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Durfey times it just right

The story of Tyson Durfey and Shea Fisher has played out like the rodeo version of star football player and cheer captain. Except Durfey tackles and ties calves, and Fisher croons out country tunes, with an Australian twang to boot.

Yes, it’s the great Western tale of cowboy meets country singer, cowboy falls for country singer (who likewise falls for him), there’s a made-for-Hollywood proposal, and cowboy and country singer get married and ride off into the sunset. But not before first making a trip to Las Vegas for the National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas &Mack Center.

Which makes perfect sense, since rodeo is what brought Mr. and Mrs. Durfey together in the first place.

The two met at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in 2010. But it took another year before the two actually got together.

“It wasn’t until the Dodge Circuit Finals in 2011,” Shea recalled. “I needed tickets for my parents, who were visiting from Australia.”

Tyson said he’d deliver on the tickets if she’d have breakfast with him the next day, and she gladly accepted. Tyson qualified for his fifth straight NFR later that year, an event at which he got more serious about Shea.

“Tyson asked my parents if we could date,” she said. He didn’t qualify for the 2012 Finals, but the couple still came to Las Vegas, as did Shea’s parents. “That’s when he asked them if he could marry me.”

Then it was Tyson’s turn to figure out how to make the proposal memorable. With the help of a few buddies, he planned a New Year’s trip to New York with Shea to ring out 2012 and ring in 2013. The idea was to make a Times Square memory, but Tyson had to change up on the fly on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve.

“I had planned on Times Square at midnight, with the ball dropping and everything,” he said. “But we’d been there in the afternoon, and by 3 o’clock, there was literally a million people there to get in position. I quickly realized that wasn’t what I wanted.”

He was able to keep his dinner reservation at Sparks Steak House, attracted by the restaurant’s renowned history. “It’s supposedly where the old mob bosses hung out,” he said.

While walking off dinner and taking in the sights, Tyson hired out a horse-and-carriage operator, with a goal of proposing at Central Park’s Bow Bridge. But police had barricaded off the bridge. So he had to settle for a nearby fountain — which worked out to perfection.

“I was pretty nervous, checking my phone every five to 10 minutes to make sure the timing was right,” he said. “Then five minutes before midnight, I started my speech, and I timed it just right. Right after she said yes, literally, fireworks went off. It was dumb luck. My timing is usually not that good.”

Said Shea: “I was still very surprised. I didn’t expect it that night, but once he got down on his knee, I knew what was coming next. It’s a weird emotion to explain. You’re at the fountain, it’s midnight, you can tell he’s nervous. You kind of know the question is coming. But it was like a little girl’s dream. I was overjoyed, excited, nervous. It really was the picture-perfect movie proposal. I didn’t expect anything less.”

What came next for both of them was resuming their career pursuits. Shea, an established country star in Australia, spent plenty of time in Nashville plying her trade, while Tyson hit the seemingly never-ending road that is the rodeo regular season. That season finished at the end of September, with a two-month break before the NFR. The two were married Oct. 6 in a country wedding at the Vista West Ranch in Texas.

The two didn’t do the formal honeymoon, rather just taking time to unwind and spend time together at home in Weatherford, Texas.

“Home is our honeymoon,” Shea said. “We’ve been on the road so much, and I couldn’t think of anything worse than being away from home at that point.

“And I didn’t want Tyson to take a week off because he’s on such a roll this season (second in the world standings). That wouldn’t have been supportive. He’d worked so hard, and that hard work has paid off.

“Our honeymoon was spending time together at home, me being a good wife and making dinner and all that.”

Now both are back on the road for the 10-day NFR, and Tyson has his sights set on a world championship gold buckle. His best finish in the season money standings was third in 2009, when he cashed in seven of 10 rounds at the NFR. In 2011, he took fifth. He entered this year’s NFR with earnings of $97,985, trailing Tuf Cooper by about $37,000. But that’s money that can be made up quickly with a few good nights, and Tyson is eager to ride and rope after not qualifying last year.

“I’m looking forward to getting back into the Thomas &Mack and feeling the energy of the crowd,” he said. “Las Vegas is the one place where cowboys can truly be rock stars. The people and the energy, combined with an action-packed rodeo and 19,000 people per night — I’m excited.”

And on Dec. 16, the day after the NFR ends, the newlyweds will actually get that honeymoon, half a world away.

“By Sunday night, we’ll be in Tahiti, then to Bora Bora,” Tyson said, adding Christmas will be spent with Shea’s family. “It’s a beach Christmas in Australia.”

“We’re really looking forward to a getaway” Shea said. “And hopefully Tyson has a gold-buckle tan on his stomach.”

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