By Eric Butler: FNM correspondent
Sometimes it’s not easy working your way to the top of the Professional Bull Riders circuit.
Just ask cousins Sterling Bowers and Rusty Patrick, a pair of Texico residents, who recently met up with six other cowboys in Oklahoma and drove some 900 miles to a tiny town (Herreid, pop. 466) in South Dakota for an event.
“We stuck eight people and eight gear bags into a Yukon to go up there,” Bowers said. “We just parked at Cabela’s outdoor store in downtown Oklahoma City and wished for the best. We were a little worried pulling back in that our car would still be there.”
“It ended up being so packed that we had to stop to buy straps in order to strap some of the bags on top of the vehicle,” recalled Patrick, 29, a former Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association veteran before injuries sidelined him. “It’s not comfortable. You can’t sleep, because you’d have to sleep sitting up straight.”
This weekend’s Enterprise Tour stop for the PBR won’t be as tough for Bowers or Patrick.
That’s because it’ll be in Clovis.
Between Friday and Saturday night, some 60 cowboys will attempt to go eight seconds and get a good score while riding a bull. The action begins at 7:30 p.m. each evening at the Curry County Mounted Patrol Arena.
Some of the top competitors include Tony Mendes, a four-time qualifier for the PBR Finals, as well as two others who have frequented that same event — former Canadian champ Rob Bell and Texan Clayton Foltyn.
The Enterprise tour is one of three so-called “challenge” tours that can lead to a spot in the top-level Built Ford Tough series — the one whose stops are shown on national television networks and the one in which young standout L.J. Jenkins of Texico competes.
Bowers, Jenkins’ 19-year-old step-brother, is planning an attempt to the upper-rung of the PBR organization.
The Clovis event, however, is late in the yearly schedule and too late for Bowers to make a real run into the Built Ford Tough tour.
For this one, Bowers will try to grab the estimated $4,000 that will go to the overall winner.
“To have a chance to get into the finals, you’d probably have to do 50 or 60 challengers,” said Bowers, who plans on that kind of schedule when the new season begins in November. “If you’re riding good, you should have a legitimate shot at moving up to the Built Ford Toughs.”
Marc Andrus, promoter for the second annual tour stop in Clovis, said there’s a variety of reasons a cowboy will pick a certain challenger event over another.
“There’s several different things they look at. One is the added money, then they look at the bulls. They want to get on the best bull they possibly can,” Andrus said. “And they look at location.
“We’ve got a bunch of guys who have been in the PBR finals,” he added. “Then we’ve got a bunch of young guns who are just trying to make a name for themselves.”