Five-time National Finals Rodeo heeler Buddy Hawkins cleaned up the feet behind 2020 NFR header Nelson Wyatt on two runs to earn the pair’s way to $15,000 per-man at the WCRA Cowtown Christmas Championship in Fort Worth, Texas, Dec. 17.
Wyatt and Hawkins slid into the Showdown Round with an off-the-barrier 8.1-second run that earned them money in their performance and the last qualifying spot into the top-seven Showdown Round.
On Saturday, Wyatt had a chance at redemption after reading his steer incorrectly in the first performance.
“Last night, all I had to do was catch, and I thought I had a different steer than I had,” Wyatt said. “It was a minor malfunction. Luckily I had Buddy back there, and he was ready for anything, because I put it all in his lap. The same steer that I ran last night, we ran (in the Showdown Round), but I didn’t mind having him tonight, knowing he was going to leave sharp.”
Wyatt more than corrected things. In the Showdown Round, they snagged him in 4.0 seconds to best Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill’s 4.3-second run and lead the team ropers to the Triple Crown of Rodeo Round.
Coming in No. 1 came with an advantage.
“We got to pick our steer, so we knew he was going to be pretty good,” Wyatt said. “Clay Smith (and Jake Long) ran him in the first round.”
Wyatt and Hawkins watched as Caleb Green and Joe Mattern were 4.7, then as Tryan and Corkill went 3.9—the fastest run of the week. Wyatt weighed the possible outcomes—$15,000 for first place, and $6,500 for second best—as he backed in the corner.
“I felt like my best chance was going fast,” Wyatt said. “I knew if I turned him fast, Buddy was definitely going to heel him. It just happened fast, honestly. I didn’t get a very good start the first time, so I was going to get a better start the second time.”
And fast it was. The two were 3.6 to claim their big payday, and both credited their horsepower for making the run happen. For Hawkins, it was his grade sorrel, X, who was as solid as ever.
“He’s 15 now,” Hawkins said. “But he hardly ever ends up in a spot where it’s his fault that I didn’t win something. He always gives me that opportunity.”
LR Gatlin, or “Colt,” got the call with Wyatt. The stout grey helped Wyatt win the 2022 Texas Circuit Finals and secure the bag while jackpotting in Arizona in December. The gelding’s fast feet and athleticism, combined with this tendancy to stay tight help Wyatt rope fast in quick setups like Cowtown Coliseum.
Hawkins returned at the beginning of the week from another fast setup: the NFR. While most athletes were run down with the “Vegas Crud,” Hawkins was just happy to be back in Texas and back to his routine.
“I did take a couple slow days when I got back,” Hawkins said. “Then, the last two days actually, I went ahead an ran about 30 to 50 head each day.”
Instead of resting after his win and around the holidays, Hawkins is applying more pressure as he gears up to rope with Andrew Ward once again in 2023.
“I didn’t let myself rope a lot before the NFR this year because I didn’t want anything I wanted to change, but going into 2023 I have a few things I want to modify,” Hawkins said .”The sport’s maturing and growing and we’re learning, if you stay the same, naturally these young guys are going to come along. Yesterday I was a young guy, today I’m middle-aged.”
Wyatt, who will be roping with Chase Tryan in 2023 on the ProRodeo trail, was all smiles for the $15,000 payout for the boost it gave him during an otherwise slow time of year, but possibly had more excitement for the big checks that were handed out at the event.
“I’ve wanted to win one of these big checks for so long,” Wyatt said. ‘Like not just the money, the big cardboard ones like this.”