LAS VEGAS – Cole Franks seems to be a young man on a mission.
Still two months away from his 21st birthday, the bareback rider from Clarendon, Texas, has placed in three of the first four rounds of the National Finals Rodeo and pocketed $37,759. On Sunday night during the fourth round, he rode J-Bar-J’s Blessed Assurance for 86 points to finish in a four-way tie for third place, worth just shy of $10,000.
“They’ve placed in every round they’ve been on that horse at the NFR,” Franks said. “He was a good one to get on in this pen.”
He’s had some good fortunate, but he’s also earned his money eight seconds at a time. Riding bareback horses is no easy task. The riggings are cinched tightly to the animal’s back, and the cowboys wear specially designed riding gloves with binds, then wedge their hands into the rigging. They are virtually locked onto the horse.
It can take a toll on the body, even on the easier to ride broncs. That’s what the bareback riders faced in the fourth round, the “Hopper Pen.” Unlike the “Eliminator Pen” they face in the third and eighth rounds, the horses out Sunday night were more user-friendly. It was a spurring contest, and it was difficult to judge the rides for the ProRodeo officials, which is why there were four cowboys tied for third.
“I just have to keep it going, just keep rolling,” said Franks, a second-generation NFR cowboy whose father was a three-time qualifier in saddle bronc riding. “It’s awesome to keep picking up checks. It makes you feel like you belong here a little more with all these guys.”
He’s actually one of three cowboys competing at ProRodeo’s grand finale that were part of the Clarendon College rodeo team coached by Franks’ father, Bret. Cole Franks and saddle bronc riders Wyatt Casper and Tegan Smith have all been in the money. Smith won the third round, and that set off a spark in the others.
“I went to the buckle presentation for Tegan (Saturday) night, and it made me think like, ‘I’m going to be here at the South Point for this,’ ” Franks said. “I was shooting for it today, but it didn’t quite work out. Just seeing those guys come in here and compete, it is just as awesome as coming in here and doing it by myself.”