LAS VEGAS – It’s 920 miles from Cole Franks’ place in tiny Clarendon, Texas, to the bright lights of Las Vegas, but he’s feeling very much at home during this year’s National Finals Rodeo.
He’s placed in four of five bareback riding rounds and was just a spur stroke away from winning Monday’s fifth round, scoring 90 points on Calgary Stampede’s Xplosive Skies to finish second. He pocketed $21,336 for his eight seconds of work.
“That horse is all there for sure,” Franks said of Xplosive Skies the 2021 PRCA Bareback Horse of the Year. “He blows out of there really hard. He leaves like a train and hits you like a train. You don’t have time to think. It’s going 100 miles an hour, and it’s all directed at you.”
It was a very energetic ride, with each side throwing punch after punch. The young cowboy came out the winner in the end, pushing his NFR earnings to $59,095. He sits 10th in the world standings with $136,489.
“Looking back on it, I would call that one fun,” he said. “It was a little bit different (than the ‘Eliminator Pen’ on Saturday night). It was a totally different kind of feeling than any other kind of horse. I was having fun knowing what I was doing (Monday) night. It was just bare down and let the past year’s work take over.”
The fifth round featured the most electric bucking horses in bareback riding. When he saw the draw after Sunday’s fourth round, Franks knew he had a good shot to earn big points on Xplosive Skies.
“When I saw the draw, I kind of teared up a little bit because of the excitement of it all,” Franks said. “I didn’t sleep a whole lot last night, just imagining riding that one. It was just pure excitement, ready to get it going.”
He’s the rookie of the year, but he looks like anything but a newcomer to ProRodeo’s grand championship. Each ride has provided him with superior experience. Moreover, each money-making score provides more confidence.
“(Doing this well) pumps you up a little more,” he said. “The last four rounds have been pumping me up for this, and this pumps me up for the next five rounds. It’s just a big balloon getting inflated.
Just as he would if he were working at home, he has his entire family around to keep him motivated and focused. That’s big for the young cowboy, but it’s something he’s experienced for a long time.
“My family is super supportive of everything I’ve done, from playing Little League baseball to this,” Franks said. It’s awesome having them here, knowing they’re sitting in the stands. I can look up and wave at them when I’m putting my rigging on or doing something on the back of the chutes, so that’s awesome.”