For over a century, the world famous Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo has been making years and launching careers of contestants who show up to compete. This year was no different, as storylines were built and history was made at the iconic Wyoming venue.
It started early on Sunday, July 27, as one of the biggest buzzes for the large crowd attending the final round was an exciting matchup between a powerhouse bronc named Dirty Jacket and bareback contestant Richie Champion, the red hot cowboy spurring his way through a year of winning buckles and outsized paychecks. After pocketing more than one million dollars during the first half of the year, Champion hoped to live up to his name in the cowboy state with a duo of Cheyenne titles. He won the first buckle in Cheyenne’s inaugural Cinch Shoot Out at the beginning of the rodeo’s schedule. All that remained to complete his lofty goal was a coveted CFD buckle. The only problem — all the top bareback riders shared the same objective.
The third year pro from Texas cleared his first hurdle when he qualified for the short round after two successful rides. Winning the buckle would be difficult, however, since Champion was sitting sixth in the average. He would need either a huge score in the final round or some help from the five riders ahead of him to grasp a win.
As fate would have it, he got both.
Champion and Dirty Jacket pulled off one of the most memorable rides in CFD history when the Pete Carr Pro Rodeo bronc exploded from the chute with a leaping, twisting belly roll. When the duo finally landed, the powerful horse ripped off one big buck after another while Champion spurred him on. It was a crowd-pleasing ride that saw Champion overtake the field with a 91-point score. Then came the waiting to see if it would stand.
After four of the five cowboys ahead of Champion left the door open, multiple world champion winner Will Lowe settled into the chute. All Lowe needed was 83 points aboard a nice bucker and Champion’s hopes would be dashed. Lowe came out spurring, but shifted off center midway through the ride and hit the horse with his free hand. The rare no score from Lowe secured the improbable title for Champion and continued his dream season in full force.
“Indescribable,” said Richmond about winning the massive Cheyenne rodeo. “It’s awesome. It was a goal of mine to win the (Cinch) Shoot Out and the rodeo. After Denver it kind of hooked me,” he added with a laugh about winning both the Cinch Shoot Out and the buckle at the National Western Stock Show in January. “That was an awesome experience, but this is the ‘Daddy of ‘em All’ and this is unreal. Literally, I am still trying to wrap my head around it.”
When asked about the explosion from the chute aboard Dirty Jacket, Champion searched for words.
“Indescribable,” he repeated with another laugh before coming up with an answer. “It was everything as a bareback rider you want. There was no time to think. When he rared out of there, I dang near saw my dad’s face at the back of the bucking chutes,” he recalled with a wide grin. “It was pretty cool. He is one of those horses you dream about getting on. It took three years to finally make the short round,” summed up Champion about being in Cheyenne. “In that fashion, to come out on top, it’s a day I won’t forget, that’s for sure.”
Another young competitor who will never forget that day is Colorado barrel racer Randi Timmons. In just her second year as a pro, Timmons earned a trip to the final round to compete against the top riders in the sport. Not only that, but Timmons’ mother is Christy Loflin, who won the CFD buckle in 2013 and was cheering her on from the stands after failing to make the cut.
Talking to her before the rodeo, Timmons was understandably nervous.
“I’m going to go out there and be positive and make another good run and ride hard,” she said of her plans for the short go. “I’m trying to keep myself from getting nervous, but it’s not working very well,” Timmons admitted with a laugh. “If you look at the list I’m next to — Sherry Cervi and Jean Winters and Mary Walker and Lisa Lockhart — it’s a big deal and I am honored to be running with those girls today.”
“She’s really making a name for herself, I’m really proud of that,” said Loflin before the final round started. “How much more awesome can it be? I’m a rodeo mom today and not a contestant, so I just can’t wait to see what happens.”
After posting an 18.07-second time in the short go and finishing in the top ten, Timmons was pleased with the overall experience.
“I’m pretty honored that I made it in only my second year in pro rodeo,” the unassuming cowgirl stated afterward. “I know (my stepdad) would be proud,” she continued with emotion as she revealed she dedicated her CFD runs this year to his memory. “I wanted to make it to the final round for him and that’s what I did, so I couldn’t be happier.”
It wasn’t just young guns creating moments and memories in Cheyenne. Veteran saddle bronc rider and current world champ Chad Ferley rocked the big crowd with a story line of his own. Despite no saddle bronc cowboy winning back to back titles there since the 1930’s, Ferley made a run at the record books. When his initial horse for the final round had to withdraw, Ferley rode the replacement bucker (J Bar J’s Sweating Bullets) to a solid 83-point score that was enough to keep him in first place and make history at the world famous venue.
“I knew Sweating Bullets was a really good horse,” said Ferley after his win. “I have to say maybe I just got lucky and drew good. Cheyenne is a great rodeo. I’ve been coming here for about 15 years now. I started here in the rookie bronc riding. So to come that far and end up winning it back to back — it means the world.”
After more than $800,000 in prize money was earned 2014’s CFD, it’s safe to say the historic venue carried on its own tradition of creating successful careers and turning contestants’ dreams into memories that last a lifetime. ❖