DUNCAN, Okla. – COVID-19 did a number on many people around the world, and it affected their lives and their livelihoods.
Take Cody Ballard, a cowboy from Tutum, New South Wales in Australia, who had been in the United States for several years competing in college, then professional rodeo. He decided to make a trip home early last spring, then was forced to remain there through the pandemic restrictions.
“I’m only getting back to rodeoing,” said Ballard, who won both nights of saddle bronc riding at Cord McCoy’s ProRodeo at the Stephens County Arena in Duncan. “This was only my 11th rodeo. It’s hard for me to get into rodeos these days, so I’m trying to get to anything I can.”
Ballard has been unable to get into the bigger rodeos because he doesn’t have enough qualifications. He’s hoping to use smaller ones like Duncan to work his way up, but he understands that it’s just another aspect of his life that has been affected by the pandemic.
Take the biggest rodeo in Oklahoma, which took place last week in Guymon. There were 137 bronc riders who entered that rodeo, but only 60 were allowed in. That means most of the bronc riders were out of the mix. That was tough on Ballard, who competed in college rodeo at Oklahoma Panhandle State University, which is just 10 miles from Guymon.
“That place is priceless for cowboys, bronc riders especially,” Ballard said. “It’s shaped me to what I am today. Robert Etbauer and Shelbie Weeder (Rose) are the coaches, and they point you in the right direction. I made the college finals when I was there, and we won the college national title.”
On Friday night, Ballard was 75 points on McCoy Rodeo’s I’m No Angel to win the opening night. He was 76 points on McCoy’s Harry The Horse to claim Night 2; he earned $560.
“That first horse was just real nice,” he said. “She just went out there and bucked and circled around to the right. She helped me out a lot.
“I saw my second horse (Friday) night. He took a little more of a run (Friday), so they asked if I wanted them to throw chaps at him to maybe get him to buck earlier. That helped a lot, and the horse started up for me. It worked out from there.”
Since there are limitations on where he can compete, Ballard has found another outlet to show off his cowboy instincts. He works for a livestock production company based in northwest Oklahoma. When he’s not on the road trying his hands at nasty broncs, he’s working as a cowboy on the ranch.
Dona Kay Rule understands the ranching lifestyle. She and her family have been saddle-makers before she found the racehorse of her dreams in Valor, a 12-year-old sorrel gelding that has guided her to two straight National Finals Rodeo qualifications. The tandem worked well in Duncan, winning both nights and pocketing nearly $1,200 in the process.
“This was a gift, because it’s only an hour from home and we were able to get a couple good runs in,” said Rule of Minco, Oklahoma. “We’ve known Cord McCoy and his family a very long time, and we wanted to come down here and support them. It’s neat to be able to get the wins here, too.”
Cord McCoy’s ProRodeo
Bareback riding: 1. Ty Blessing, 78 points on McCoy Rodeo’s Joe Bad, $278; 2. Mark Kreder, 75, $209; 3. Danny Weil, 73, $139; 4. Montana Duvall, 72.5, $70.
Steer wrestling: 1. Adam Lynn Musil, 5.0 seconds, $278; 2. Cooper Ray Belt, 15.8, $323; 3. Tyrel Cline, 18.0, $162; no other qualified runs.
Team roping: 1. (tie) Briar Teague/Jessen Wade James and Rowdy Keith Jones/Tuff Hardman, 4.8 seconds, $461 each; 3. Paul David Tierney/Reagan Ward, 10.1, $ $263; 4. Miles Baker/Zac Woods, 20.4, $132.
Saddle bronc riding: 1. Cody Ballard, 76 points on McCoy Rodeo’s Harry The Horse, $277; no other qualified rides.
Breakaway roping: 1. Jordan Jo Fabrizio, 2.1 seconds, $1,060; 2. Shai Schaefer, 2.2, $795; 3. Mindy Wells, 2.4, $530; 4. Amber Crawford, 2.6, $265.
Tie-down roping: 1. Travis Rogers, 8.8 seconds, $384; 2. Kater Tate, 9.0, $288; 3. Ty Rumford, 9.9, $192; 4. Riley Morrow, 15.4, $96.
Barrel racing: 1. DonaKay Rule, 15.42 seconds, $605; 2. Taitum Thomas, 15.57, $526; 3. Paige Jones, 15.59, $447; 4. Camrin Sellers, 15.73, $368; 5. Randee Hedrick, 15.77, $290; 6. Taylor Reazin, 15.80, $211; 7. Lindsey McLeod, 15.85, $132; 8. Jeannie McKee, 16.86, $53.
Steer roping: First round: 1. Vin Fisher Jr., 10.7 seconds, $827; 2. Chet Herren, 11.4, $620; 3. Jason Stockton, 11.5, $414; 4. Corey Ross, 12.7, $207. Second round: 1. Neal Wood, 10.3 seconds, $827; 2. Cole Patterson, 11.4, $620; 3. Trey Wallace, 11.5, $414; 4. Darin Suit, 11.6, $207. Average: 1. Garrett Hale, 25.9 seconds on two runs, $1,241; 2. Darin Suit, 28.2, $931; 3. Quay Howard, 31.0, $620; 4. Cole Patterson, 31.2, $310.
Bull riding: 1. Fulton Rutland, 86.5 points on McCoy Rodeo’s Hello Darlin, $846; no other qualified rides.