National Finals Rodeo Round One
My first ride in Vegas was the first round of the National Finals Rodeo in 2005. A memory I’ll never forget! The day before, we practiced the grand entry; and got our jackets and numbers, but tonight, “Round One” was the real deal. I took off down that ramp at a dead run on horseback entering the Thomas and Mack arena. I’m pretty sure the red roan horse they had picked for me had been to many more finals than most cowboys. It was everything I could do to keep him off the post, coming in the light. “Roany” knew his job, and I’m pretty sure my horse actually knew the National Anthem. They announced, “OKLAHOMA”, and I tipped my hat as proud as I could, trying to spot the one hundred people I’d invited out to Vegas! I made it! My dream had come true!
NFR is the fastest rodeo in the world when it starts! Bucking barebacks as soon as you ride out, and by the time you get back there are seven head in. Crowded behind the chutes the Bull riders watched all the events on the live feed TV in the locker room. But as soon as they bucked them saddle broncs we all chapped up and headed to the load alley where the bulls came in. Of course, I had never seen my bull until I was putting my rope on him in the alley during the Calf Roping. Looked like a nice bull but who cares, it’s the NFR!
Think it all got real, during the barrel racing, when this lady with a horse named Rocky, ran. Of course, they played the Rocky movie theme song and the crowd went wild, and the hair stood straight up on the back of my neck. I don’t know what everyone else’s first experience at the NFR is, but I was nervous. Chute boss said, ‘Two ahead of ya.”, and I had done stretched 22 times, no doubt I was ready. Then, “One ahead of ya, get your rope warmed up.” And my dream came true for the most important eight seconds of my life.
Darrel Barren, the Chute Boss, says, “Your turn.” I’m already taking my wrap. I start sliding up, 20,000 people waiting to see what this new red headed ‘Okie’ can do in the world of rodeo. About that time, my cute little grey bull, I had drawn, tried to jump over the back of the bucking chute. I’m not scared. I don’t even let go of the rope! Any other time or rodeo I’d revamp and make sure everything was perfect. But I’d been waiting for this moment forever. In that moment I forgot about all the little stuff, it was time to get down to business, what I’d trained to do since I was five years old. At that time, I didn’t know, but my bull throwing a fit sure helped getting my nerves out, thank God, just what I needed. Everything I had worried about just left. As the bull was coming back down I was calling for the gate to open up because this is what I do, this is my business, and my dream. The Rafter H bull went two jumps real fast, cut it back left, shot forward, and then went right! This is my first night in Las Vegas; this bull WAS NOT getting me on the ground! I got in the money in round one, but that wasn’t my dream. Walking back to that locker room I knew I had done something that I had dreamed of doing when I was five years old and getting on that first calf in Gainesville, Texas. I know it’s only eight seconds, but for me, that first ride in Vegas will always be a special one. So to all those first timers in Las Vegas, win or lose, it’s a memory you’ll cherish forever.