Shortly after his ride during the first section of the bull riding event at the 77th annual Will Rogers Range Riders Rodeo on Thursday night, Spearman's Dakota Cator was helping to tame and pen some of the bulls who had participated in the competition.
That was something Cator had gotten familiar with over the last two years working for Allen McCloy, the contractor who provides the livestock for the annual event. Cator was spending his time working with McCloy's bucking stock instead of competing in rodeos due to injuries, and it was a definite change of pace.
"I just missed being able to get on and ride," Cator said. "I'd go with Allen to help him put out stock it made me crave it that much more."
Cator got the fix he needed during his competitive section to open the event at the Range Riders arena. In his first full year back after missing most of the last two years with broken ribs and a cracked femur, Cator had the best score of the evening, riding to an impressive 84 and setting the mark for other riders to strive for in the event's remaining sessions.
It was Cator's first event since the middle of May, and he thinks Thursday's ride couldn't have been any better.
"I was extremely happy," Cator said. "I was really ready and determined to focus on my riding a lot this week and it paid off. It feels amazing. You don't get these opportunities all the time."
Cator, 26, has been riding bulls for the last 12 years, but injuries he incurred two years ago sidelined him and forced him to take a new perspective on the sport. Dealing with injuries is something that simply comes with the territory.
"There's always a time when you're going to be banged up," Cator said.
With a chance to heal, Cator was also able to learn some things about bull riding working with McCloy. As opposed to just having to negotiate an eight-second ride, Cator was able to spend a good amount of time with a lot of McCloy's stock.
Cator rode one of McCloy's bulls, Johnny Cash, to his 84 on Thursday. Despite never having ridden that particular bull, Cator still walked through the ring of fire for the evening's best score.
He said that just observing what bulls do helps once it's time to ride eight seconds.
"Just watching their habits and seeing their characteristics is huge," Cator said. "You get to know them. They hall have a distinct personality."
As part of what's known as Cowboy Christmas during the Fourth of July week, Thursday was just the first of three consecutive days Cator was competing this week. He headed to the Canadian rodeo on Friday and is scheduled to ride in Wellington today.
Those are all fairly short trips for Cator to earn some money, at least in comparison to a lot of other cowboys.
During the first round of bull riding in last year's Range Riders event, none of the five competitors lasted for eight seconds. Cator and three other riders managed scores during the first section, so Cator feels this has been a successful week for him regardless of how well he does in Canadian and Wellington.
"That's going to win some money," Cator said of his 84. "Nowadays if you get a score you're probably going to win something. It's definitely been a good week."
77th Will Rogers Range Riders Rodeo
Bareback Riding: 1. Hunter Ramsey, Eldorado, Ark., 77. 2. Sandro Ferretti, Lake Charles, La., 74. Saddle Bronc Riding: 1. Dylan Henson, Dublin, 78. 2. Travis Gardner, Vernon, 69. 3. Taylor Russell, Lipscomb, 67. Ranch Bronc Riding: 1. (tie) Reid Green, Laverne Okla. and Garrett Fry, Spur, 69. Bull Riding: 1. Dakota Cator, Spearman, 84. 2. Colton Kelly, Rhome, 80. 3. (tie) Clayton Appelhans, Colby, Kan. and Kyle McDaniel, Fort Worth, 74. Tie Down Roping: 1. Cedric Martin, Wharton, 8.77. 2. Cody Owens, Rankin, 9.83. 3. D.J. Smith, Hillsboro, 10.78. 4. Cole Frey, Lake Charles, La., 10.89. 5. Jake Booze, Miami, 11.38. 6. Ethan Hill, S. Coffeyville, Okla., 11.94. 7. Quay Howard, Canyon, 11.96. 8. Kyle Belew, Lajunta, Colo., 12.07. Steer Wrestling: 1. Trevor Haake, Grand Island, Neb., 3.3. 2. Laramie Warren, Adaire, Okla., 3.5. 3. Chet Boren, Levelland, 4.4. 4. Chad Vancampen, McCook, Neb., 4.7. 5. (tie) Chris Dyer, Van Buren, Ark. and Riley Westhaver, Alva, Okla., 4.9. Team Roping: 1. Dylan Gordon and Gage Wiliams, 4.79. 2. Andrew Livingston and Pace Blanchard, 5.2. 3. Nathan McWhorter and Seth Jones, 6.45. 4. Michael Benavides and David Hinman, 6.56. 5. Korbin Rice and Kirt Jones, 9.69. 6. Cory Smothers and Dustin Searcy, 10.42. Local Team Roping: 1. Grady Pierce and Ben Pierce, 6.65. 2. Shane Decker and Ben Pierce, 8.14. 3. Bill Hodnett and Lance Howard, 9.21. 4. Todd Hughes and Ben Pierce, 11.25. Barrel Racing: 1. Brandy Sams, Beggs, Okla., 17.241. 2. Peyton Glenn, Edmond, Okla., 17.363. 3. Emery Mask, Amarillo, 17.508. 4. Kortni McConnell, Hereford, 17.563. 5. Sadie Wolaver, Feyetteville, Tenn., 17.565. 6. Bristan Kennedy, Levelland, 17.594. 7. Cambra Blessing, Midland, 17.644. 8. Cindy Smith, Hobbs, N.M., 17.690. Breakaway Roping: 1. Kelsie Chase, Cherokee, Okla., 2.17. 2. Amber Crawford, Springtown, 2.50. 3. Timber Allenbrand, Stephenville, 2.55. 4. Logan Gentry, Sulphur, Okla., 2.63. 5. Jordan Jo Fabrizio, Canyon, 2.69. 6. Tanya Goad, Reydon, Okla., 2.71. 7. Sequin Brewer, Canyon, 2.83. 8 Katey Anthony, Ryan, Okla., 2.84.