By Jolee Jordan
Hermiston, Oregon—As the summer season winds down, the pressure begins to mount for pro rodeo competitors chasing down a spot in the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR); only the top 15 money winners will race in Las Vegas come December and with less than two months left in the season, the opportunities for big paydays are beginning to shrink.
The Northwest run in the Columbia River Circuit gives those contestants on the bubble a much needed shot to win a lot of prize money in the space of a few weeks. Those rodeos kick off with the Farm City Pro Rodeo in Hermiston, Ore., a stop on the Wrangler Million Dollar Silver Tour.
One cowgirl looking for a boost as the clock is ticking is Roosevelt, Utah’s Kimmie Wall. Wall has been lingering around the bottom end of the top 15 since a strong showing at the Calgary Stampede in early July. However, her season hit a major speed bump during the lucrative July rodeos as her good mare Foxy was not feeling her best.
“We had to turn out some rodeos after Calgary because she was just under the weather,” explained Wall of the nine year old mare. Unfortunately, the timing was awful with several high paying rodeos—which also happened to be in her home circuit, the Wilderness Circuit—going on at that time.
“I have to thank Dr. Ben Espy for getting her feeling good again,” said Wall. Foxy is registered with the AQHA as TKW Bullys Famous Fox and was raised and trained by Wall and her husband Travis.
With Foxy beginning to get back on track, Wall started to gather momentum as rodeo’s calendar turned to August. She picked up more checks around her home circuit on the first weekend before heading north to Hermiston.
“I was hoping the long drive would be worth it,” Wall admitted. Though she had won the Farm City Rodeo in 2016, the rodeo had changed to a new venue for 2017, leaving all the competitors wondering what to expect.
The new Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center was built thanks to a community effort of donations from anonymous sources as well as the Friends of the Fair & Rodeo civic group. The new facility was ready just in time for the rodeo’s 30th anniversary event thanks to a huge push by both paid contractors and volunteers in the final weeks before the rodeo.
“They did a great job. There was a huge field to park in which was so nice,” said Wall. Parking at the old facility was very tight for the large rodeo rigs which descended upon it each year.
As for the arena itself, designers tried to keep the same set up as the old arena except for adding more seating for fans.
“It was always such a unique pen and I loved that they kept the same concepts like the wooden fences,” Wall said. In fact, the arena looks very much the same as in the old location.
Running in the second performance on Thursday night, August 10, Wall and Foxy looked right at home. With their usual flash and flair, the team took the lead in the rodeo with a smoking fast 17.20 second run.
“We had been struggling a bit with our third turn but she just laid down a run,” said Wall. Her time held off a tough field with four cowgirls coming within four one-hundredths of Wall’s time. The win was worth $4,568.
“I had never won the same rodeo two years in a row before so it was exciting,” Wall said, particularly given that the rodeo had changed locations between 2016 and 2017.
“The ground guy was really concerned with making the ground right; he took pride in it,” Wall added. “He really knew what he was doing and it was great.”
Wall commended the whole effort of the committee, adding how much the barrel racers like the format as a great paying one header and having slack after each performance.
“I hope they know how much we appreciate everything they do.”
Wall added a check from Jerome (Idaho) on her way to Hermiston as well as another from Coalville (Utah) to close out the weekend with $5,381. She has won more than $58,000 this year and now sits 14th in the WPRA World standings.
“It’s so tight and everybody is winning right now,” Wall noted of the race of which she is right in the middle. Less than $7,000 separates Wall from 19th ranked Tammy Fischer. “I try not to pay attention to the standings but it’s hard not to.”
Wall has been down this road before; in her first two seasons as a professional, she finished 20th and 19th, before her breakout year in 2016. Last year, she was near the top of the field and made her first WNFR, winning more than $134,000 in Vegas.
“I like where I was last year better,” she joked. “But we are fighting our way back.”
Wall made a quick stop at home to drop off her summer hauling partner, daughter Brylee, who is returning to school soon and to have Travis reset Foxy’s shoes.
“I hated leaving her behind,” said Wall, whose travels took her on to Caldwell. “She was with me all summer and was such good help.” She also had son, Stran with her for some of the adventures.
After Caldwell, Wall has a busy line up including rodeos in Gooding and Burley (Idaho) as well as Canby (Ore.) and Moses Lake (Wash.) this weekend alone. Her travels will keep her in the fray in Oregon and Washington up to the Pendleton Round-Up in mid-September where she won second a year ago after claiming the title in 2015. She will wrap up her season at the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Wrangler Champions Challenge.
“I’m very blessed to be competing there and trying to beat 10 girls instead of 100 [at some of the other events at year’s end],” said Wall who competes as part of the Coors team. She’ll keep pushing on and hoping to be in Vegas again.
“Foxy was still placing some even though she didn’t feel her best,” said Wall, making note of her mare’s heart and try. “I’m grateful to have her back feeling good.”
“We have a fighting chance.”
For more information on the Farm City Pro Rodeo, visit www.farmcityprorodeo.com.