One of the best ways to find out what a rodeo cowboy is like when he takes off his spurs is to check the personal section of his biography in the PRCA media guide.
This is how it was discovered that Dave Appleton, the former world champion bareback rider from Australia, once appeared in an episode of “Dallas” in which he beat Bobby Ewing in pool. This was in 1988. Yes, it was my first rodeo.
But the outside-the-corral minutiae listed under Tyson Durfey’s name in this year’s media guide shortchanges him.
It states the 2016 world champion tie-down roper from Missouri married Australian country singer Shea Fisher on Oct. 6, 2013, that he enjoys listening to audio books, that his father, Roy, was a horse trainer. That his favorite football team, unlike Derek Carr’s, is the Kansas City Chiefs.
There is no mention of the following:
— He speaks fluent Portuguese.
— He proposed to his wife on New Year’s Eve in Central Park. The plan was to pop the question in Times Square as the big ball dropped, but by 3 p.m. a crowd of close to a million people already had gathered, and it sort of spooked the cowboy from northwest Mizzou, whose hometown of Savannah has a population of 5,127.
— He does an awesome Jim Carrey impression.
— He grew up in a mobile home that had old tires on top to keep the wind from blowing away the roof. His family was so poor the water heater would be lit only once a week, and Durfey and his brothers would share bath water.
— His first rodeo was in Indianapolis. He fell off his horse. The crowd roared.
— He and Shea have launched several businesses, including Shea Baby baby boots. Say that three times real fast.
— He twice went broke on the circuit and basically lived out of the back of his horse trailer for seven years.
While it’s not true that Tyson Durfey’s 10-gallon hat holds 20 gallons, he still could give the Dos Equis beer guy a run for his money.
Busted in Panoka
The second time Durfey went belly up in the saddlebags was at the Panoka Stampede in Alberta, Canada, in 2006. He had spent everything he had chasing belt buckles. And he spent a lot he didn’t have. He accrued more than $20,000 in credit card debt and had $155 in his savings account.
He was sleeping in the back seat of his truck and the wind and his creditors were sweepin’ down the plain when he had an epiphany.
“I have to win.”
Tyson Durfey gave his Bible a couple of thumps. As calf ropers are wont to say, “You got the rope son, you might as well use it.”
“Long story short, I ended up winning third at that rodeo and $4,000. I won about $2,000 to $4,000 at every rodeo the rest of that season,” said the blue-eyed cowboy who recently turned 34. “I became the first American to win a national championship in Canada. The next season I made the national finals.”
Lee Trevino, who also grew up destitute, said pressure wasn’t playing golf on the PGA Tour, pressure was playing golf for $10 when you didn’t have a dime in your pocket.
“Pressure is a lot different when you’re down to your last dollar,” Durfey said during the NFR poster shoot at the railroad museum in Boulder City.
“We rodeo for different reasons. Back then, for me, it was to put food in my belly and gas in the tank. And then I bought a place, and then it was to pay for the ranch. And when the ranch was paid off, I have a wife and a baby, and now I’ve got to pay for her college fund.
“So I kind of find reasons to stay successful. If you lose sight of that, why you’re doing what you’re doing and lovin’ it, then you might as well quit, because that’s gonna be the day people forget your name.”
NFR wake-up call
Last season, a lot of people learned his name at these finals, where he won a whopping $147,712 to push his season earnings to $212,455 and win the gold buckle. This year Durfey is stuck in 12th place with $124,192. He has cashed only once in seven outs.
But 11th place in the world standings is a far cry from sleeping in the back of your truck on the Canadian prairie, knowing you’ve got to come through in the Panoka Stampede or hope the credit card people are agreeable to a payment plan.
He doesn’t sleep in the back of his truck anymore. And he doesn’t sleep alone.
Before last Saturday’s NFR go-round, Durfey posted a clip on his Twitter account that showed his wife Shea practicing her singing — and her singing moves — in a seductive gown.
Wrote Tyson Durfey, world champion tie-down roper from Savannah, Missouri: “Took a nap before the rodeo and this is what I woke to.”
There’s probably zero chance the PRCA posts a link to his wake-up call in next year’s media guide.
— Tyson Durfey (@TysonDurfey) December 10, 2017