The close of Clovis Rodeo 101 on Sunday before yet another capacity crowd didn’t offer a new lesson, rather a review that cowboys travel afar without guarantee of a paycheck, sacrifice their bodies, and all for the thrill of playing tough guy in the dirt.
Take Jacobs Crawley as a prime example.
The 26-year-old from Stephenville, Texas, got the best of a world-class bronco, Lunatic from Hell, rode out his necessary 8 seconds and tied a nation season-best score of 92 points to win the Saddle Bronc competition.
That earned Crawley $5,752, particularly timely in that he’ll marry one Lauren Cox on her family ranch in San Antonio next weekend.
The kicker: They are 2011 Texas A&M graduates. Further, for Crawley, his degree came in systems engineering with the idea of being a project manager.
Crawley says a “safe guess” would be 15% of the cowboys on tour have college degrees.
Yet he’ll continue at least into his “late 30s” climbing aboard raging geldings bred to raise their rear heels in violent concert with the sole intention of bucking off their riders.
And to heck with the consequences in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
As renowned rodeo public address announcer Wayne Brooks shared a reality check with a crowd of around 10,000 Sunday: “It’s not if you’re going to get hurt, it’s when.”
So why the continued risk for Crawley with a degree in the back pocket of his Wranglers?
“Because I don’t think it would be exciting sitting behind a desk all year,” he said. “I’ll have the rest of my life to do that.”
He had competed in three rodeos in three Texas cities Thursday through Saturday before flying out of Dallas Sunday at 6 a.m. and landing in Fresno three hours later: “I had enough time to check into my motel room, shower and come here.”
Crawley will fly back to Texas on Monday at 6 a.m.
The life of a cowboy — though most travel via truck and trailer.
A score of 80 or better in Saddle Bronc is considered outstanding; 90 or better is exceptional.
Crawley had to beat Cort Scheer’s 85 to take over first. And when he dismounted Lunatic from Hell — who played a key role by cooperating with an aggressive and theatrical ride — he figured he did. But it’s a subjective process, as scored by four judges.
“I felt really good,” he said, “but you just hope it looked as good as it felt. I thought it was an 88 or 89, but I didn’t know what (the judges) were thinking about it.”
Ninth inning for champion Bobby Mote?
Four-time world champion Bobby Mote, also of Stephenville, Texas, shared the Bareback Riding title with New Mexico’s Luke Creasy.
And, afterward, Mote hinted this year may be his last on the circuit: “I think so, but I can’t say for sure.”
Married and with three children, he joined the PRCA in 1996.
“I didn’t think I would do it this long,” he said. “I’m taking it one year at a time.”
Mote, who has split his pancreas and had abdominal muscles torn off the bone, among other injuries, has concentrated on Bareback in his career: “It’s just what I wanted to do when I got started and I was stubborn enough to stick with it. It didn’t come easy to me, so I devoted everything I had to it.”
Having competed in a range of 30 to 80 rodeos a year, he said he’s managed his money well and has other business opportunities — namely real estate and rentals — to concentrate on in retirement.
• Fresno’s Sheena Robbins, supported by thunderous cheers — clearly the day’s loudest among seven events, even more than the ever-popular Mutton Bustin’ — placed seventh with a 17.21-second time in Barrel Racing. A 2013 champion here, she cashed $466.27. Idaho’s Darby Fox sizzled a 16.88 Sunday to win $2,447.
• Bakersfield’s Lane Selz scored a modest 71 in Bull Riding, but was the only one of 14 finalists to hold on for 8 seconds.