PENDLETON — When he was just a kid, Calgary Smith watched the cowboys compete at the Pendleton Round-Up, and dreamed of being in their boots.
That dream became a reality Saturday afternoon.
Smith, 20, and his partner Jason Stewart, 43, had the fastest run in the team roping finals, finishing in 4.8 seconds, blowing away the competition and earning themselves the 2019 title.
“It’s amazing,” said a misty-eyed Smith. “I’ve been coming here since I was tiny. I looked up to so many guys here. It’s a true blessing.”
Stewart and Smith averaged 17.1 on three head to take the title.
Bubba Buckaloo of Kingston, Oklahoma, and Cole Davison of Stephenville, Texas, turned in a 5.7-second finish and a 17.5 average, but it wasn’t fast enough to surpass the Eastern Oregon duo.
Stewart, a Heppner resident, and Smith, a 2017 Pendleton High School graduate, have a history that extends well outside the rodeo arena.
“My wife babysat (Smith) before I even knew him,” Stewart said. “He asked me to rope with him. We’ve made so many runs together at home.”
Stewart, the team’s header, rode into the grassy arena wearing his Pendleton Round-Up steer roping championship belt buckle from 2003. He’s been a regular contestant at the rodeo since 1995.
“We drew the best steer in the pen,” Stewart said. “We just had to come out and do our job. We’re blessed to have done our job so well.”
Brandon Beers served as Oregon’s only other representative in the event, hailing from Powell Butte. He and his partner, Justin Davis, of Cottonwood, California, entered the day with a 12-second average on two head. They missed their final steer.
Smith and Stewart will ride off with $8,788 each in Round-Up earnings.
The smile on Tilden Hooper’s face said it all.
The Texas cowboy won his first Pendleton bareback title with a score of 174 on two rides, beating defending champ Orin Larsen by 1 point.
“I’m so darned excited, I don’t even know what to say,” Hooper said. “I talk nonstop, and I’m at a loss for words.”
Hooper, who came into the finals with 86.5 points, took Zulu Warrior for an 87.5-point ride Saturday to earn the victory lap and more than $9,500 of the $540,649 handed out this week.
“This is a bucket list item,” Hooper said. “I told my wife (Melissa) when we rolled into town that I was going to have my name on the wall. Turns out I was right.”
And the victory lap?
“I ride bucking horses for a living,” he said. “Those regular horses, going that fast, is kind of scary.”
Hooper was off to the Let ’er Buck Room to celebrate. Chances are, he did not have to pay for a drink.
Riley Pruitt went into Saturday’s finals with a nearly 5-second lead over Trevor Brazile.
A couple of misses and long run runs brought up Brazile, who clocked a 10.1-second run to give him the lead with a time of 31.3 seconds on three head.
Pruitt’s run was 11.5 seconds, and combined with his other two, he was at 28.4, earning the Nebraska cowboy his second Pendleton title.
“I love this arena,” said Pruitt, who also won in 2014. “I usually win a check here every year. I really enjoy this place.”
Pruitt’s dad, Troy, won a Pendleton title tie-down title in 1994. His son now has family bragging rights.
“This is an amazing rodeo to win,” Riley Pruitt said. “This rodeo gets you to the finals (NFR) or you go home. I’m thrilled to be in the spot I am.”
Pruitt was 14th in the world standings coming into Pendleton. He earned $14,446, which should cement his spot in Las Vegas.
Jesse Brown could not have asked for a better day.
The Baker City cowboy not only won his first Pendleton title, but he set an arena record with a time of 3.7 seconds in the finals. His time on three head was 14.8 seconds.
“The atmosphere in here — I’m almost at a loss,” said Brown, who was second here last year. “The victory lap, that is something else.”
Riding Blake Knowles’ horse Smoke, Brown was quick out of the chute, and he knew he had a great run. He took off his hat and riled up the crowd, which responded in kind.
“I don’t know what I did,” said Brown, who won $9,982. “I probably looked like a fool.”
