rod ART

Touchet bulldogger Taylor Gregg goes airborne as he grabs a steer by the horns during last year’s Frontier Days Rodeo slack competition in the Walla Walla Fairgrounds arena. Taylor, who was timed in 4.8 seconds but broke the bulldogging barrier for a 10-second penalty on last year’s run, will be looking for a little better luck Tuesday when the 2019 Frontier Days gets underway in the arena with a full day of timed-events competition in steer wrestling, tie-down roping and team roping.

For the first time in recent memory, Trevor Brazile won’t be in town for this week’s annual Frontier Days Rodeo at the Walla Walla Fairgrounds.

Brazile, the Decatur, Texas, cowboy who has won 23 world championships in his long and storied Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association career, is in semi-retirement and is skipping Frontier Days that begins bright and early Tuesday morning in the fairgrounds arena.

Brazile still competes in his three events — tie-down roping, steer roping and team roping with Clay O’Brien Cooper of the world-famous Cooper rodeo family — on a semi-regular basis. And he still tops the PRCA steer-roping standings with earnings of $59,165.76, although he won’t be adding to that total this week in Walla Walla.

Also for the first time in recent memory, the PRCA’s top hand in the all-around standings is a rough-stock cowboy who won’t be in the arena Tuesday when timed events only will be the flavor of the day.

Stetson Wright of Milford, Utah, has banked $162,714.53 so far this season to set the pace in the all-around standings. 

Wright’s cashed the majority of his checks in bull riding where he has accumulated $151,109.92 and ranks second behind Sage Kimzey of Strong City, Okla.

Kimzey isn’t entered in this year’s Frontier Days, nor is Caleb Smidt of Belleville, Texas, who ranks second in the all-round standings and trails Wright by some $30,000.

However, Smidt is the only member of the top 10 in the all-around standings who isn’t slated to be in town this week. In fact, when the action kicks off Tuesday at 7 a.m. it will feature the PRCA’s top 10 steer wrestlers, the top 10 team-roping heelers, nine of the top 10 headers and eight of the top 10 in the calf-roping standings.

And once the bucking begins Friday night, nine of pro rodeo’s top 10 bareback riders, seven of the top 10 saddle bronc riders and six of the 10 leaders in bull riding will join the fun as well as five of the best 10 women’s barrel racers.

Clay Smith of Broken Bow, Okla., leads the way in tie-down roping with earnings of $123,051.18, and he’ll be among a field of 86 entrants in Tuesday’s calf-roping slack competition. 

Likewise, Ty Erickson of Helena, Mont., who has banked $133,094.88 so far to lead steer ropers, paces a field of 86 bulldoggers.

The steer roping event should be of particular interest to local rodeo followers because of there are no fewer than eight area participants. They are Chance Gartner, Riley Jones and B.J. Taruscio of Walla Walla; J.W. Crenshaw and Taylor Gregg, both from Touchet; Cody Cabral, Milton-Freewater; Hayden Ray Fullerton, Dayton; and Travis Taruscio, a former Walla Wallan now living in Stanfield, Ore.

Ryan Motes of Weatherford, Texas, leads team-roping heelers at $103,711.42, and Clay Smith of Broken Bow, Okla., is the top header at $123,051.18. Motes will be roping with David Paul Tierney of Oklahoma City Tuesday morning and Smith is teamed with Jade Corkill of Stephenville, Texas.

The team-roping field is 79 teams deep and will feature a number of local ropers: Lex Andrade and Dale Benevides of Touchet, C.W. Davis of Walla Walla, Daniel Ibarra of Milton-Freewater and Calgary Smith of Adams.

Decatur roper Tuf Cooper, who won last year’s Frontier Days all-around title as well as the steer roping buckle, returns to Walla Walla this week but won’t be in the running to defend either crown. He’ll compete in the calf-roping event Tuesday morning but is not entered in this year’s steer roping. 

Last year’s other Frontier Days timed events champions are back as well.

J.D. Struxness of Alva, Okla., is in town to defend his bulldogging title, Marty Yates of Stephenville, Texas, goes gunning for a second-straight crown in tie-down roping, and Garrett Rogers of Baker City, Ore., and Trey Yates of Pueblo, Colo., will compete once again in team roping, albeit with different partners.

Rogers is now teamed up with Jake Minor of Ellensburg, Wash., and Yates will rope with Clayton Von Aken of Yoder, Wyo.

Tuesday’s slack will include the first complete round of calf roping, bulldogging and team roping plus a portion of the second round. The second round will be completed during the three nightly performances beginning Friday at 7, with the contestants with the fastest time on two head declared the champions.

The riding events — bulls, broncs and saddle broncs — are one headers as is barrel racing. Steer roping, rodeos oldest event, will be contested in the fairgrounds arena Friday and Saturday mornings beginning at 8 and will feature two full rounds each day.

Tuesday’s slack is free of charge and open to the public.