Canada's own 2016 World Champion Header Levi Simpson and two-time NFR qualifier Shay Carroll would both agree that they made the run of their lives at the Black Hills Roundup in Belle Fourche, South Dakota.
Simpson blasted the barrier which was two-over, reached as far as a head rope could reach and gave Carroll a quick look on the backside to get the clock stopped in 4.5-seconds to win the rodeo, adding $6,354 to each man's ProRodeo season earnings.
"The barrier was long and the steers were running in that first slack," Simpson noted. "I felt like I got a great start—tried to push the barrier a little extra. The cow was running away so I felt like I threw all my rope, turned him and he heeled him as fast as possible and I just tried to get faced up. It felt like one of the best runs we’ve ever made in our lives. We maxed out the steer that we probably shouldn’t have won much on and we ended up winning the rodeo."
"In my head I was just thinking whoever heels these steers the sharpest and the fastest is going to dictate how much you win," Carroll added. "I thought a lot of headers were going to have to get out, run to them, one coil, two coils, set him up and depending on how fast the heeler is that’s going to dictate what you win in that setup. It just so happened that I was in that mode and Levi brings it from 35-foot. It never even crossed my mind that he threw it that far. I was just in a good spot. When it was over we were just like, ‘Wow’. I was just excited to be a part of that even though it was just an instant."
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Simpson can almost always be caught heading on a sorrel bald-faced horse, his 13-year old gelding Teel Bar Badger by Jag Bar Badger, out of Miss Teel Bonanza.
"Stetson is the horse that I’ve rodeoed on for the last eight years. I’ve been rodeoing full-time on him since he was 4. He looks very similar to the horse that I rode at the NFR but it’s not the same horse. My old horse is 26 or 27 this year. Stetson has been the work horse of the year. He gets all the miles and most of the runs. I ride him everywhere. He was very ill mannered as a 3-year old."
Carroll rode his 9-year-old bay gelding, Empire, DMAC Weeping Widow, by Widows Freckles, out of My Lady Stylish who was started in the heeling by the 2019 Resistol Rookie Heeler of the Year Paden Bray.
"I’ve had him since he was 3," Carroll said. "Paden Bray started him. The year I made the NFR with Charly Crawford in 2014 I left Empire with Paden all summer. I paid him to start him and start him in the heeling. I ride him everywhere."
Simpson and Carroll didn't draw up exactly how they wanted but ended up making the most of their Cowboy Christmas run ending it with $12,416 per roper added to their earnings.
Despite the deep mud they placed sixth at the Sitting Bull Stampede in Mobridge, South Dakota with a 5.3-second run, worth $1,912 a man, seventh at the Oakley (City, Utah) Independence Day Rodeo with a 4.8-second run, worth $2,063 a man, and, after blowing three tires and sidelining their pickup, had to draw out of the first round at the World's Oldest Rodeo in Prescott, Arizona. But they made it in time to win second in the second round with a 5.5-second run, adding $2,087 each to their earnings.
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"We didn’t exactly get drawn up how we wanted to," Simpson said. "We ended up being first out almost everywhere. We went to Cody (Wyoming) and roped in the mud in the first slack. Then we went to Oakley (City, Utah) and made a good run on just an average steer. The steer kind of stepped left and ran up the rope. Shay was able to get him heeled and we made a decent run.
"As far as what times normally are in past years, we didn’t feel like we were going to win much. Then we went from there to Belle (Fourche, South Dakota) and made our great run there. Then we went to Mandan (North Dakota) that night and roped another one in the mud and it didn’t go great. Then we went to Killdeer (North Dakota) and Roundup (Montana) the next two days—no luck. Then we came back to Mobridge and actually drew pretty good and made a decent run on a good cow and just tried to get him caught to see if we could get in the money. We ended up placing there.
"Then we loaded up and headed to Prescott the morning of the Fourth. We were up the next morning in Prescott. We had three tire blowouts. We blew off both tires on the right-hand side of the trailer before Belle Fourche. We got that all fixed up and borrowed some spares. We got to Gillette, Wyoming, and blew off a tire on the left side so we put our last spare on. We got 20 minutes south of Flagstaff and ran over a tarp that fell out of someone’s truck which caught in the drag shaft and ripped out all the air lines and break lines, so that sidelined us at about 8 o’clock in the morning. Then we had some friends come and rescue us. We had to turn out the first one at Prescott but we made it down there for the second one and drew one that was decent in the first round. That was the first time that I had ever been to Prescott. We hit the barrier good, turned and Shay heeled him fast. We ended up being 5.5 to win second in the second round. We are real rodeo bums right now. It was quite the trip."
With the 2020 ProRodeo season still clouded with uncertainty, Simpson and Carroll are excited to put their name down where they can and hope to be running ten steers in the Thomas & Mack this December.
"The way that the rodeo season has been going we’re just going to try and enter pretty much whatever rodeo that they’re going to allow us to go to or whatever rodeos they’re going to have," Simpson stated. "We’re going to just keep putting our names down for whatever we can get to. If we can make good, fast runs and see how much a guy can win then hopefully at the end of the year if they do have a Vegas, we’ll be there. It’s a little bit of a weird year but hopefully things work out in our favor."
Simpson is 11th in the PRCA world standings with $27,230.29. Carroll is seventh with $33,099.95. TRJ