Brooks Dahozy got the biggest win of his decade-long PRCA career to date when he won the California Rodeo Salinas with two-time World Champion Walt Woodard, roping five steers in 50.3 seconds and pocketing $8,665 a man.
The win skyrocketed Dahozy, 32, to 29th in the world with $27,952.48 won. Before the weekend, Dahozy was barely inside the top 50 in the PRCA world standings.
[Related: Walt Woodard's Bit of Choice]
"That turned a lot of things around for me," Dahozy said. "If I can get to winning now, it won't be a problem for us to catch up."
Woodard, who has won Salinas three times in his career, is now 37th with $24,682.80—less than $16,000 out of the number-15 spot.
"I can see the guy at 15th, and I can't believe I can't catch him," Woodard, 63, who calls Stephenville, Texas, home, said. "The way you catch up is you get $2,400 out of Joseph, Oregon, and $1,600 at Helena, Montana. You just eat away at these guys. I was $1,500 out of entering San Juan Capistrano, but Brooks made the cut. I'll just have to make it up somewhere else."
Professional team ropers can only count 65 rodeos toward their PRCA world standings earnings in 2019, down from the 75 in years past. Dahozy and Woodard didn't enter too much throughout the winter and spring, so they're confident in the 37-or-so rodeos they've got left to official.
"If I can manage $1000 a rodeo I can make it," Dahozy, originally from the Navajo Nation in Arizona but who now resides in Warm Springs, Oregon, said. "We were kind of just trying to get into the winter rodeos and that all changed at Salinas."
Salinas—which has been going strong since 1911—tests the ropers on five head, with both header and heeler coming from the heeling box. Dahozy and Woodard had a good steer on the first one, but Dahozy safetied up and swung over his back a few times before roping him.
"I took about eight swings over him, and everybody gave me a hard time about it all week," Dahozy laughed. "That second steer was really good and we were 9.4 to win last hole in the round. The third one in the perf was strong, and he stepped to me. I ran down there a ways, and Walt shut down the run fast."
They drew a runner for their fourth steer, and Woodard counted on his 11-year-old Sunfrost-bred gelding, Blueberry, (registered as Frosted PC Frenchman by Frosted Sunman out of the Dakotas Poco Snippy mare Dakotas Lady Poco) to catch up after taking a cautious start.
"At Salinas, when a heeler backs in the box, you can't see anything except the chute," Woodard explained. "Then the steer comes out and takes off running and all you can see is his tail. You can't tell where he's at because you don't have an angle. I'm sitting good in the average—what would be the biggest blunder a heeler can do sitting that good? Break the barrier. You'll go down in history being a dork for breaking out. I don't want to do that. I held, and the steer was extremely fast. Brooks took off, and I was late. That's where his speed comes into play. I wouldn't be here without Blueberry."
They were a smooth 8-flat to win the short round and put the pressure on Garrett Rogers and Jake Minor at high back, and Rogers missed.
Woodard is quick to credit his header for making it possible for him to catch two feet at Salinas, with its long score and hard-running steers.
"Speed kills intermediate heelers. Intermediate headers don't set the steer enough. They just rope the steer and change his direction. Now the steer was running down and running across the arena. When I was a young guy, that's what would make me miss. Brooks did a great job of slowing those steers down at Salinas so I could heel them. Without a header slowing those steers down, you can't win that rodeo. No matter what we drew, he could let me heel them," Woodard said.
Dahozy rode his 9-year-old mare, Mary Hill, who came from Bill Hill in Merrill, Oregon. Her talent—and her speed—have been a motivating factor for keeping Dahozy on the road in 2019.
"I think Bill sold Erich Rogers the first horse he mad the Finals on, Rob," Dahozy said. "I bought her years ago from him, and I sold her this winter but got her back right before Walt and I started roping. I finally I feel like I belong out here. I've never had two or three good head horses and everything in order. I'm usually missing something—a truck, a trailer, a horse. For once I had everything in order and it feels good to have my own stuff."
Start of a Partnership
In fact, Dahozy almost didn't ask Woodard to rope because he was so accustomed to top heelers thinking he didn't have his finances or his horse string in order to rope.
"I didn't have a partner the morning of Sisters, Oregon," Dahozy said. "I got on the phone and called a couple heelers. The name Walt Woodard kept popping up. I had two cool head horses and didn't want to sit home all summer. I text Walt and asked what were the chances. I mean, I barely said hi to him before. He's so intimidating I don't even know how to talk to him. I hated to say the wrong thing. I text him and said what are the chances of us roping? I just text him and sat there and thought about it. He said "Can I call you tonight?" I just said 'Yeah,' but I thought to myself, 'WOW.' I rope that day, and forget all about it. I get in the truck, and I'm headed home, and he texts me, 'When do you want to start? BFI, Reno?' I sat there and took it all in. Guys are usually so busy evaluating whether or not I have a truck, a nice trailer, bank account, the right horses? But not Walt. It was like—wow, I'm finally a professional."
While Dahozy didn't quite know what to expect in a partnership with one of the greatest men to ever swing a head rope, he soon realized it wasn't nearly as intimidating as he imagined.
"I missed the barrier on a strong steer at Estes Park after he stepped in front of me. So I took one more swing to try to catch, and I split the horns. We're sitting in the truck heading to Nampa, and I'm telling Walt I'm sorry. He said 'Let me tell you something. If I wanted a catcher, I'd have called somebody else. Knowing Tyler Wade is 3.9, I want to back into the box knowing I have a chance to be 3.7 and beat Tyler Wade. I want you to keep bringing it. I'm a 63 year old man and you've never made the NFR. What do we have to lose? Just bring it.' I was just shocked. Everybody else is bringing it, so I got back in the truck and felt 10 times better than I did stepping in the truck. I was nervous and I thought he'd cut me. I just couldn't believe he would tell me that."
Woodard's laser focus is already zoned in on the rest of the season.
"That Salinas win only lasts about 12 hours," Woodard said. "Then you start again." TRJ