LAS VEGAS – Chet Johnson likes his role as a veteran saddle bronc rider at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
He also likes the fact that he’s earned money in the first three rounds of the 2013 championship. On Saturday’s third night of competition, the Douglas, Wyo., bronc buster matched moves with J Bar J Rodeo’s Sweatin’ Bullets for 77.5 points to finish sixth and collect a check worth $3,005.
“I’m way more comfortable this year than I’ve ever been here,” said Johnson, now in his fourth NFR qualification. “I have way more experience than the first three times I was here. I’m one of the older guys, too, so I’m not as intimidated.
“When I first came here (in 2005), the veterans were Billy Etbauer, Dan Mortensen, Glen O’Neal and Rod Hay. They were my heroes, and I was riding against them. There was an intimidation factor there. Now I’ve been rodeoing with these guys my entire career. A lot of them are just new guys; they still ride really good, but it’s just different.”
Over three nights in the City of Lights, Johnson has pocketed more than $7,000. This is the place where big money can be made, with go-round winners earning $18,630 each night of the 10-round championship, but the Wyoming cowboy likes that he’s earned something in the opening few nights.
Most importantly, his cumulative score of 229.5 points through three rides is third best.
“I honestly didn’t think I was going to place in that round,” he said Saturday. “A lot of the horses didn’t have their day. You get out of rhythm, and I think horses do, too. I don’t know if it’s the weather, but it seems like a lot of them are worse in the chute, and they’re just not having their day.
“I thought it would take 82 or 83 points to place tonight. The horses just haven’t been doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Like everything, you don’t know what all is affecting them.”
Only the top 6 scores earn money each night, and Johnson’s was one of two money-makers who didn’t surpass the 80-point marking. Based on the 100-point scale, half the score comes from the ride, half comes from the animal.
“Everything I’ve been on, the horses just don’t have the action, so you’ve got to do it all yourself,” Johnson said. “I can’t complain; I’m still getting checks.”
That, especially in Las Vegas, is a good thing.