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Aug 6, 2012 8:35 PM by Q2 Sports

Cut Bank's Bird takes aim at first NFR

STRATHMORE, Alberta - It started with a two-minute phone call. Paul Eaves needed a partner back in June and he called Dustin Bird at his home in Cut Bank, Mont., to see if he might be interested in hitting the road with him.
"We'd never roped together," Eaves said. "I'd seen him around. I knew he was good, but I didn't really know him all that well. I called because I'd heard he was without a partner, too, and I thought it might work out."
How well it has all worked out was on display at the Aug. 3-6 Strathmore Stampede where Bird and his heeler, Eaves, won the team roping title in 4.6 seconds to move a step closer to the first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualification for both men.
Bird was 23rd in the world standings when they joined forces and Eaves was 29th. They are now both seventh and surging after wins in Innisfail, Alberta; St. Paul, Ore.; Sidney, Mont., and Strathmore.
"Why have we worked out so well? First off, Dustin ropes really well and he's got an outstanding horse, Dolly - maybe the best horse going. Not taking anything away from his roping or mine, but Dolly's great and having a horse like that in the team just makes things easier for everybody.
"The other thing is, Dustin is a real aggressive partner. He tries to win something every time out and he's real consistent at doing it. We don't have a (dollar) number in mind that we think will get us to the (NFR qualifying level). We're not thinking that way. We just want to do what we've been doing. It's gone well. There's no reason to change our approach."
They will be keeping up the pressure this week, going to all three Wrangler Million Dollar Tour Silver rodeos - in Sikeston, Mo.; Lovington, N.M., and Hermiston, Ore. - along with PRCA rodeos in Missoula, Mont., and Omak, Wash.
The other champions at the $215,965 rodeo were bareback rider Jake Marshall (85.25 points), steer wrestler Chason Floyd (3.9 seconds), saddle bronc rider Rylan Geiger (84.5 points), tie-down roper Hunter Herrin (7.4 seconds), bull rider Skylar McBride (86.75 points) and barrel racer Kelli Tolbert (17.383 seconds).
• Kyle Whitaker may be chasing the Linderman Award after all. After a season almost exclusively devoted to earning his first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifying berth (he's 14th in steer wrestling), Whitaker is showing signs that he is unwilling to give up his title as the sport's most versatile all-around hand. His third-place finish in the saddle bronc riding Aug. 3 in Marshall, Minn., and a fifth the next day in Carson, Iowa, were his first paychecks in that event this year. In order to qualify for the Linderman Award - which Whitaker has won a record six times - a contestant must earn at least $1,000 in three events with at least one of those at each end of the arena. In addition to his $35,605 in steer wrestling, Whitaker now has $846 in saddle bronc riding and $333 in tie-down roping with eight weeks left in the season. None of the other three contestants who have earned money in the right combination of events - Kyle Thomson, Jesse Jolly and Rollie Wilson - has reached the $1,000 threshold in all three events, either. Thomson, of Lundbreck, Alberta, is seeking to become the first Canadian winner of the Linderman Award since Bernie Smyth Jr., in 1992.
• Now this doesn't seem Wright: Utah's Wright brothers swept the first three places (and a share of fourth) in the saddle bronc riding at the Aug. 1-2 Caribou County Fair & Rodeo in Grace, Idaho - and none of those four Wrights was two-time World Champion Cody Wright. Jake Wright was first with an 81-point ride on Powder River Rodeo's Rain Cloud, one point ahead of his twin brother, Jesse. Next in line was Alex Wright in third place, and Spencer Wright tied for fourth with Merritt Smith. Cody? He withdrew from Grace on a doctor release.
• Brazile watch: It was mostly a team roping week for 16-time World Champion Trevor Brazile. The Decatur, Texas, cowboy paired with Patrick Smith to finish second in Phillipsburg, Kan., and Abilene, Kan., each time by a tenth of a second, for total earnings of $4,768 and Brazile won an additional $1,610 in steer roping in Dodge City, Kan. Brazile continues to lead the world standings in the all-around and team roping-heading, but fell to second place in steer roping, $1,434 behind Cody Lee, as he seeks to break the ProRodeo record for career world championships. Brazile is tied with Jim Shoulders for second place, two back of steer roper Guy Allen.

Information courtesy PRCA


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