GUYMON, Okla. – The Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo has always served as a reunion, of sorts, for ProRodeo athletes with ties to the Oklahoma Panhandle.
Winning the good money available is just a nice benefit, and several contestants reaped the rewards of returning “home” the first weekend of May.
“They do a good job with this rodeo,” said Taos Muncy, who rode Korkow Rodeo’s River Rat for 86 points to finish second in saddle bronc money and earn $2,089. “The stock contractors all bring their best horses, and it’s really a good bronc riding. Everybody that stayed on today had good horses, and that’s what you want in these deals.”
Muncy is one of many Oklahoma Panhandle State University rodeo team alumni who returned to Texas County for the annual rodeo. He’s also one of several who collected paychecks after competing at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena.
“This is one of the funnest rodeos to come back to all year,” said Muncy of Corona, N.M., the 2007 world champion saddle bronc rider who also won the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association title earlier that year. “All my family comes to town for this since it’s only five hours from the house.”
Chad van Campen attended Panhandle State in the mid-1990s and enjoys returning to the region for the ProRodeo. This year was especially sweet for the steer wrestler originally from Granada, Colo. – he won the third go-round and the average championship, earning $4,530; it was the second time in five years he won the Pioneer Days Rodeo title.
“I drew in the middle of the herd the first two rounds, then I drew pretty well in the third round,” van Campen said. “(Hazer) Todd Suhn did a great job of bringing that steer to me, and that helped a lot.
“I just seem to like this rodeo pretty well.”
Four-time NFR qualifying heeler Jhett Johnson does, too. Roping with Turtle Powell of Stephenville, Texas, Johnson, of Casper, Wyo., placed in two of the three go-rounds and finished seventh overall. That helped Johnson to a $3,170 payday and served as a nice boost to his fifth qualification to ProRodeo’s grand finale, which takes the top 15 money-earners in each event at the end of the regular season. Johnson’s earnings in Guymon moved him to the eighth spot in the standings.
“At this point in the season, we’re just trying to make money,” Johnson said. “Turtle and I have roped off and on throughout my pro career. We get along really well, and we both have really good horses. That’s what you need at this level. There’s not one guy out there that can out-rope everybody, so you have to have that advantage somehow. I think our horses give us that advantage. The better the horse is, the better you are.”
While Johnson is busy chasing his gold buckle dreams, Jett Hillman is content in chasing what team roping money is available while building his equine dentistry practice, a trade he’s been plying for about five years.
“I’m roping closer to home this year,” said Hillman of Jones, Okla., a community just east of Oklahoma City. “My dentistry practice is going so well that I’m gong to stay close to home and take care of my clients and capitalize on the business growing.
“This has been a good week for me. I got to come back and see some old friends and work on some horses and win some money at the rodeo.”
Hillman, who competed with heeler Charles Pogue of Ringling, Okla., used consistent runs to finish second in the average. They also placed in the opening round and earned $3,250 apiece. Their 8.0-second run Sunday afternoon meant the tandem finished with 22.2 seconds on three runs, just three-tenths of a second behind winners Trevor Brazile and Patrick Smith, the reigning world champions.
“We just wanted to rope smart,” said Hillman, who won the Central Plains Region team roping titles the two years he competed at Panhandle State and shared the national championship in 2002 with teammate Logan Olson. “Sure it would’ve been nice to win this rodeo, but it seems like a guy loses a lot by beating yourself. Second place pays pretty well.”