It was only the fourth ride of the Clovis Rodeo on Sunday, more than 10,000 people stuffed into the arena, a Friday rain-driven puddle having dried, 71 degrees of sun-splashed perfection – and Jake Brown matched it.
Before the 26-year-old Texan even bolted out of the chute aboard a marvelous mare named “Wild & Blue,” veteran public address announcer Wayne Brooks favored the matchup.
Great horse, great rider, he emphasized – and it takes both to cash a check in a bareback event that has both the horse and rider ranked on a 1-to-25 point basis by two judges.
Brown, continuing to blaze a 1½-year trail that has made him more than $200,000, hung on for the necessary 8 seconds to qualify, dismounted, threw up his right fist and raised both while facing a roaring crowd on the south-side grandstands.
“It felt good, so I knew (the score) was going to be good,” he said.
“Perfection,” Brooks announced.
Seemed that way technically, but not really.
A perfect 100, in fact, has never been scored in the history of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. The world record is a 94.
But it was an 89, a phenomenal score, nonetheless, routing the field and delivering $8,300 to the lifelong cowboy who married (Nicole) in October.
This bizarre life of thrills and oft-horrific spills is soaring for Brown.
His back was broken eight years ago under the weight of a fallen horse.
But the son of a junior college rodeo coach (Paul Brown, Hill College-Hillsboro, Texas) is at the top of his game now, and a new home in Cleveland, Texas, reflects it.
“Last year ($150,000 in earnings, No. 8 ranking in world) was my best year and this year is the best start I’ve ever had,” he said under a black cowboy hat behind black sunglasses to match. “Last year got me down the road. I bought a good little place to live and some land. Now I’ll keep doing what I love.”
It’s a labor of love.
Consider last week’s itinerary and a typical one for a cowboy who has already participated in 23 rodeos this year and could do 100 by December.
Exclusively a bareback rider, he won a rodeo Thursday in Lufkin, Texas. He then flew into San Diego on Saturday, was bucked off and didn’t place in a rodeo at nearby Lakeside, rented a car with a couple other cowboys, drove to Bakersfield and spent the night before driving to Clovis on Sunday morning.
He estimates overhead expenses at more than $30,000 annually.
For all the wear and tear, he bears nothing more than a one-inch scar on the left side of his chin: “Riding a calf as a kid.”
And how much more at this pace?
“I don’t know,” he said with a Southern drawl, “probably until 35. Then, hopefully, I’ll have made a lot of money, have a big ol’ ranch and retire on it.”
Brilliant bull ride – Wild & Blue and Brown set the tone for a combination of animal/rider excellence.
The last division of the day, bull riding, had Joseph McConnel do what no one had in two years – qualify aboard “Crystal Deal.”
That’s why the 1,700-pound beast was named the world’s Bull of the Year in 2015.
But McConnel of Bloomfield, N.M., not only went the distance, he scored 88.5, which easily held up for the title and $6,909.
A bit later, Clovis’ Kaycee Rose – a former champion in this rodeo – drew a rousing response from the crowd, but was bucked in 2.85 seconds by “Whiskey Hangover.”
The rodeo sold out all four days, selling more than 32,000 tickets and attracting about 45,000 total people into the grounds, officials said.