Luke Creasy shows his right hand. A dark line down below his pinkie, 2 inches in length, swollen and red.
Next up is his left forearm, a line lighter in color but three times in size. Pink and slightly curving, the pockmarks above and below making it look like a fossilized centipede.
These are two vivid examples of the grind of the PRCA ProRodeo, and the soon-to-be-completed 2015 season with this weekend’s American Royal rodeo being one of the final stops.
Creasy has those scars to thank for a fall from a top-15 ranking in bareback riding. First, he broke a bone in his riding hand.
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“I dropped 14 spots, from fifth to 19th,” Creasy said. “I decided I was going to switch hands.”
Creasy changed his grip, trying to ride with his left hand in the rig that holds the cowboy to a small saddle atop the horse. In his first rodeo back, he cracked the ulna in that arm.
A top-15 finish in any of eight disciplines is the key for gaining entry into the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, which begins Dec. 3 in Las Vegas. At this point, Creasy is out of contention, ranking 21st and nearly $20,000 out of that final group entering the weekend.
Bareback riding kicked off the American Royal on Friday. Creasy scored a 76, a step forward after the injuries ended his closest chance at qualifying for the NFR. But he hopes to help supplement as a freelance rodeo writer.
“It’s pretty thankless,” Creasy said. “Rodeo writing doesn’t pay a lot.”
He’s also working on a novel in his down time, which isn’t a lot when he’s able to compete in 120 rodeos a year.
“It’s kind of funny, considering the shape I’m in right now,” Creasy said. “It’s about a guy that gets burnt out rodeoing and ends up at a cabin in the woods.
“It’s kind of just a comedy of errors.”
A cowboy at the top
Trevor Brazile, 38, is one of the most decorated cowboys of all time, with 12 PRCA all-around titles to his name. Even though he travels in style, with a luxury bus able to transport his horses, equipment and family, he rarely heads back to Decatur, Texas, during the season which runs from June until late September.
But this season was a little different for Brazile. Not in terms of performance — he’s currently the No. 1-ranked all-around cowboy — but in terms of travel. Three weeks ago, Brazile’s third child, Swayzi, was born.
In his 20th season, Brazile is reaching a new point in the grind. In cowboy years, he’s getting up there, yet he doesn’t have a timeline for slowing down.
“I’ve met my goals, I just do it now because I love it,” Brazile said. “Still being able to be competitive. You never know what each year holds, but I think I’ve got a few more good ones left in me.”
On the cusp
None may be more aware of current earnings than Tyrel Larson. He’s ranked 16th in saddle bronc riding. He’s aiming for his first NFR.
It also couldn’t come at a more opportune time. He is getting married on Oct. 16.
“I hope I can pay for it,” he laughs.