You Just Never Know

photo by Matt Cohen / Cowboy Journal

photo by Matt Cohen / Cowboy Journal

Look at how my luck turned around this year during the Fourth. You just gotta keep going at every single one like it’s your last one and like you never bucked off a bull in your life.

by Chase Dougherty

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Last week, when we were just getting started, I was telling bull rider Boudreaux Campbell how I planned to end my Cowboy Christmas. While most of my buddies would be leaving Oregon’s St. Paul Rodeo and heading to rodeos in Prescott, Arizona, and Oakley City, Utah, I was sticking around Oregon, my home state, for a couple of amateur rodeos—in Newport and Yoncalla. Boudreaux started giving me crap.

“Man, you’re just going over there to take everybody’s money,” he said.

“No, it’s not like that,” I told him. “These are lifelong friends of mine, old stock contractors that helped me ever since I was a kid.” Jerry Howell and his son, Dustin. They put on a good little rodeo.

I always try to duck off and hit their stuff. Try to help them out. I like seeing them any chance I get. And, as I mentioned in my previous update, the only checks I won during last year’s Cowboy Christmas were at a couple of amateur rodeos in Oregon. I didn’t win a dollar last year at any of the PRCA rodeos.

This year was the complete opposite. At the PRCA rodeos, I won around $15,000. Not only that, but I stayed on every one of my bulls—until I got to the amateur rodeo at Yoncalla, a little podunk town south of Eugene. The Howells’ bull was the only one that bucked me off. He did this tricky kind of hop-skipping, got me loosened up and then jerked me down. My hand got stuck, and when it came free, he threw me off. I didn’t make the whistle. So, no, I did not go down there and take everybody’s money.

When it comes to rodeo, you just never know.

photo by Matt Cohen

photo by Matt Cohen

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Like at the rodeo in Cody, Wyoming. This year the bull riding was crazy in Cody. I was 85 there and didn’t even place. The last money hole was 87.5. The guy that won Cody was 92.5. Another guy was 90 and only won third. Normally, you go anywhere with a 90 and win a rodeo, but apparently not in Cody.

All in all, I’m very pleased with how things went. Rarely does it happen that I win so much in a week of rodeoing. I’m usually nickel-and-diming it. Over the Fourth, I moved up four spots in the PRCA standings, from 22nd to 18th.

The rookie traveling with us, Levi Gray, had a pretty tough week. At one point, he said to me, “Normally, I’m in a rig with a couple guys, and I’m trying to help them get better. Now I’m in a rig with you, Jordan and Ruger, and I’m the weak link.”

“No,” I told him, “You’re not the weak link. You ride just as good as the rest of us. You just need some experience.”

We don’t usually say much to each other when we’re struggling. We know we got ourselves into the predicament, so it’s our job to get ourselves out. When we do speak up, it’s not like we tell each other, Relax, don’t worry about it. It’s more tough love than anything, like, Hey, this is bull riding. If you fall off, it’s not the bull’s fault, so you’re gonna have to man-up and do it better next time.

Cody Campbell gave me best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten. As bull rider, he said, you have to know that you can go fall off ten jump-kickers in a row, bulls that you should have rode hands down, and then go be 90 ten times in a row. When it’s your time, it’s your time. You gotta believe it’s always your time.

I told Levi, “Man, you ride great. Don’t let this week define who you are. Go ride the rest of your bulls the rest of the year. That’s what really matters. Last year I didn’t have a good Fourth run, but I still made the National Finals.”

Levi listens. When me or Jordan or Ruger gives him advice, his ears are open and his eyes are wide. He really wants it. “Yeah,” he said, “just going with guys that do good makes you want to do that much better.”

I was happy to see that towards the end of the week, he started riding better.

Hey, look at how my luck turned around this year during the Fourth. You just gotta keep going at every single one like it’s your last one and like you never bucked off a bull in your life.

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