By Ted Harbin
GUYMON, Okla. – The Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo has been the place where champions play. In 2012, Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena was better known as the place where champions win. Of the 10 disciplines, five winners from this year’s event own gold buckles that are awarded to world champions. As always, this year’s championship was a showcase of ProRodeo’s best.
“It’s always a great rodeo in Guymon,” said Jhett Johnson, the reigning world champion heeler from Casper, Wyo., who won the team roping title with header Jake Barnes of Scottsdale, Ariz., a seven-time world champion.
They were joined in the winner’s circle by Chad Ferley, the 2006 world champion saddle bronc rider, who split the victory with newcomer Cole Elshere with 87-point scores; two-time steer wresting world champion Dena Gorsuch, who had a three-run cumulative time of 13.5 seconds; and three-time world champion barrel racer Sherry Cervi, who posted a two-run aggregate of 34.55 seconds.
“This is Jake and I’s first rodeo together,” said Johnson, who won his first title last season while roping with Turtle Powell. “Now they have to beat us.”
Johnson and Barnes roped their third steer in the first performance on Friday night and set a standard that wasn’t beaten. In fact, second-place finishers Kaleb Driggers and Paul Eaves finished in 23.2 seconds, more than a second off the pace.
“With Jake, the handles are very good,” said Johnson, who graduated from nearby Oklahoma Panhandle State University. “With these fresh steers, they can do anything, and Jake set all three of mine to bee heeled easy.
“It’s always fun to come to Guymon, going to school here, being one of the alumni and all that. I know the area real well. I know the people and the people putting on the rodeo. Then to come here and do well is always a good deal.”
Other winners were bareback rider J.R. Vezain, who rode Carr Pro Rodeo’s MGM Deuces Night for 89 points to win the title; steer roper Shay Good, the only cowboy to rope and tie down all five steers; tie-down roper Hunter Herrin, a five-time qualifier to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo; bull rider Tim Bingham, who rode Carr Pro Rodeo’s Comanche for 86 points; and all-around champion Chase Williams, who won $6,106 while competing in team roping and tie-down roping.
“I drew really good calves,” Herrin said after wrapping the title on Sunday. “This afternoon’s calf ran really hard, but my horse was really good today and ran down there to get the calf, and then she was a really good calf when you catch here. Today, though, horsepower was the key.”
While Dallas-based Carr Pro Rodeo is the primary stock contractor, owner Pete Carr realizes the importance of having the very best livestock for the top contestants in the game. That’s why he solicits great bucking animals from other contractors, like Frontier Rodeo, Powder River Rodeo and Korkow Rodeos. Ferley rode Frontier’s Griz and Elshere rode Powder River Rodeo’s Lipstick & Whiskey to win saddle bronc riding.
“I’m just out here to make as much money as I can and get on good bucking horses,” said Ferley, of Oelrichs, S.D. “If you get on a good bucking horse, it makes your day even better. If it happens at the end that you get a gold, it’s great.”
While Ferley has won ProRodeo’s most coveted championship, Elshere still has those gold buckle dreams. He knows having high-quality horses is the key to a good night’s sleep.
“She just kind of rolled out of the chute and was really nice,” he said. “Then she just started getting better and better and jumping higher and higher. There at the end, it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had on a horse.”
Fans have seen how much fun Pioneer Days Rodeo is, which is one big reason why they come out in droves to attend the annual event. This year marked the 80th anniversary of the biggest and best event in the Oklahoma Panhandle, and the crowds were a big part of the success.
Of course, the fans know the sport well, and they have learned over the years that their hometown rodeo is one of the best in ProRodeo.
“We try hard every time we go to a rodeo, but the fans here are experienced, so we’re trying extra hard to bring the highest quality stock here,” Pete Carr said. “They’re rodeo aficionados, and we want them to enjoy the rodeo.”