When Caleb McMillan rode his bull for 81 points last Saturday night, it was both symptomatic and a cause.
As three other Northwest College riders covered their bulls too, it was depth.
The riders took places 1-4 in bulls in the Trapper Stampede and that helped push the team to a decisive victory in the Big Sky Region rodeo at Stampede Park.
The Trapper men rolled to major wins in the Friday-Saturday season-opening rodeos and have a commanding lead in the standings.
One weekend into the 10-rodeo season that spans fall and spring, Northwest is first with 1,547.5 points to Montana State’s 1,005.5. These were the only home rodeos of the season.
“It was an awesome weekend,” coach Del Nose said. “I’m very pleasantly surprised.”
The men were region runners-up last year. The women’s team, which barely had enough competitors left to score at the end of last season, demonstrated notable improvement. They are fifth in the team standings.
The rodeos were conducted to honor the memory of Kolten Moss, the Trapper bull rider killed in an automobile accident between Meeteetse and Thermopolis immediately after last season ended.
Moss was headed home to Laramie. He had decided to skip this season and join the Marines.
As a tribute, a lone bull jogged around the arena as spectators and competitors doffed their hats.
It was an emotional weekend for Trapper bull rider Beau Smith because of his friendship with Moss.
“He was like my brother,” Smith said. “It was a bad deal. It was terrible.”
Smith said Moss spent his last night in Powell with him and left his bull riding helmet and spurs.
“He said he wanted me to have the helmet just in case something happened,” Smith said. “He wanted me to fix his spurs.”
So Smith rode in Moss’ helmet last weekend, but he did not post the score he so wanted.
McMillan, the Big Sky All-Around champion, showed he is after another title.
“He was a pretty good bull,” McMillan said of the animal that gave him the opportunity to score big.
McMillan’s name was all over the map of results from the two rodeos.
In the first rodeo he and partner Bubba Boots won team roping in 6.2 seconds. McMillan also won tie-down roping in 9.6 seconds, was eighth in steer wrestling and won the All-Around.
The second night McMillan won bulls, took fourth in saddle bronc, seventh in tie-down roping, and won the All-Around. The sophomore from Soap Lake, Wash., was the dominant cowboy of the weekend.
McMillan’s favorite performance was winning team roping with Boots.
“It’s pretty cool to win with your buddy,” he said.
Nose said he likes McMillan’s chances to win another All-Around championship.
“He’s a huge All-Around threat,” Nose said.
Behind McMillan in bulls in Saturday’s rodeo were Austin Herrera, 74, Justin Ketzenberg, 65, and Keaton Martz, 64.
Herrera knew his bull and understood it spins in place.
“He always goes around,” Herrera said.
In addition to McMillan, the Trappers piled up points in saddle bronc.
Clancy Glenn won Saturday with a 62 and was second Friday. He leads the region.
“I’m satisfied,” Glenn said.
In that first rodeo, Calvin Shaffer was third and Cody Weeks fourth, another big scoring event for Northwest.
“I love it here,” said Weeks, who competed some in Cody Nite Rodeo this summer. “This is an awesome arena.”
There were about 200 entries. Slack took hours each morning.
Friday night’s opener had an auspicious start when the first bucking horse leapt over the arena fence before being chased down by pick-up men.
Steer wrestling for men and goat-tying for women are events not often seen in Cody.
Goat tying is very much a moving-parts event. The rider charges out of the gate, makes a gradual dismount, holding the saddle, lets go and runs to the staked-out goat and ties the legs.
“Practice, practice, practice,” said Scout Yochum of what it takes to succeed in the event.
She had to jump off sooner than preferred because “My horse was veering to the right.”
Braily Newman competed in Cody Nite Rodeo, but without goat-tying her only practice came on visits home to Rigby, Idaho.
“It’s hard to find time,” she said. “You just have to work hard. I like that it’s an event that I control the outcome. It’s all me.”
So far in the Big Sky Region it pretty much has been all Trappers.