There's a country song waiting to be written about the bronc riding at the final day of the Missoula Stampede PRCA rodeo. Sheridan, Wyoming's Devan Reilly already has part of the first verse for Nashville, inspired by his second-place bareback ride.
“Your animal is half the bet right there,” Reilly said. “Just like a good poker hand, if you get some good cards, you definitely want to show up and make a big bet.
“I had a good horse drawn so I just had to come and do my part.”
Reilly and his bronc Black Tie, who has seen time at the National Finals Rodeo, bounced and bucked, respectively, to the top of the leaderboard with a score of 85. He was tied with Wyatt Bloom of Bend, Oregon -- who rode on Thursday -– for the lead.
The last bareback ride of the night at Missoula County Fairgrounds topped both Reilly and Bloom, however.
Victor, Idaho’s Tyler Nelson stayed atop the speckled horse 9 Moons, who also showed off why he has seen action at the NFR. Nelson’s eight seconds scored him an 87 and was the ride of the weekend.
Nelson gave a lot of the praise to the horse, which helps score half of the points in the ride
“He bucks and he bucks hard. Everyone wins on him and he’s one of the better ones to have for sure,” Nelson said about drawing 9 Moons.
Nelson brought home $1,861.20 with the winning ride; Bloom and Reilly both finished with $1,240.80.
Reilly provided the song from the bareback bronc event. Dougie Hall, from Browning, had the moves in saddle bronc riding.
Although Hall didn’t win -– he finished in a tie for seventh with Great Falls’ Tyrell Smith -– Hall’s full ride was a fan favorite. Hall rode Domino Theory, a horse he said he’s watched at the NFR on TV when he was young. After eight seconds atop the horse, he held up his cowboy hat to the crowd, which roared with approval.
“I’m just tickled I got to draw a horse like that,” Hall said. “She’s got quite a reputation and I’ve known her since I was a tiny guy.
“To feel a whole lot of life going through my veins, a whole lot going through hers. I had a good time.”
And those moves? Well, Hall would have to explain that.
“Riding a bucking horse has never really looked like something dangerous to me. It is dangerous, but I’ve always thought it looked more like a dance.”
It was Zeke Thurston who mastered those moves. Thurston, from Alabama, took home the top score of the night in saddle bronc riding, winning the event with an 84.
That scored Thurston, who is ranked No. 4 in the world, $2,199.60 to go along with his belt buckle.
Those weren’t the only top spots that fell on the final night. In the women’s barrel racing event, Amber Leigh Moore’s trip around the buckets clocked in at 17.29 seconds, which was the fastest of the three days. The rider from Salem, Oregon brought home $2,022.88 for her and her horse’s efforts.
Dakota W Eldridge of Elko, Nevada also tied East Helena’s Kane Cartwright’s Thursday steer wrestling run with a four-second steer pin.
John Robertson of Polson joined Cartwright as the two winning Montana representatives. Robertson finished first in the team-roping event with his saddle-mate, Clayton Hass of Texas.
In the rodeo’s final event, bull riding, Ruger Piva of Idaho was the only one able to stay upright for eight seconds. Never mind that he fell off before his run.
Piva, the Bozeman bull riding champion, sat in the chute awaiting takeoff. His bull decided to drop Piva before the gate opened.
“They said he’d get a little grouchy in the chute, so they said to hurry out on him and I took a little too much time,” Piva said. “After that I hustled up and made a ride on him.”
After hopping off the bucking brute, Piva shot double finger pistols back at the bull, letting him know he’d been had. Piva’s score of 78 secured him third place.
Piva’s finger point helped punctuate the stampede series finale. A weekend of boots, broncs, roping, riding, prayer and patriotism seemed only fitting to end with a shootout -– albeit an imaginary one.
You can add that to the country song, too.