ESTES PARK, Colo. – The dreams of being a world champion start early for many cowboys.
They might ride stick horses, but they have visions of the yellow chutes at the National Finals Rodeo. It’s what drives most of them; it’s why they travel the country following their passions.
Brandon Harrison has had that dream. He’s a second-generation cowboy who got the bug passed to him by his father. He left his home in southeast Texas weeks ago to chase his dreams, ones he’s held for most of his 34 years.
“I’m an NFR man, and the NFR is the goal,” said Harrison of Cheek, Texas, a tiny community of 2,700 people near Beaumont. “The world championship is the end goal, and I’m right there.”
Yes, he is. He sits 19th in the world standings with three months remaining on ProRodeo’s regular season. He’d like to sneak up a few spots to secure his first bid to the sport’s grand finale, which features only the top 15 on the money list in each event.
He gave himself a chance with a 3.6-second run during Saturday’s fourth performance of Rooftop Rodeo to take the second-round lead in steer wrestling. It tied for the fastest run of the rodeo, splitting that feat with Aaron Vosler, who won the first go-round. If Harrison can hold onto that spot through the final two performances, he will add $1,721.
This is the best year of his recent professional career, but it’s not the best he’s done in Estes Park. In fact, he was crowned the Rooftop Rodeo champion two seasons ago, and he loves returning to the Rocky Mountain community for a chance at good money and the exquisite scenery. It’s also a chance for him to escape the oppressive heat that his home has been experiencing.
“I’m enjoying Estes Park and this weather,” he said. “My wife and kids are jealous of where I am. They’re dying in the heat, and I’m up here with a jacket and a coat on trying to stay warm.”
He competed in his first round Saturday morning in a series of competition dubbed “slack.” Though he didn’t have any success on his first run, he didn’t let that get him down. He knew the evening performance offered him a grand opportunity to cash in.
“Riley (Duvall) ran that steer in the first round, and he was 3.7 (second),” Harrison said. “I knew he was good. I just had to hit the start and do my job. Riley hazed for me, and having someone like him hazing for you will give you a little more confidence to do your job.”
Harrison has been traveling with Eli Lord, a South Dakota bulldogger, and has even ridden Lord’s horse. After the morning struggles, Harrison opted for a horse owned by another steer wrestler, Nebraskan Gus Franzen.
“I had a little problem with the horse this morning, so I decided to make a change, and it worked,” Harrison said. “We all share horses, and if you bulldog any good, you can get on just about anything.”
Being able to ride any horse comes in handy. It’s part of being a rodeo cowboy, something Harrison has been since he was a child.
“My dad rodeoed his whole life, and he had me there with him,” he said. “I watched, and I learned, and the next thing you know, I was jumping steers horseback when I was 10 or 11.”
He’s still doing it, living his gold buckle dreams through every run.
Bareback riding: 1. (tie) Waylon Bourgeois, on The Cervi Brothers’ Bazinga, and Richmond Champion, on Cervi Championship Rodeo’s Hitman, 85.5 points; 3. Jacob Raine, 85; 4. Jacob Lees, 79; 5. Strawbs Jones, 78; 6. Kade Sonnier, 76.5.
Steer wrestling: First round: 1. Aaron Vosler, 3.6 seconds, $1,721; 2. Riley Duvall, 3.7, $1,425; 3. Bridger Anderson, 4.1, $1,128; 4. (tie) Rowdy Parrott and Cash Robb, 4.3, $683 each; 6. (tie) Jace Joos and Tristan Martin, 4.5, $148 each. Second round: 1. Brandon Harrison, 3.6 seconds; 2. Clayton Hass, 3.7; 3. Stephen Culling, 3.9; 4. Kyler Dick, 4.2; 5. Dakota Eldridge, 4.5; 6. Walt Arnold, 4.6. Average: 1. Dakota Eldridge, 9.1 seconds on two head; 2. Rowdy Parrott, 9.2; 3. Bridger Anderson, 9.3; 4. Tyler Pearson, 9.9; 5. Kyler Dick, 10.8; 6. Denver Berry, 11.1; no other qualified runs.
Team roping: First round: 1. Korbin Rice/Jake South, 4.4 seconds, $1,721 each; 2. Tyler Wade/Wesley Thorp, 4.5, $1,425; 3. (tie) Cam Jensen/Tanner Whetham and Kreece Thompson/Landen Glenn, 4.7, $979 each; 5. Lightning Aguilera/Jared Fillmore, 4.8, $534; 6. (tie) Pedro Egurrola/JC Flake and Kellan Johnson/Carson Johnson, 5.0, $148 each. Second round: 1. (tie) Tanner Tomlinson/Patrick Smith and Andrew Ward/Buddy Hawkins II, 4.2 seconds; 3. Dustin Egusquiza/Levi Lord, 4.3; 4. Payden Emmett/Lucas Falconer, 4.5; 5. Kreece Thompson/Landen Glenn, 4.7; 6. Korbin Rice/Jake South, 5.4. Average: 1. (tie) Andrew Ward/Buddy Hawkins II and Kreece Thompson/Landen Glenn, 9.4 seconds on two head; 3. Korbin Rice/Jake South, 9.8; 4. Lightning Aguilera/Jared Fillmore, 10.3; 5. Tanner Tomlinson/Patrick Smith, 14.2; 6. Clayton Van Aken/Cullen Teller, 16.0; no other qualified runs.
Saddle bronc riding: 1. Stu Wright, 87.5 points on Cervi Championship Rodeo’s Ricky Bobby; 2. Stetson Wright, 87; 3. Sam Martin, 84; 4. Cort Scheer, 83; 5. Lefty Marvel Holman, 82.5; 6. Leon Fountain, 82.
Tie-down roping: First round: 1. Tyler Boxleitner, 9.9 seconds, $1,620; 2. Kincade Henry, 10.1, $1,341; 3. Kyle Dickens, 10.2, $1,061; 4. Colton Farquer, 10.7, $782; 5. Ross McAdow, 12.2, $503; 6. Zaine Mikita, 12.9, $279. Second round: 1. Jeremiah Peek, 10.0 seconds; 2. Kincade Henry, 11.9; 3. Ricky Lambert, 12.5; 4. Cash Hooper, 13.3; 5. David Trahan, 15.6; 6. Neil Dove, 15.8. Average: 1. Kincade Henry, 22.0 seconds on two head; 2. David Trahan, 28.8; 3. (tie) Cash Hooper and Ross McAdow, 29.7 each; 5. Tyler Forsberg, 33.8; 6. Colby Anders, 39.5; no other qualified runs.
Barrel racing: 1. Kelly Allen, 16.11 seconds; 2. Kelly Yates, 16.14; 3. (tie) Michelle Darling and Makala Pierce, 16.18; 5. (tie) Sydney Graham, Rainey Skelton and Heidi Tillard, 16.21; 8. Michelle Merrick, 16.24l 9. (tie) Fallon Forbes and Preslie Reid, 16.25; 11. Shali Lord, 16.28; 12. Emery Mask, 16.35; 13. Laura Mote, 16.38; 14. Ilyssa Riley, 16.41; 15. (tie) Natalie Bland and Jayda Jameson, 16.44.
Bull riding: 1. Stetson Wright, 88 points on Cervi Championship Rodeo’s Theodore; 2. Tyler Kippes, 87.5; 3. Wyatt Phelps, 83; 4. Fulton Rutland, 81; 5. Braden Richardson, 80.5; 6. Cody Johansen, 76.5.