Never eat chicken before a rodeo because you are what you eat.
Never wear yellow in the arena because the color is associated with cowardice.
Above all, never, ever set a cowboy hat on a bed because for some reason that could lead to a major injury or death (something about the big sleep).
There are many rodeo superstitions — from always shave before a performance (to clean yourself up for Lady Luck) to never compete with change in your pocket (because that might be all you will win) — but the biggest of them all is setting your hat on a bed.
Steer wrestler Hunter Cure isn’t the most superstitious sort — he couldn’t care less that today is Friday the 13th, a day considered by many to be unlucky — but he was worried in 2009 when his mother-in-law inadvertently set his signature brown cowboy hat on the bed of his Las Vegas hotel room midway through his first National Finals Rodeo.
“When I saw it, my jaw dropped,” he said. “I was like, ‘It’ll be OK.’ It never really was.
“From that moment on, it wasn’t a very lucky hat. The rest of the week we struggled, and really for the last two years, every time I wore it, I never really had my mojo going right.”
Unable to stomp the bad luck out of his $500 hat, as some cowboys try to do, Cure cremated it in November at his Holliday, Texas, home — dousing it with gasoline and lighting it on fire.
“I had a little ceremony for myself,” Cure said. “I got the hat out, we made a little trip with the gasoline jug over to the trash barrel, and it went up in a brown pile of smoke.”
A week later, Cure — wearing a gray cowboy hat — not so coincidentally won $37,000 at the Canadian Finals Rodeo. He has followed that up by winning more than $63,000 at this year’s NFR at the Thomas &Mack Center, where he won the eighth go-round Thursday night with a time of 3.80 seconds.
“Everything’s been rolling since (I torched the brown hat),” he said. “I might have to keep this hat around a little longer and make sure it stays off the bed.”
While tie-down roper Cody Ohl estimates 75 percent of the contestants at the NFR are superstitious, he and several other fellow world champions — including record 19-time world champ Trevor Brazile — claim not to be.
“I believe in blessing, not luck,” Brazile said. “I like jacking with people that are superstitious. I’ll go with some young guy that’s never stayed with me before and I’ll just throw my hat on the bed, when we get to the hotel room, just to see their expression.”
Fallon native Jade Corkill, the reigning team roping heeler world champion, isn’t superstitious, either.
“I don’t think I’m gonna miss because I put my hat on the bed or because I wear a yellow shirt,” he said. “Actually, I put my hat on my bed in my trailer all year because there’s nowhere else good to put it without it falling down.”
Two-time defending bareback champion Kaycee Feild doesn’t have any superstitions, but he said saddle bronc rider Bradley Harter always puts his right pant leg on first.
“Always. Never the left. That’s bad luck for him,” Feild said. “And there’s some guys who wear the same spandex since they made the NFR the first time.
“You start thinking about that stuff, you’re not thinking about your riding.”
Matt Reeves, who is in contention for the steer wrestling world title, adheres to several superstitions but not for the usual reasons.
“I don’t eat chicken on game day, but that doesn’t have as much to do with superstition as I’ve never made a dollar on a chicken, so we just don’t eat much chicken,” he said. “I don’t carry ($50 bills) very often — that’s one people have, to don’t carry $50 bills — but mostly because I don’t have $50 bills most of the time.
“I don’t wear yellow, but it doesn’t have a lot to do with (superstition). I kind of look stupid in yellow. I think you look like Big Bird, so I just don’t do it.”
Saddle bronc rider Sterling Crawley said he has too many superstitions to count — including drinking the same amount of Red Bull (two 12-ounce cans) before each ride — but he goes against tradition in always mounting his horse in the left stirrup first and eating chicken before a rodeo.
“A lot of guys don’t do that. I don’t mind. I just like chicken too much,” he said. “We rodeo too many days of the year to not enjoy something you eat that often.”
Crawley also tempts fate by leaving each rodeo in a modified ambulance owned by him and his brother, fellow saddle bronc rider Jacobs Crawley.
“I don’t have a problem with that at all,” he said. “I do pick my feet up when we go over railroad tracks and touch glass.
“The time of death clock in the ambulance is dead. You can look into that anyway you feel, but it makes me sleep better.”
Sterling Crawley also never has been bothered by Friday the 13th. In fact, he celebrates it each year.
“I was born on Friday the 13th (June 1991),” he said. “I guess that was the luckiest day of my life.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354. Follow him on Twitter: @tdewey33.