It was the equivalent of a walk-off home run for 21-year-old bullrider Jason Anderson of Preston on the final night and on the final ride of the 64th annual Days of the Old West rodeo Monday night at jam-packed Hailey Rodeo Park.
Not one of the previous 22 bullriders—not on Saturday, not on Sunday and not during Monday night's finale—had finished an eight-second ride atop the tough hombre bulls of the King Cattle Company.
The whole bullriding purse of over $3,000 came down to whether Anderson could stay aboard. So Red Eye Rodeo Co. announcer Jason Kelly exhorted the sold-out Independence Day crowd of over 3,000 spectators to yell at the top of their lungs and stomp on the brand-new arena bleachers.
Anderson came out of the chute with a vengeance and survived the violent twists and turns. He hung tough and made it all the way to the horn. The crowd went absolutely crazy and so did Anderson, flinging his black hat about 50 feet in the air and chest-bumping anybody who came close to him.
It was an 87-point ride.
The money was his, and so were the holiday cheers that sent everyone home happy—after three rodeos and between 8,000 and 9,000 people filling the new arena over three nights.
Exhilarated and animated afterward, celebrating with the other bullriders behind the bull pen, texting everyone who was important to him, Anderson said, "Too much fun! Should be illegal how much fun it was!
"I know King Cattle has a good pen of bulls, and I know when I come to Hailey I can find a bucker. And then all you've got to do is ride.
"But I have to say, that's the first time I've ever thrown my hat like that. I was the only guy to ride, though, and the last one, so it just felt right."
The Hailey bulls are certainly a rough bunch, judging by the last two holidays. Last year, only 19-year-old Raft River cowboy Jace Hutchison made time out of 27 bullriders and he went home with $3,244. So, over two years and 50 bullriders, only Hutchison and Anderson have done the deed.
Counting the $2,616 purse plus the $460 in day money, Anderson pulled down $3,076 and suddenly had a pile of friends at his beck and call. He planned to stop at the Silver Dollar in Bellevue on his way out of town and, hopefully, to continue his good luck and hard work at yet another rodeo.
"You know, I've been laying off rodeo a little this year, trying to put away a little money setting up pre-fab houses, so I can go to school at the College of Southern Idaho," said Anderson. "But I did win up at Mackay ($432 with a 74-point ride June 18). This is my third rodeo so far this year."
Actually, Monday's victory was Anderson's second top prize at Hailey in three years. He tied for first place with an 84-point bull ride for nearly $800 in winnings in 2009. He has won $3,000 atop a bull before, up in Challis a while back.
But there will always be something special for Anderson in recalling how he did it in Hailey in 2011, with all the pressure and everybody wanting something good to happen.
One of his biggest fans was rodeo secretary Wade Durham, who could have reached over the Pay Window and hugged Jason after the thrilling ride.
Durham was delighted, not only because Anderson was three-grand richer but also because Durham wouldn't have to divvy up the $3,000 between 23 unsuccessful bullriders and write checks to each and every one. He said he wouldn't mind refunding the entry fees, but it stuck to his craw a little having the boys get some of the added money after getting bucked off.
All in all, it was a terrific rodeo—the Sawtooth Rangers Riding Club enjoying back-to-back sold-out crowds on Sunday's Family Night and also Monday. That usually doesn't happen at Days of the Old West.
The bad economy brought the total entries down from 350 to 300 compared to last year, and the purse declined $3,722, but the Intermountain Pro Rodeo Association (ImPRA) and Idaho Cowboys Association event was a rocking success.
Locals also celebrated the second-place finish of Carey's Kristy Barton in barrel racing—the only event that increased in size this year compared to 2010, from 27 to 46 riders. Barton clocked a time of 17.204 seconds and walked away from Durham's Pay Window with a check for $710.40.
Too much fun.