “I haven’t been using it, anyway.”

A steer wrestler dived onto his steer and landed — on the ground. But he managed to grab the steer’s tail before he got away. The steer tried, but couldn’t get rid of the guy, who kept hanging on until he finally, by golly, got that booger thrown. The time, though, was kinda long.

One bull rider got knocked out while trying to nod for his bull. Collins said, “They gave him a break and a few seconds later he rode the heck out of his bull.” He had to borrow a fellow contestant’s hat because the bull was standing on his in the chute.

Bull rider J. W. Harris came into the finals with a huge lead in the standings — luckily, because the second go-round his right hand (his riding hand) got broken. He tried numbing the pain a time or two, but he never managed a qualified ride. Even so, he won the world title in that event thanks to his previous earnings.

Saddle bronc riding champion Jesse Kruse, riding with what he thought was a broken bone in his foot, put a 90-point ride on a tough horse. Maybe he “thought” it was broken because he didn’t want to get an x-ray and find out for sure. An observer’s comment was: “Nothing numbs the pain like winning.”

Contestants ranged in age from 19 (tie-down roper Tuf Cooper) to 47 (bronc rider Billy Etbauer). The crowd gave Billy Etbauer a standing ovation after a great ride.

A bullfighter ruefully said he got run over by a bull (after the cowboy was off) because he fell down in front of the bull. If we believe that…

Lee Graves of Calgary, Alberta, ignored his back pain while winning the steer wrestling title. He said he just “cowboyed up.”

Roper Trevor Brazile, one of the few “unwounded” contestants, won the all-around title for the seventh time, tying Ty Murray’s record.

Some contestants went home empty-handed and/or wounded. Keep in mind rodeo competitors do not have a contract. They pay their entry fees and take their chances. Lawyers and other “it’s not my fault” courthouse denizens are not welcome here.