Fool or not, he will see his name on the champions wall on the back of the stadium the next time he’s in Pendleton.
“That will be cool,” he said. “This is my favorite rodeo. This is like a dream come true. It feels like a dream.”
There was only a 6-point difference from top to bottom in the standings heading into the finals.
Colt Gordon, 22, was in the middle of the pack with an 86, but a dandy 89-point ride on OLS Tubs’ Little Muffin spurred him to the top of the leaderboard, where he stayed for his first Pendleton title.
“That victory lap is a dream come true,” he said. “This is the rodeo everyone dreams of winning.”
Gordon, from Comanche, Oklahoma, led after the first round last year, but got dumped in the finals. He did not let that happen again.
“That’s a really good horse I had,” he said. “I’d never been on it before. I just tried to keep it simple and do my job. I can’t complain.”
Gordon, who missed out on the NFR last year, just might see his name up in lights in Las Vegas. He was 16th in the world standings heading into Pendleton, where he earned more than $8,100.
The first seven men out of the chutes did not stay on their bulls the required 8 seconds Saturday afternoon, but Sage Kimzey ended the drought.
The five-time reigning world champion took a 90.5-point ride on Hell Hound to capture his third Pendleton title. He had a score of 174.5 on two rides.
“Pendleton has been pretty good to me,” the Oklahoma cowboy said. “To win once is special, to win three times is great.”
Kimzey, who leads the bull riding standings with an $81,537 lead over rookie Stetson Wright, pocketed $8,409 for his efforts in Pendleton.
“I had a little trouble coming out, and he kicked really hard, but it felt smooth,” Kimzey said. “You just have to pull your hat down and get after it.”
Kimzey, who also won here in 2015 and 2016, has a room in his house full of Pendleton memorabilia. He added to the stash with a third saddle and a truck full of treasures.
“I might have to make it bigger,” he said. “It’s not just the trinkets. Your time in Pendleton is special. It’s a cowboy town. When you win, you feel it. The victory lap is exhilarating. It’s a special feeling.”
Landon McClaugherty has 12 letters in his last name. The men who put together the champions’ wall will either have to give him two lines or shrink the type size to get his name next to the steer roping category.
He’s fine with either option.
McClaugherty, 39, posted a run of 16.3 seconds in the finals to give him a time of 46.5 seconds on three head.
He had the lead with one man to go — Brazile.
All Brazile needed to do was trip his steer in 19.8 seconds or less to take the title. He came in at 21.3 as McClaugherty earned the victory and everything that comes with it.
“It can’t believe it,” said McClaugherty, who won $10,839 this week. “It worked out in my favor. It’s the first time I have won this rodeo. It’s a dream come true.”
McClaugherty couldn’t believe the trouble Brazile had with his steer.
“You are always worried when Trevor is up,” the Texas cowboy said. “He is a talented guy. He can be second (Brazile was third) every once in a while.”
McClaugherty shared his victory with his family, which included daughter Laiken, 10, and son Laussen, 13, though he took the victory lap by himself.
“All I could think was, ‘Don’t fall off,’” he said. “That was cool.”
The Round-Up crowned eight champions on Saturday afternoon, but few were as giddy as Cheyenne Allan.
The Mabton, Washington, cowgirl crossed the finish line at 28.80 seconds for a 57.59 average, making her this year’s barrel racing champion.
“I’m so blessed,” she said. “It’s really hard to come back and ride on two different horses. I stayed focused on my job and my horse. That was the biggest thing.”
Allan, the defending barrel racing champ, rode to victory on the back of Good One, which she raised herself. The horse is a full brother to Molly, the mare she rode during last year’s championship.
“I was tickled with it,” Allan said. “We stumbled on the second barrel a little bit, and I thought ‘Oh, brother, not now,’ but we stuck it through. You just can’t give up. You gotta have speed to win the barrel race.”
Allan collected $9,703 along with her championship saddle.