Playing Catch-Up

photo by Matt Cohen / Cowboy Journal

photo by Matt Cohen / Cowboy Journal

My year started with an unwelcome surprise.

by Nick Guy


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In January, the folks from the National Western Stock Show in Denver had put together a publicity deal to get people out to the rodeo—a half-time slam-dunk contest at a Denver Nuggets game. I did it the year before, and it was a lot of fun. This time, I was screwing around at the practice session, and I broke the talus bone in my right foot.

So, really, my year didn’t start until April.

After making the National Finals Rodeo as a steer wrestler the past four years in a row, I was counting on making it this year, too. I wanted to get back there. The money you win throughout the regular season goes in a big circle. It gets you down the road and pays the bills. Making it to Vegas—that’s where you start putting money in your pocket. You can make a good year’s worth of wages in those ten days. That’s what kept pushing me.

My spring was just decent. I’d win a couple thousand here and a couple thousand there. The next thing I knew, I was in the top fifty. I didn’t win a ton over Cowboy Christmas, but as the summer progressed, I kept plugging along. The end of July rolled around, and I won second at Cheyenne, and that twelve or thirteen thousand bumped me up into the top twenty.

This whole time, my foot was bothering me. I’d tweak it, and it would swell up for two or three weeks. It was a test all summer long. At every rodeo, I was bearing down, getting through the pain. Winning checks kept me motivated.

I won third at Pendleton and, with two weeks left in the regular season, finally broke into the top fifteen.

I was still trying to hang on to fifteenth but started to get worried. The last four days of the season I was entered in six rodeos all over the country. I went to Omaha, and the guys chasing me were winning third and fourth. At Poway, California, the guy who was in sixteenth place, was winning first. It was getting stressful.

I was mounting out on good horses, Blake Knowles’s blue roan “Smoke” and Kyle Whitaker’s horse “Chuck.” I told myself, You don’t have to win first. Just stay levelheaded, make your run and if you win third or fourth or fifth consistently, that will be enough. I’m thirty-four-years-old now. I’ve learned from experience.

That’s pretty much how it went. I placed at five out of the last six rodeos. The biggest check I won was for a thousand dollars, but they all added up to more than four thousand—enough to keep me at fifteenth.

I don’t think I’ve had the NFR I’ve really dreamed of having. That’s another thing that pushed me to get back there this year. I’m getting older and don’t have too many years left. That’s my goal this year, to have my best NFR ever.

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