Kendra Santos: Talk to me about August 14.
Charly Crawford: We’d come off of a great couple weeks. I’d given Patron some time off after Cheyenne, and he came back better than ever. It felt easy again, like we were peaked out going into the fourth quarter. Patron was breathing fire and hitting on all cylinders. As soon as we got done roping our first steer at Canby, I unsaddled him and washed him off. He started pawing and acting like he wanted to roll, which he does after you wash him. I tied him up and he kept pawing. The rodeo’s vet, Dr. Solomon, who works on my horses all the time when we’re up there, drove by right then. He gave him something to help relax him. I walked him around about 20 minutes and nothing was happening, so he palpated him. He realized he had a displacement, and that we needed to get him to OSU for surgery. I needed to stay there and rope our second steer, so a friend of mine borrowed a truck from a committeeman and a trailer from a queen, and took off with Patron. He got him there in two hours.
KS: Had Patron colicked before?
CC: Patron was a chronic colicker. He had colic surgery in 2011, and came back from it fine. He’d tried to colic on me several times, but had almost gone a full year without doing it, so I thought he was getting better.
KS: Then what?
CC: Shay and I needed to get to Billings by the next day, so we headed that way. Patron was in good hands, and I was just wondering if I’d get him back the next week or if it’d be the end of the season before I could get back on him. We were on Highway 205, fixing to get on Highway 84 to head east and I got a call from a Corvallis number. They told me they got Patron into surgery and found he had a displacement, and that one of his intestines was tight as a drum. His colon was dead, so they were asking permission to euthanize him. I was driving, and my head was going numb. They said, “We’re sorry, but he can’t live without his colon.” I asked if there was anything at all they could do for him. There was a lot of silence. I looked down, and I was going 25 miles an hour in the middle lane and people were whipping by me.
KS: How long had you been riding Patron?
CC: Since 2009. B.J. Campbell had gotten him from Bill Hill down in Southern Oregon, and I got him from B.J.
KS: What made Patron one of the great ones?
CC: He was really quick and had a lot of foot speed. He wanted to score. The gates would bang and he wanted to stay put until you asked him to go. He always had kind of a funky move in the corner, but when I stayed ahead of him and rode him good he was so good. And he was so tough. The more you rode him, the better he got. He was spooky, and a little bit broncy. But he just kept getting better with age. I truly felt like this was going to be his year to win horse of the year.
KS: How rare is a horse like Patron?
CC: I’ve watched a lot of horses out here, and for one to stay working that good for this long is something. To keep scoring, keep running and keep working this long at this level is a tough quality. When they have the ability and are so willing, that’s a rare combination.
KS: We all know how important the head horse is to any team. That’s not an exaggeration, is it?
CC: We rely on our horses so much, and I was tapped off with that horse. Our team losing Patron would be like losing your best quarterback going into the playoffs when you need to win the game. He won’t be forgotten and he’ll never be replaced. He was unique.
KS: How do you bounce back from such a loss, especially when you’re on the bubble like you were when you lost him?
CC: We’ve been trying to find the next one for a year now. We’ve been looking for an 8 to 9-year-old we can get ready for next year. Now I need to find that young one and a good one all at the same time. I’m pretty much flat-footed.
KS: What’s the rest of your horse herd look like right now?
CC: I have my old war horse Bullseye, who’s 15. He’s just a rodeo horse I can go be fast on at one-headers. He’s just a big, strong horse that can keep big steers moving, but he’s lost a step over the longer scores. Since losing Patron, God has shown me who my friends are out here. Trevor (Brazile) let me ride Boogie at Billings, Chad (Masters) let me ride Cody in the short round at Caldwell, and Dustin (Bird) let me ride Dolly. I’ve had nothing but support since this happened.