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Cowboy Christmas is just around the corner, but Zeke Thurston is eager to open his treasures early. There was no better place to do that than at what’s essentially a ‘hometown’ rodeo for the Big Valley bronc riding talent.
So Thurston persisted on a rowdy Kesler newcomer at the Daines Ranch, and when Sundance Kid came out of the chutes guns a-blazin’, he had his hammer cocked.
“I didn’t know anything about him but he was a little waspy, and kind of worked up in the bucking chute. He wasn’t real settled down. You could tell he hadn’t been to town too many times,” said Thurston. “Once he got out there, he was a buckin’ little sucker. He must have a big motor for a little horse! I think if he stays bucking like that, that’s going to be an incredible animal athlete.”
“He was blowin’ and kickin’ over his head, and turnin’ back and pushin’ back. I was just lucky to stay on. It was a little wild there at times, but I guess it was a real crowd pleaser,” he grinned.
Turns out the combination was a judge pleaser too, and the resulting 87.5 points gave Thurston the Innisfail Pro Rodeo win, and $2,001 to add to his Canadian and World standings.
“The last couple weeks have been really good to me,” acknowledged the 23-year-old. “The weekend before last I won $10,000, and just shy of $7,000 last weekend. All spring has been really good. I’ve won some pretty prestigious rodeos, and I’m very fortunate. Hopefully, I can keep the momentum rolling. The fourth of July is just around the corner, and hopefully we’ll just win as much money as we can.”
From Innisfail, Thurston was off to Reno, where he turned in an 82 point ride and followed that with an 86, to take the early lead in the average with 168 on two head. That’s a good bet to get him back to the weekend Reno Finals, and give him an opportunity for some more early Christmas presents.
But the biggest gift of all is coming after Cowboy Christmas. Thurston and his wife Jayne are expecting their first child somewhere around the end of July.
“I wish I knew when, it would make things a little easier on me! I’m just going to have to be on standby, on call! It’s a busy time of year. It would be nice if it waited until Strathmore,” he joked. “Everything’s good though, and it it’s not too much longer (to wait), so we’re pretty excited.”
The Innisfail win moves Thurston to within $183 of his good friend Layton Green at the top of the Canadian standings. But he also holds down spot number six on the world saddle bronc race, followed by Clay Elliott in eighth spot.
Back in the Saddle
Innisfail marked the reappearance of three-time Canadian champion Dustin Flundra, after more than a year on the injury shelf. He dusted off his saddle with an 81 mark, to place and win $375.
“I was pretty confident everything was good. It’s just ‘get on and get the first one out of the way’,” stated the Pincher Creek cowboy. “It’s always nice to come back and get on at a place like this. The way this Daines family has been, and the luck that I’ve had at this rodeo, sometimes makes you feel a little more comfortable. I’ll admit, there were maybe a few more butterflies than what you’d normally have. A year is a long time to take off at any stage of your game, and to be a little further along in it like I am, it can seem like it’s a lot longer.”
“To get the first one out of the way and to have it feel good is definitely pressure off.”
Al Bouchard has made many trips to the Daines Ranch, but this was the first time he left with the tie-down roping championship buckle from the Innisfail Rodeo.
“I’ve been coming since before I turned pro, probably about 1996, roping on my permit,” speculated the veteran with 17 CFR appearances, after a bit of pondering.
It was also a special win because the trophy buckle was sponsored and presented by his good friend, mentor, and six-time Canadian Champion, Larry Robinson.
“I traveled with Larry when I first cracked out. Tim Williamson kind of took me under his wing, and we traveled with Larry quite a bit. Larry’s the king, he knows everything,” smiled Bouchard, who’s 45.
While reviewing his memory bank, Bouchard also recalled that he’d made his first good run ever at the Daines’ arena. Ironically, it was in 7.9 seconds – the same time that gave him the victory in 2018.
“The thing about that first one was that I ran the calf all the way to the camera pit (halfway down the arena). That’s the thing about getting older. You have to catch ‘em faster!” he chuckled.
In addition to the Innisfail win, Bouchard split first at Rocky last weekend and placing regularly has moved him all the way up to second place in Canada.
“Early in the spring, I wasn’t roping very good. I’ve been working so much, I haven’t had time to get in the practice pen. Lately, I’ve got a young kid that’s been coming to my place and wants to rope all the time, so it gives me a reason to practice.”
While the tuning up has helped, there’s no doubt Bouchard has the skills to get to the debut of the CFR in Red Deer, if he can balance the demands of his Scandia based business, Rugged Oilfield Services, and rodeo.
“That’s my biggest challenge, is having the right people in the right place, so I can actually go to the rodeos.”
“I’ve thought about quitting lots of times because I should be working more, but I love it too much.”
Tie-down roping Canadian leader Jesse Popescul did manage to place at Innisfail, to hold on to his top spot in the standings.
