Many tried but few succeeded at the Wrangler Prorodeo Classic at the Arena on Saturday night.
That was especially true in the bull riding, where 15 cowboys roped themselves on and 13 were unceremoniously dumped.
The few who did succeed, however, received a thunderous roar from a crowd of 8,043, the largest in the five-year run of the rodeo, which is in its second year at the Arena.
Clint Solomon of Havre, Mont., took the lead with a 76 aboard Slick Willy. Wally Blankenship of Miles City, Mont., was right behind with a 75.
The best scores were turned in on the horses. Joe Ketter of Roy, Wash., tied the Arena record in bareback with an 80 on Rawhide. Todd McKay of Clarno, Ore., set a new record for saddle broncs with a 79 on Candy Cane.
The only other lead change was by Oregon cowboys Brent Palmer of Milton-Freewater and Curtis Pederson of Hermiston with a 7.3-second run in team roping.
Only 4 of 10 bareback and four of 11 saddle bronc riders scored and only half the of the 10 steer wrestlers had times, although three moved into potential paying positions.
The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event sponsored by The General Store concludes with a 2:30 performance today.
Ketter’s ride provided a nice contrast to Friday’s opening show when nine-time National Finals Rodeo veteran Bob Logue of Greeley, Colo., took the lead with a 78.
“I don’t worry about what everybody else is doing, I just do what I can,” Ketter said. “We wish each other good luck. My game plan was the usual, just keep lifting and setting my feet and try my hardest. That’s all I can do… . More or less, just go have fun.”
The 22-year-old who attended high school in Bethel, had seen Rawhide before, when another NFR veteran, Clint Corey of Kennewick, scored an 85 on him at the Columbia River Circuit finals.
“He had me in a little trouble at the beginning,” he explained. “During the middle of it I just kept hustling.”
Ketter’s ride matched the score turned in a year ago by Pasco cowboy Mike Hammer, who won this rodeo three times and was second in 1995. He did not enter this year.
Ketter makes his living shoeing horses and rodeoing, and although he has made the circuit finals three times, he has struggled a little. In fact, he ended up at amateur rodeos, a term used to differentiate a smaller association from the PRCA circuit, just to pay bills. He won enough to win the NWPRA finals, winning a new saddle for this year.
“My game plan is to win enough here to go to the big ones,” he said. “I rodeo where I can afford it and hopefully take off and go quite a while. As far as the (NFR), I think I’ll be there. My rodeoing will tell me when.”
McKay, on the other hand, is slowing down this year because he hasn’t been as successful as he would like. Also, he says he’s tired of traveling.
“I’ll lay back for a year and go hard a couple more probably after that and see what happens,” the 28-year-old cowboy said. “I’ve never been close enough (to the NFR), but I’ve made the circuit finals the last six or seven years.”
The key, he said, is drawing good stock.
“There’s a hundred guys who ride good but only 20 win because they draw good. You’re only as good as your bronc,” he said. “You’re either hot or you’re cold. There doesn’t seem to be anything in between.
“I suppose it’s exposure. The more you go, the more chances you have to draw. When you’re winning, you can afford to turn out the ones you can’t win on and only ride the good ones. This is an exceptional pen of horses.”
Candy Cane proved to be sweet and McKay knew he could be.
“It’s the pattern, how they kick, how much they get in the air, how they show,” he said. “(The key) is just being aggressive, lifting up on the rein and trying real hard.”
The previous best saddle bronc ride was a 78 by Skeeter Thurston of Hyannis, Neb., last year.
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