Steamboat Springs Used to be, a cowboy that won the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo would get a new truck.
“I don’t need a truck,” Jake Booco said, admitting he’d dreamed of winning the rodeo he’ll attend from Wednesday to Sunday in Pocatello, Idaho.
Fortunately for the Hayden bull rider, it’s a recession and times have changed. Now, winners get a $20,000 voucher good for a new Chrysler, Jeep or Dodge vehicle.
Don’t go telling any of Booco’s cowboy friends this, but his victory plans don’t include a new truck.
“My wife and I were talking,” he said. “I have a brand new truck already. We have a nice little Toyota Camry, but if I win, we probably would sell it or trade it in, and we’d really like a Chrysler 300.”
Booco, a 25-year-old Hayden native who’s been riding the wildest rodeo stock he could find since he was 7, and bulls since he was 12, has long planned on hitting it big in the professional bull riding circuit.
Now, he said, he’s not just close to reaching that goal. He’s there, and the coming week’s rodeo might just be the event to set up the best summer of his career.
All winter long
There’s no offseason for Booco. He rode less than ever in the summer but still managed to be more successful. That run was capped off in November, when he rode all three bulls he drew at the Dodge Mountain States Circuit Finals Rodeo in Denver. One of just two cowboys to score on all three rides, his scores beat out the other’s and he won his first trip to this week’s National Circuit Finals.
“It will be a big deal, and the bulls will really buck,” he said. “It will be 23 of the best guys in the country, the best bulls, and it’s going to be tough.”
The National Circuit Finals amount to one step below the famous Wrangler National Finals, which happen every winter in Las Vegas. Making the trip represents a new high for Booco, who said he feels he’s at the top of his skills.
He spent much of his winter on an entrepreneurial welding effort and working for an uncle’s excavating operation. He didn’t take any time off from rodeoing, however.
A win at the Lane Frost Challenge Bull Riding event on New Years Eve in Rock Springs, Wyo., scored a big paycheck. He said he’s been just as successful since, riding two or three times a week and winning plenty.
“I had a pretty good winter,” he said. “Those little jackpots don’t count for anything other than filling up my pockets, but they gave me a lot of confidence. I’m feeling healthy going into Pocatello.”
His success there will depend on everything from his own ability to his luck drawing bulls. But, facing some of the best competition of his career, he was far from admitting that making the field would be accomplishment enough.
Poised to succeed
Booco’s confidence is more than the product of a few good days in Denver or successful nights at small-time events.
Some of the boost in confidence has been physical.
“Being in really good shape helps, just like any athlete,” he said. “I’ve been trying to stay active. I run up and down our country road and try to get down to the gym.”
That’s only a small part of it, though. At its best, bull riding is an eight-second tornado atop a heaving, leaping beast using every muscle in its 2,000-pound body to dismount a rider.
It takes strength, stamina and grit, but Booco said it’s a mental maturity that’s made as much a difference for him as anything.
“I finally have matured in my riding,” he said. “Used to be, I was always riding good, but it’s a mental thing, and I hadn’t gotten old and seasoned enough. I learned how to control my mind and get a lot more prepared mentally for each ride and that seems to have paid off a lot in my consistency.”
Booco said he hopes that all pays off this week when he climbs in front of one of the biggest spotlights of his career. He’s plenty confident he can home with every cowboy’s dream: a new Chrysler 300.
But, if all goes well, the dividends won’t just be realized in Idaho. They’ll pay off near home, when he returns this summer to ride as often as possible in the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series. They’ll pay off all summer in the dozens of events big and small Booco travels to, hoping to further his career.
“Right now, I have the confidence I can go anywhere in the world and win,” he said.
— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail email@example.com