Rodeo can be a fickle business, but it’s driven by passion.
Thousands of men and women make their living in the game, knowing full well that they must do better than most of the rest if they are to do so. It’s a competitive atmosphere that forces people to “put up or shut up.”
It’s why hundreds of them will make their way to the Austin County Fair and Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, through Saturday, Oct. 12, at the Austin County Fairgrounds in Bellville. They know that if they do well enough, they can leave town with good money.
“These rodeos have gotten better as far as the added money,” said team roping heeler Martin Lucero, a 16-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier who won the Bellville title last year roping with Cory Kidd V. “You can win a lot more money than we used to.”
Money is one of the very attractive things about Austin County’s rodeo. The committee that organizes the event provides $5,000 in local money – or “added money” in rodeo terms – for each event; those dollars are then added to the contestants’ entry fees to make up the total purse.
In this particular sport, dollars equal points; the contestants in each event who finish the season with the most money will be crowned world champions, so that’s important. But winning, in any level of sport, is vital to competition.
The Bellville rodeo is also unique in that it is one of the first events of the new season. The 2019 campaign will end Sept. 30, so having a rodeo the second weekend in October means a new starting point for the 2020 season. It’s a good chance to kick start another year of opportunities.
“Some people are ready to go home and rest after the regular season ends, but I’m ready to get back after it,” Kidd said. “You never know; the money you win here might be what pushes you over the edge and gets you to the NFR.”
Last October, Kidd and Lucero were just two of nine people who left Austin County with the rodeo title, and each person can look at that victory as a stepping stone in some capacity. Steer roper Vin Fisher Jr. earned $2,400, the most of any winner in Bellville last year. He now sits No. 2 in the world standings and has secured his 16th qualification to the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping.
Steer wrestler Jacob Talley utilized the momentum by his victory as preparation for the 2018 NFR, where he placed in five go-rounds and pocketed $65,000 over 10 December nights.
Bareback rider Tim Murphy pocketed just shy of $1,500, and he now stands third in the Texas Circuit standings. He also got to experience something special in southeast Texas.
“Man, it’s an awesome crowd,” said Murphy of Wheeler. “They’re active, and I like it when a crowd gets into the rodeo.”