Chase Tryan placed in five rounds and finished second in the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo average with Keven Daniel in 2012. But Bubba Buckaloo’s never been to the Big Show before. So when their 3.6-second run led to the Round 8 victory lap, it lit him up like only a first of something extraordinarily special can. It took Bubba 30 years to get to Vegas, so he’s soaking up up every moment of this 10-day, $10 million blur.
“The NFR is all it’s cracked up to be and more,” Bubba said. “It’s the best feeling you’ve ever had since you’ve been dreaming of being here since you were old enough to know what the NFR is. Just to be here is an awesome accomplishment. To get a go-round win is the coolest.
“I told my wife (Josie) that the 12 days we’ve been here in Vegas feels like three. It goes by so fast. There are only two rounds left now, and I wish there were 10 more.”
Yes, there were freshman jitters on opening night.
“I was very nervous backing in there to run that first steer,” he said. “I just didn’t know what to expect. It was kind of a relief to do good (they were 4.6 and split second; they also placed on their second and sixth steers) on that one, and get started right. When you rope for this much money every night, it’s not just like any other rodeo, like some people say. But being here with my wife and family is so much fun.”
When Bubba goes to give something the thumbs up—like his does his maiden NFR voyage—you’ll notice the one on his roping hand is MIA.
[Read More: Inner Strength with Bubba Buckaloo]
“I lost it once when I was 11 years old, and again when I was 15,” he said. “They put it back on the first time. I cut it off heeling both times. I’ll never know if I could have been better with it, but roping without it is all I’ve ever known.”
Bubba started the 2018 season with Joseph Harrison, who’s one of his best friends. They had a great winter, and won about $30,000 before Harrison shifted gears to heel for Chad Masters, and Bubba started spinning for Chase.
Bubba laid a gauntlet at his own feet for 2018 in the form of a time-dated goal.
“I always go in the winter, and if I don’t have a good one I usually go home and stay home,” he said. “Financially, if you don’t have a good winter it’s hard on you. Being here makes me want to come back even more. I’ve never had this much money in my pocket.
“I told Josie before this year started that I was either going to make the Finals in 2018 or I was going to get a 9-5. I’d been trying to sell my two good horses this winter, because I wanted to build a barn and arena on our place (in Kingston, Oklahoma; on the Texas line). If it didn’t work this year, I was thinking about getting our place built, then trying it again in five years. Then this happened, and it’s a dream come true.”