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09.03.2014
Road Trip

“I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future.” ― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

The Road to Cheyenne is paved with bumps, bruises, and moments of brilliance for the 24 cowboys that travel the path, but they are not the only one’s cruising the highways and byways in pursuit of the gold buckles. 

The stock contractors and personnel of the CBR were on the road with their pens and buckers for ten days forging thru flash floods, muddy arenas, and vast changes in the climate from day to day, to bring you the opening series of the 2015 Championship Bull Riding Season. 

After thirteen seasons of travel with the CBR, livestock coordinator Robert “Paw Paw” Williamson witnessed only his second event from the front side of the bucking chutes. Paw Paw almost lost his finger on night one in Huron when the rain contributed to the near loss of one of his fingers. Although his color commentary during rounds one, two, and three was wildly enjoyed by those fortunate to sit next to him, the large bandaged splint on his left hand served as a subtle reminder of how dangerous bull riding can be, especially when Mother Nature gets involved. 

The great American road trip began in Dickinson, North Dakota at the first Horizon Series event of the 2014 season, the 2nd Annual Dielco Crane CBR Horizon Series Championship Bull Riding produced by Zach Craig and Bret Barrett.  On August 23rd, with bulls in their pens and riders from all corners of the country arriving, the temperature dropped to the 50’s, 10 inches of rain fell for the kick off the CBR season.

Fighting airport delays and cancellations, the World Champions finally arrived in North Dakota. Tuff Hedeman, Sage Kimzey, and bucking bull of the year finalist, Ragin JT finally made it and were on hand to greet the diehard bull riding fans at the local retail stores as the rain continued.

THE UNLEVEL PLAYING FIELD

By Saturday evening the bulls, workers and contractors were soaked. Gates slipping out of hands, boots sticking in the mud, and wipe outs on both sides of the chute may have dampened the arena, but not the spirits of the CBR contractors who forged thru the natural elements embracing the “the show must go on” attitude.

Two hours before the first bull bucked the rain stopped the sun peaked out and the bulls began to dry off enough for the cowboys to hang their ropes. According to CBR Production Manager, Chris Rankin, the rain soaked arenas are challenging not only for the stock and the riders, but the personnel producing the show.

“The weather is always something we have to deal with when we have outdoor events, but all of us on the crew know it is part of rodeo and you take the good with the bad and we have to make it happen,” explained Rankin.  “Of course it is a little more dangerous for us when it is raining, wet and muddy - for instance Matt Noble, Bill Saunders,  and Robert, the guys in the back, have it a little worse cause they have to slop around in the mud with 40 head of bulls to load in a specific order.. and the livestock are usually a little more difficult to work with in the rain.” 

FUN, FUN, FUN

Gates were slippery and the ground was like a sponge. If you are wondering what that feels like just ask team owner, Tom Baker, who could not get his boots out of the mud quick enough to avoid #19 Juke Box Hero, a known hot head, in the back pens at Dickinson. Getting run over was not the way he planned to spend the first leg of this 2,500 mile round-trip from Lubbock, Texas. “I knew he’d be hot after he bucked and the system just collapsed in front of me when a panel gate slipped out of someone’s hand. 

Brett Barrett ended up face down as well, but the “good sport” award goes to Tuff Hedeman as he was set to watch the final out when Zach Craig, working as the latch man, was hit by the gate and landed on top of Hedeman, resulting in neither of them seeing the final out of the night fortunately no bulls, contractors or personnel were seriously injured in the production of this event and road show moved on.

HITCHIN A RIDE

Surviving the first stop, the bulls and their owners moved six hours south on the Road to Huron for the second stop on the CBR’s August run. With delayed planes in Chicago, a wedding proposal along the way, and one 111 mile detour when the navigator/photographer was caught sleeping…one half of the bull riding (CBR work force) finally arrived in Huron.

The other half of the production was starting to trickle in as well.  Not wanting to complain after winning the first Bull Team Challenge outing on the road to Cheyenne, Skip Jones referred to the trip to the Dakotas’s expedition as an adventure. Traveling the prairies from Amarillo to Dickinson, then on to Huron, Jones said it was a virtual “swamp fest” for him and his wife Elaine and their team of buckers.  “Thanks to Eudell Larson, at Dickinson State University, we were allowed to rest our bulls and give them a break inside the covered pens at DSU before heading to Huron.”

 

Congratulations to our very own Evan Williams Bourbon Bullfighter, Brandon Loden, & CBR's Sound, Jill Franzen, on their engagement!

 

LIFE IS A HIGHWAY

But not all saw the rain as an obstacle. Lyndal Hurst, Jeff Harris, Tom Baker (remember the one who was run over in Dickinson) and Mike Jones inaugurated Chase Foutch on the Road to Cheyenne with a fishing trip to Riverside Park and turned the bad weather into a positive finding an overflowing fishing hole close to the Huron arena where they enjoyed an afternoon of Asian carp fishing. Take a look

Meanwhile back at the arena and definitely a little closer to the action was Jill Franzen (Jill’s Sound) and the crew in the announcer stand preparing to work with the electronics including the sound, official computers, and the scoring console. Obviously water and electronics do not work well together. 

According to Rankin when the arena is muddy it not only makes it hard on the livestock to move around, it slows down the Evan Williams Bullfighters, Matt Baldwin, Craig Check, Brandon Loden, and Nevada Miller. It never looks like they miss much of a step, but there is always a concern for their safety as well. 

“The mud was real sticky therefore slowing them down a little but it still didn’t stop them. We worked the ground the night before it was supposed to rain to be better prepared and it was pretty good considering the amount of rain that fell. “

We all love having these outdoor events and we all love a good challenge from time to time. When the weather doesn’t cooperate and we still have great events in the mud, it just shows how awesome the CBR crew really is,” declared Rankin.

Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road to Cheyenne. The journey continues in Conroe, Texas on October 4th. Follow the crew on Facebook and at CBRbull on Twitter and Instagram.


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