EDITOR’S NOTE: This story appears in the August 2011 edition of Women’s Pro Rodeo News, the official publication of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association.
On paper, the Fourth of July run was awfully nice to Brenda Mays.
She earned $11,140, with a large portion coming with her victory at the World’s Oldest Rodeo in Prescott, Ariz., where she pocketed $4,515. But she also added nice paychecks in Molalla, Ore.; Eugene, Ore.; Livingston, Mont.; and Oakley, Utah.
“It was a very good Fourth for me,” said Mays, a four-time qualifier to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo from Terrebonne, Ore.
Mays knows the importance of Cowboy Christmas. After that week of lucrative rodeos, she had moved her season earnings to $67,256, good enough for second in the WPRA ProRodeo Standings. But that time on the road was a little bittersweet for Mays, whose son, Kyle Easterly, was competing at the National Junior High School Finals Rodeo in Gallup, N.M.
“The thing I didn’t like about it was having to miss my son’s first trip to Gallup,” she said. “He made the short round in the chute dogging, so I’m awfully proud of him. I would’ve liked to have been there to see it, but he knows that this is what we do to take care of him.”
That’s the business of rodeo, and Mays handles her business as well as anyone hauling horses down the road. Of course, it helps that she has Jethro, the reigning AQHA/WPRA Barrel Horse of the Year. Judge Buy Cash is a 12-year-old black gelding by Judge Cash out of Flashs Polly Vandy, and he’s been one of the best horses in the game for several years – he finished third in the voting in 2008 and was second in 2009.
Oh, and he likes Prescott. The 2011 campaign marked the second straight year Mays and Jethro won that rodeo; they also finished second in 2009.
“Yeah, I kind of need to go back to that one,” Mays said, somewhat joking but mostly serious. “He likes it. It’s a good set up for him, and I really like the committee down there.
“It’s a little bit out of the way, but I’ll continue to go to that rodeo.”
Mays set the standard on June 28, the opening night, when she and Jethro rounded the cloverleaf pattern in 17.38 seconds during the performance, then posted a 17.53 an hour and a half later during slack. Five days later, Mays learned she’d won the opening round and $1,724, finished fourth in the second round worth $1,067 and left the field in the dust with her two-run total of 34.91, with another $1,724.
“Jethro has been working pretty good, but he also had a pretty good layoff before we got to Reno,” she said. “I really didn’t think it would win the round. In years past, the round times had always been faster, so it kind of shocked me to win the round.”
The back-to-back format worked quite well for Mays.
“He was actually a little stronger that second run and ran a little bit harder,” she said. Sometimes that’s good, and sometimes that’s not good.”
But it worked out, and Mays was on the road in a race for ProRodeo gold while most of America slumbered and planned for its Independence Day holiday.
“The hardest part of it was that I had to go from Prescott to Oakley, Utah,” she said. “I was by myself, and I had to leave at midnight for a 12-hour drive. I got about an hour nap in, then I had to go to Cody, Wyo. When I got to Livingston (Mont.), my husband came and helped.
“I figure I got about six hours sleep in three days, which probably was not enough. But we know coming into it that the Fourth of July, Cowboy Christmas, is about the driving and how people can handle the driving, being exhausted and still being able to compete. We all know what we’re getting into when we enter. That’s just part of it all for us.”
At all the rodeos in which Mays placed, Jethro was her guiding force. She gave the great gelding a break in Red Lodge, Mont., and St. Paul, Ore., where she ran Judge My Fame, an 8-year-old mare she calls Dora by Dash Ta Fame out of Flashy Cashy Cat.
“I think the reason we can make it work is knowing he can handle it,” she said. “But it’s also knowing where he’s been successful and entering the places I know he likes. St. Paul is a good circuit rodeo for us, but he doesn’t like it there, so that’s why I ran my mare.
“What I try to do when I enter all these rodeo is put him in a situation where I know he can be successful.”
It’s a formula that seems to be working, especially in Prescott.