No Shirt, No Hat, No Rodeo

Photo by matt cohen / cowboy journal

Photo by matt cohen / cowboy journal

Last-minute trouble during your first time at Clovis? Richie Champion breaks it down.


This picture was taken in 2013 at the rodeo in Clovis, California. I was nineteen and in my second year on the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association tour. I’m not going to lie to you—I thought I was way too cool. After all, I was nineteen.

Matt always tries to take candid photos of us, and I always try to ruin them. So I’m halfway stretching and halfway posing just to annoy him. I was also trying to warm up. And then a magazine went and used it on their cover. What nobody knew at the time is that I was wearing a borrowed shirt and a ten-dollar tourist hat.


The Night Before

I had been at my buddy Colton Wiley’s house in Weatherford, Texas. I believe bareback rider Clint Laye was with us, too. I had stopped by Colton’s to get my glove worked on before we flew to Clovis the next day. Colton builds all my gloves for me, and his dad, John Wiley, makes my chaps. So I was getting my glove worked on and a pair of new chaps.

After we took care of business, we started drinking beer out in their workshop—just a bunch of guys shooting the shit. Did I mention I thought I was cool?

Colton lives closer to the airport, so we crashed there that night. When you’re on the road all the time, you appreciate that extra hour of sleep—especially after some beers.


The Dilemma

So we get up, make it to the airport on time—a small miracle in itself—and as I’m getting my stuff out of the car, I realize I don’t have my cowboy hat. I throw my head back and groan. It’s early, and I’m annoyed with myself. In my head, I see my cowboy hat sitting in Colton’s workshop, exactly where I left it the night before. Ah well, I figure, I’ll buy one or borrow one when we get to Clovis. I’m excited to be going. It’s my first time heading there, and I don’t want to dwell on the fact I forgot my hat.

Well, we get to Clovis and head straight to the rodeo from the airport. I’m getting ready and realize I don’t have a long-sleeve shirt. Only T-shirts.

No cowboy hat. No long-sleeve shirt. Both are required to enter a PRCA rodeo. I ask Clint what I should do, and he says to go to the carnival side of the rodeo and see what I can find. So I race over and buy a straw cowboy hat that I’m pretty sure is half plastic. I crease it and hope it won’t look too ridiculous.

Now for the shirt.

I head over to the Pro Rodeo trailer and poke my head inside. There’s a guy in there who looks surprised to see me.

“Can I help you?” he asks.

“Is there a long-sleeve shirt I can borrow?” He hardly blinks. Produces a shirt in about a minute.  It doesn’t smell new, and I’m pretty sure it has never seen deodorant.

But, hey, I have a shirt. And it has a PRCA logo patch.

They’d also given us these cheap sunglasses in a “Welcome to The Rodeo” care package type deal. I figure, Why not add them to the mix?

Photo by Matt Cohen

Photo by Matt Cohen

The Takeaway

That day at Clovis was the first time I’d ever ridden with sunglasses on. And at that age, they made me feel even cooler. They did not survive the ride, but I was still eighty points.

The cowboy hat did not survive, either. It found its way into a trash can. I returned the shirt, but I guarantee I returned it in a worse condition than I got it.

I felt stupid about the whole deal but just laughed it off. This kind of stuff happens when you’re in college. It’s all about having fun and riding bareback horses.

That trip to Clovis taught me to be prepared. If you’re going to have a few drinks, get everything set to go, so you can grab it and walk out the door.

And if you don’t? You’ll work something out.

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