Steven Ware handled the pressure like a seasoned veteran.
Singled out as the featured bull rider in Friday’s opening performance of the Boot Corral Wrangler ProRodeo Classic, the 20-year-old Vancouver, Wash., native stood alone in the darkened Coliseum arena.
A bull was turned out of the chutes and a spotlight came on as announcer Jerry Todd reminded the sold-out crowd of 5,084 that bull riding is America’s most dangerous sport. Then a spotlight hit Ware.
Seven riders after the introductions, with the crowd roaring, Ware covered Courageous Clyde with a high-mark ride of 76, earning him a horseback ride around the arena.
Being the featured rider helped.
“It really gets you pumped up to ride that bull a lot harder,” he said before heading to Olympia for a ride Saturday night. “Even though you have to give 100 percent and really concentrate every ride, that really makes you want to go out there and get a ride.”
Most of the cowboys in all events had a much tougher time than Ware. Only two of nine ropers caught their calves and then they struggled getting them tied. The fastest time was 17.8, which won’t win anything by the time the rodeo ends with a performance at 8 tonight and 2:30 Sunday.
Seven straight steer wrestlers missed and only two of 10 got steers down. The leading 8.8-second run is unlikely to win a paycheck.
A good production, guided by Todd and featuring clown Flint Rasmussen, made up for the performances of man and beast, who were hampered by deep, wet dirt.
Ware is only a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association permit holder, which means he has to win a minimum amount of money to earn his card. Until then, he isn’t guaranteed entry into any rodeo that fills up with cardcarrying bull riders.
“I try to get to everything,” he said. “On permit you’re second priority to card holders and I got in this one.”
“Sometimes it makes it easier when you don’t know what the bull is going to do,” he said. “It makes you ride jump for jump. He’s not one of those that feel good all the time, he kind of lunges forward. There’s not as much timing as a bull that has rhythm.”One of the other top perfor mances was turned in by team ropers Guy Gregg of Milton Freewater, Ore., and Dave Inman of Colfax. With Gregg roping the steer’s horns and Inman catching both hind legs, they took the lead with a 6.5-second run.
“A good header makes a good heeler,” said Inman, a former National Finals Rodeo qualifier. “A good heeler is nothing without a header. Sometimes two really good ropers can’t rope together because of styles. Guy runs up close, I know what he’s going to do every time. He can be solid and I can be fast. Guy’s good, that’s where it’s won or lost.”
Living 100 miles apart makes it difficult for the pair to practice. Thursday night they met in Walla Walla. Inman, who is a part-time farmer for his in-laws, got home at 1 a.m.
Inman, 35, has rodeoed hard for 15 years and worked with four or five different headers before hooking up with Gregg about 18 months ago. They’ve steadily improved and won the PRCA Columbia River Association finals in Yakima last month.
“If you rope long enough you know the style of header you rope better behind,” Inman said.