Heading into this year’s Cowboy Christmas, Nick Guy was, well…just another guy.
The bulldogger from Sparta, Wis., had won some checks, but was nowhere near the coveted Top 15 in the PRCA World Standings. That all changed in a hurry the week leading up to the Fourth of July.
Guy, who qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2010, got tapped off and finished Cowboy Christmas as the bulldogger with the biggest haul. The 6-3, 245-pounder pocketed $9,345 for winning the average in St. Paul, Ore., and added big checks in Molalla, Ore., Cody, Wyo., and Red Lodge, Mont., for a $22,209 total.
That catapulted the 29-year-old from 44th to fifth in the standings with $35,338 heading into mid-July and put a big smile on the affable bulldogger’s face.
“I’ve always wanted to have a week like that, and a guy dreams of having a $20,000 week over the Fourth of July,” said Guy, who finished 17th in the world last year to narrowly miss a trip to Las Vegas. “For a lot of guys, that doesn’t happen, and there are just very few guys who can get on a roll like that. This year, it happened for me.
“I was just due for a big week like that. I knew I had the ability and I knew the horse had the ability, and I’m just glad it all came together.”
Guy, who finished 21st in the world in 2012, said the key to his success was a talented four-legged athlete named Roany. Owned by his traveling partner and hazer Cody Kroul, Roany has given Guy a consistent and quality mount he feels supremely confident aboard when he backs in the box.
“He just gives me the same trip every time,” Guy said of the horse. “He doesn’t run wide, he doesn’t run too tight and just gives me the same trip every time. In the bulldogging, that’s important.
“Over the Fourth, I got a great start wherever I went and he caught up (to the steers) quick, and when that happens, I’ve just got to do my job. I’m definitely feeling pretty good about it.”
Near-misses from the past two seasons have left Guy hungry for a return trip to the Thomas & Mack Center.
“After you’re there once competing, it’s really hard to watch from home, because I bulldog with those guys all year long and feel like I can bulldog with the best of them,” Guy said. “To have a big week like this is huge. My ultimate goal this year was not having to be sitting on the couch in December.”
The monster Cowboy Christmas pay day took a heap of pressure off Guy’s shoulders, and now he can focus on the task at hand without having to obsess about the standings.
“The last few years, it’s felt like all summer long all I’ve been doing is chasing the Top 15, where you’re almost having to win twice as much as everyone else just to catch up,” he said. “Now, I’m in the Top 15, I’ve got quite a bit of money won and I’ve got a lot of rodeos left to go to. I feel like I can just keep plugging away, and I feel like I’m in a good spot.
“I don’t feel like I’ve got the Finals made by any means, but I’m in the position now where, if I just keep doing what I’m doing, keep my head down and keep bulldogging good and the horse keeps working good, I feel like I can make it back to the Finals.”
Guy heads into the final 12 weeks of the season confident, focused and excited.
“Once you start winning, it’s almost like a snowball effect and you’ve got that confidence,” he said. “Every time I back in the box, I feel like I’m going to go win something or make a good run. I’m never second-guessing myself anymore. I’m just going, letting it happen and am not trying to make it happen anymore.
“Over the Fourth, I didn’t try too hard, and it just happened. Sometimes, when you’re trying too hard is when things don’t work out. I just let it come as it did, and I was awfully excited to have it happen.”
Second-year tie-down roper Marty Yates can relate. The Stephenville, Texas, cowboy put together a stellar Cowboy Christmas of his own, raking in $20,978 to move to fourth in the world standings.
Before then, he’d been on the outside looking in, itching for a big check that would give him a chance at his first Wrangler NFR qualification. Yates won multiple substantial checks over the Fourth of July run, including $8,926 from St. Paul, Ore., and $4,253 from Livingston, Mont.
It was a huge week for the 20-year-old.
“Oh man, it was awesome,” said Yates, who celebrated his birthday on July 6. “It got me right where I needed to be, and I’m on the cruising track to my first NFR. I’d like to get things finished off and see how far (up) I can be in (the standings) when Vegas comes around.”
Yates now has $51,128 in season earnings thanks to his Cowboy Christmas haul, and he gave credit to his 7-year-old gelding, Chicken, for the big week.
“I can’t say enough about my horse this year,” he said. “I had zero confidence in the horse I had last year, so it was 100 percent different. This year, this little horse, we’ve come a long way together, and it’s been amazing.”
Yates finished third in the Resistol Rookie of the Year standings last year and viewed the season as a disappointment.
“Last year, my rookie year, I didn’t have a very good year,” he said. “It was pretty rough on me, but I think it was a good stepping stone and learning year for me. It taught me a lot.”
The windfall over the Fourth will allow Yates to fine-tune his traveling schedule for the remainder of the season, which ends Sept. 30.
“I won’t go to as many (rodeos) and will just concentrate on going to the big ones,” Yates said. “I won’t enter up too much and will take care of my horse to try and make him last longer.”
If a Wrangler NFR qualification is in the cards for the young talent, Yates will be realizing a dream by punching his ticket to Las Vegas.
“My whole life, it’s all been about making it to the NFR,” he said. “It’d mean the world, and it’s what I’ve been waiting for my whole life. That’s what it’s all about!”