BY: KENDRA SANTOS
The 2020 season has been tough stuff for all involved in the rodeo business since COVID 19 put the skids on all sports a few months back. Leave it to the guys known for cowboy camaraderie that never quits to find a bright side to it all and continue to count their blessings in these trying times. A few steer wrestlers at this week’s Stampede at the E at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma, shared this year’s silver linings as they see them.
Tyler Pearson of Atoka, Oklahoma
“It’s always hard to be gone, so it’s been good to be home for more time with the fam,” said Pearson, who won the world in the big man’s event in 2017. “We’d just bought a new trailer so the whole family could go when all this hit, so we’ve made the most of it with trips to the lake and team roping jackpots. We tend to be the only ones at the lake camping in a living quarters horse trailer, but that doesn’t damper our fun.”
Pearson cracked out his third-stringer—a palomino horse he calls Cheese, who backs up sorrel superstar Scooter and another yellow horse he considers second in command, Casper—here at the E. He hazed for some of his cowboy friends on his gray gunner, Metallica. Scooter also was in the house, as Pearson and partner Kyle Irwin graciously offered a seat on him to five-time champ of the world Luke Branquinho and Stetson Jorgensen.
“I usually put my friends first,” Pearson laughed.
Luke Branquinho of Los Olivos, California
“More home time has definitely been the silver lining for me this year,” Branquinho said. “It’s been nice to have less pressure to leave with all we have going on at home. Not having to feel rushed to get to the next one when I’m working on the ranch has been a good deal. More time to let my body recover from three years of injuries has been a pretty good bonus, too.”
Stetson Jorgensen of Blackfoot, Idaho
“The silver lining for me in 2020 has been staying sharp,” said Jorgensen, who flew in with Branquinho from Salt Lake City after competing in Jerome, Idaho. “With so few rodeos this year, there’s more competition everywhere we go. A guy has to stay focused to win anything.
“All these committees—including the World Champions Rodeo Alliance and Lazy E Arena crew at this one—who’ve come together and stuck to their backbones to have these rodeos has been a big bright spot, too. We all sure appreciate it. It’s harder than usual to put a big event like this together right now. We darn sure don’t take it for granted.”
Termaine Debose of Anderson, Texas
“The 2020 rodeo season has been a tough deal,” said Debose, who kindly stuck around and hazed for junior steer wrestler Boyd Hanagriff after he finished up with his own bulldogging business. “I guess the good news has been when things are out of whack we get to go home and work them out—for ourselves and our horses. So I’d say more chances to practice a lot and get new horses together has been my biggest bright side.”
Garrett Oates of Stockdale, Texas
“I think it’s been good for a lot of guys with families not to have to miss birthdays—like they usually do—at home,” said Oates, who’s a junior engineering major at Sam Houston State University and an alum of the Ote Berry’s Junior Steer Wrestling World Championship Tour, which sanctioned the Stampede at the E’s youth event as a 2020 tour stop. “For a young guy like me (he’s 20), it’s been good to have more time at home to work on young horses. I’ve been working so much managing a ranch for a lady back home that I haven’t been anywhere since June. This is my first rodeo back. This is a good opportunity for all of us financially, and speaking for myself, it’s great to be back. It’s pretty cool for guys who don’t get to go as much to have a shot at the big money, like everybody else.
“My good mare got cut the other day. I have no idea what happened, but we had to put 20 stitches in her head to get her put back together again. Termaine’s letting me on his (palomino) horse (Oscar) today. I sure appreciate that.”
Dru Melvin of Hebron, Nebraska
“The coronavirus hasn’t affected where I live—which is really rural—much,” Melvin said. “So when I’m home, it feels pretty normal. It does really make me appreciate where we live, so I’d say my silver lining is knowing that no matter how tough it is out there in the big world, knowing that the sun’s going to come up every morning—even on the cloudy days—at home is a pretty great feeling and bright side to this year. We all sure appreciate the committees who’ve gone ahead with their rodeos and let us do what we love to do, too.”
Landris White of Angleton, Texas
“They shut down our school (Angleton High) due to coronavirus, which also put a stop to football (Landris plays defensive end), so my silver lining has been getting to do my schoolwork online, which let me practice a whole lot more,” said White, who’s headed into his freshman year as a mechanical engineering major at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, and with the WCRA DY (youth division) win is also now headed to Saturday night’s main event here at the Stampede at the E. “All the extra practice with Uncle Craig (who hazes for Landris) and the other guys who come over has helped me a lot.”
White—who leads the Ote Berry’s Junior Steer Wrestling World Championship Tour standings—dominated on the youth division side of the steer wrestling at the Stampede, winning first and second in both rounds and the average, for a whopping $4,022 to go with a beautiful Stampede at the E buckle.
“Now the plan is to go to the big building (the youth steer wrestling was held in Reliance Arena, which sits adjacent to the world-famous Lazy E) and try to win the main event on Saturday night,” Landris said. “It’s pretty cool to go up against the guys I’ve been watching growing up, and having a chance to try and beat ’em.”