Beaver Fever always bucked so good. It didn’t matter if it was muddy or late in the fall, when the horses are starting to get tired. She was a winner, and that’s all you could ask for.
The funny thing about Beaver Fever: It looked like she bucked straight as a string and landed even on both front feet, but I would see guys get bucked off one side or the other, and I’d think, Why are they having so much trouble? I think it was because she was so wide in the shoulders—she wasn’t fat, but she was dang sure full all the time—and she would roll her shoulders or something that made her harder to ride than she looked.
She always bucked so good. It didn’t matter if it was muddy or late in the fall, when the horses are starting to get tired. She was a winner, and that’s all you could ask for. If you drew her, you had a chance to win something. Probably first.
A lot of horses start good, but when they get six or seven seconds into it, before the whistle blows, they peter out. That’s the last thing the judges see, and it costs you so much. Beaver Fever started strong and got stronger until the whistle blew.
The other thing I noticed through my career: If you were in a big situation, like the final round at Calgary or Round Ten at the NFR, you wanted a solid winner, like Beaver Fever, because bareback horses can feel the pressure just like the guys can. If you had some young horse that’s been turning heads everywhere and everyone’s talking about it, and it comes down to a critical situation like that, a lot of times they would mess up, just like a young athlete would. Having a solid winner—I don’t know any better way of referring to a horse like Beaver Fever—was what you wanted.
I have a lot of admiration for stock contractor Tim Bridwell. He started out as guy packing flanks and feeding bulls. He literally worked his way up from the bottom in a tough business. John Growney helped him, but he didn’t do it for him. Tim came across some of the right horses—Beaver Fever being one of them—and he managed them right. He was smart about where he bucked Beaver Fever and where he didn’t and how he took care of her. A lot of contestants look up to him. He’s not one of these guys who pulls the flank and wants to see you get wrecked out. For these guys to show up and make the most out of the horses, Tim knows they’ve gotta have a chance to win and keep going up and down the road. He’s put himself in a good position by being a man of principle and always doing a good job for the right reasons. Because of that, he’s always had the right kind of horses. You couldn’t find a better example than Beaver Fever.
The last time I got on #960 Beaver Fever was at the Red Bluff Round-Up in the spring of 2011. I had been pro-rodeoing for fifteen years by that point and had won four gold buckles. I didn’t know anything special was going to happen that day. I just knew I drew a great horse at a great rodeo and had a chance to win something. Sure enough, I was 84 points on her and tied for first.
A couple days later, I saw a picture of me riding Beaver Fever on the PRCA website, along with a story saying that the Red Bluff win put my total earnings at $1,877,065—pushing me past the PRCA record for bareback riding career earnings. Clint Corey held the previous record. I learned how to rodeo and ride bareback horses from Clint. He was one of the best. I was like, That’s cool. Then I thought, I wonder who’s closest behind me? I was pretty sure it was Will Lowe. I knew I had a few years left in me and wanted to get as much ground between him and me as I could. I’ve outlasted him—so far. I don’t know where it’s at now. Somebody will break it, and it will be good. It’s fun to get to carry that torch for a little while. I’m grateful to Beaver Fever and Tim for helping me get there.