There were only four successful bull rides at Innisfail, but two of them earned the same mark – 85 points. That put some much needed cash ($2,472 each) in the pockets of Ty Ellis (on Times Up) and Cody Coverchuk (on Goose Bumps).
Coverchuk has his eyes on being in Red Deer this fall.
“I’m really putting my focus on the CPRA this year,” explained the Meadow Lake SK bull rider. “This is my first year holding my card. I’ve always been a PBR guy, but I’ve kind of put that on the back burner this year. Everyone always asks me why I’ve never made the CFR yet, so I’m gonna show them I can!”
Flash and Cash
Best of the bunch in an outstanding bareback showcase at the Daines Ranch was Cole Goodine, who spurred to 87.5 on Kesler’s Uptown Flash, for $1,837.
“I didn’t really know what was going on,” said Goodine about the blur of action that took place in the eight seconds. “I just kept telling myself ‘set your feet hard’ and it worked out.”
Goodine has been battling to regain his strength after a medically odd burst gallbladder incident took its toll in February.
“I can tell I’ve still got a little ways to go,” he admitted.
Goodine made his ride on the Friday night, but came back Sunday, just to see if he would be able to take home the beautiful buckle, which he did.
“I’m grinning ear to ear. That’s pretty sweet. I’ve always wanted to do good at this rodeo.”
Marwayne’s Lucas Parker claimed the steer wrestling buckle at the Daines Ranch for a 4.1 second run, paying him $1,988 for first. But Curtis Cassidy clicked in next with a 4.8 and the $1,822 he collected helped him move up two notches on the world scale, where he’s now sitting in second spot, just five thousand behind leader Cole Edge of Oklahoma. Scott Guenthner tied for third at Innisfail, and the $1,491 helped him edge up from 16th to 15th in the world standings.
An addition this year at the Ranch included a qualifier for The American for steer wrestling. Chance Butterfield, Cody Cassidy, Denver Roy will head to the Semi-Finals in Texas out of the event.
As well, to honor a talented young steer wrestler from just up the road who lost his life in a tragic accident, the bulldoggers held the Trey Purdie Memorial jackpot. Fittingly, Purdie’s friend Ryan Shuckburgh won that event.
Run and Wrap
The biggest single money winner at Innisfail was barrel racer Renee Willis, with her 15.777 second run, giving her $3,215. Diane Skocdopole, who won a big cheque last year at Innisfail, came in third ($2,090) but Carman Pozzobon was fifth ($1,286) to keep ahead of Skocdopole and in first place in the Canadian standings. She’s also less than a thousand dollars out of the world’s top 15, in the 16th spot.
Chase Tryan of Montana and Brenten Hall of Oklahoma clocked the fast time in team roping with a 4.9 second run, netting them $1,973 each.
Other Canadians lining up for a piece of the rich Reno jackpot to be handed out this weekend include barrel racer Deb Guelly, who was placing in the barrel racing average. Bronc rider Tyrel Larsen was high man in round one so far with an 85.5, while header Kolton Schmidt and his heeling partner Cole Davison were placing in the first round, along with bareback rider Orin Larsen. Larsen is tenth in the world standings, while Luke Creasy sits 14th. Creasy also split first at Silver City, NM and placed at Innisfail.
Bareback rider Connor Hamilton got the W in Belt, Montana for an 84 point ride on Flirtacious ($1,109) while Curtis Cassidy won the steer wrestling there ($1,343), followed by Joe Guze who split second ($995). Kasper Roy roped with Brady Tryan to first in the team roping for $1,363 apiece. Logan Hofer was second in tie-down roping ($908) while Wyatt Thurston placed in the saddle bronc event ($501). Spur Lacasse placed in bareback at Newtown, ND.
In the books
Best among the Canadian college students competing at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, WY last week was bronc rider Dawson Dahm of Duffield. He finished in the runner-up position, competing for Oklahoma Panhandle State. It was a busy weekend, as he also collected some change for last hole in the bronc riding at North Platte, NE and made it to the final performance of Innisfail to do the same there.
Keenan Reinhardt wound up fourth in Casper in the bronc riding, while Jenna Dallyn (3rd) and Jenny Masson got to the goat-tying finals, along with Lakota Bird (7-8) in the breakaway roping.
The National Junior High Finals Rodeo runs June 24-30 in Huron, SD. Among the Canadians competing is Tess Thurston of Big Valley, in the goat tying.
There are three Canadian rodeos on this weekend. Wainwright pays the most, as the first stop on the Finning Pro Tour. It’s a two-header for the roping and wrestling events, with a Sunday 6:30 pm Finals. Guy Weadick Days feature three performances in High River and it’s Go Wild, Go West at the 39th Sundre Pro Rodeo, featuring a double-header of action on Saturday, for a total of four performances. Then the Ponoka Stampede kicks into action on June 26th for the first of six performances before the July 2nd Finals and Showdown round. It’s also a Finning Pro Tour stop.