December always signals the Christmas season, colder weather, and for rodeo fans, the “holy grail” of rodeo: the Wrangler National Finals.
Several cowboys and a cowgirl from Tri-State Livestock News country are sure to keep readers glued to their tvs for the entire 10 days of rodeo competition.
One local cowboy, Gering, Nebraska, tie down roper Riley Pruitt, is following in his dad’s footsteps.
The father of the twenty-five year old cowboy is Troy Pruitt, the 1990 World Champion Tie-down Roper. Riley won the Nebraska High School Tie-down roping championship three times and finished third in the average at the College National Finals Rodeo in 2011, before hitting the pro rodeo trail full time.
The year 2016 has been his best yet, with him entering the WNFR in ninth place in the standings with $74,547 won in the regular season. His winning winter put him in a great spot – he won the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver, Odessa, Texas, the second round in San Angelo, Texas, and placed in San Antonio.
Doing well over the winter takes some of the pressure off during the busy summer season. “Having that much money won after the winter makes the summer a lot easier,” he said. “I can go to the big rodeos and don’t have to win first.”
Rodeoing a bit less in the summer also allows his horse to have some time off. “I didn’t have to have (Chip, his seventeen-year-old buckskin) in the trailer every day all year. We had a chance to come home a few days out of the week, and he got to relax and rest. He stayed strong for me all year.”
Chip was purchased from Steve Chittick in Wellfleet, Neb., in the spring of 2015. Pruitt won some on him last year, but the horse needed to be hauled and seasoned.
Stran Smith of Childress has been one of the best calf ropers in the world for years now.
His skill combined with his faith led him overseas to Brazil to teach young Brazilians how to rope.
While there, he met Marcos Costa — whom he befriended and made a life-changing offer.
“I asked him, ‘Have you ever thought about coming to the United States,’ Smith said as he remembers his proposition.
Costa told him he had, but God never told him it was the right time to go.
“Well, would you like to come to the United States,” Smith asked.
As tears rolled down Costa’s face, he accepted Smith’s offer.
“So, I called my wife and said, ‘Hey, Jen. I’ll be home in a couple of days, and I invited a Brazilian to come home and live with us,'” Smith said. “She said, ‘Do what?'”
Smith’s wife was quick to agree, trusting her husband’s decision.
“Without him, nothing could have happened,” Costa said. “If he wouldn’t have gone down there and invited me, and I didn’t accept, nothing could have happened. He was the key for all of this success.”
There has certainly been a lot of success as Costa — who once had to live a short period in a horse stall in Brazil — has won over $125,000, this year alone. He currently sits number one in the world for calf roping and has a chance to double his earning this year at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, next month. For Costa, he has his goals in mind but stays grounded.