LAS VEGAS – He’s a bit soft-spoken, but Cole Franks has no problem hiding the joy he is experiencing during his second trip to the National Finals Rodeo.
He’s a bareback rider, and he makes a living riding bucking horses. This is the best chance he has to really cash in on his season, so he’s making the most of every opportunity. On Wednesday night, he rode Powder River Rodeo’s All Eyes on A & K for 84.5 points to finish fifth in the seventh round.
It marked the sixth time in seven nights that he’s earned a paycheck in the Nevada desert.
“It’s always fun,” said Franks, 21, of Clarendon, Texas. “If it wasn’t fun, I don’t think I’d be able to do it. I like having fun. I like challenges. It has been challenging, for sure, but it has been a blast being here. I love it.”
The NFR is 10 rounds of the best rodeo has to offer. Only the top 15 contestants in each event qualify, and the bareback riders select the top 100 horses to be part of the sport’s richest rodeo. All Eyes on A & K fits into that category.
“That’s just a really nice horse and has been nice all year,” Franks said. “I was pretty excited to have her.”
He should have been. By finishing fifth, he added $7,462 to his bankroll and pushed his NFR earnings to $63,319. He is eighth in the world with nearly $180,000 collected this season. He’s also in line to add more to his pocketbook. Franks is tied for third in the average race with 592 points on seven rides. If he stays in that position when Saturday’s final round ends, he will add more than $41,000.
All this happened after he got off to a rocky start. Bareback riders use a rigging that is supposed to be strapped tightly to the bronc’s chest. They wear specially made gloves that have binds in them, then put their hands into the handhold of the rigging to lock themselves onto the horse. If the equipment is set up right, then the rest is muscle memory.
“I didn’t really pull my rigging very good,” Franks said, indicating that it was a bit looser on his horse than it should have been. “We started pulling (the cinches) a little early. (Arena director) Tom (Neuens) started us a little early, and I didn’t think about finishing it off.
“I chased my rigging most of the time.”
It served as a lesson learned for the young bronc buster. He’s gained a lot of those over his first two years in ProRodeo. He’s earned a lot of money in a short time, but much of that came toward the bottom end of the round payouts. He’d love to win a round and earn almost $29,000, but he’ll wait it out and see what the future holds over the next three nights.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” he said. “Everything is moving up, and that’s the only way it’s going to hopefully go.”