If you need a champion professional rodeo saddle bronc rider, find yourself an Elshere.
The family continued to dominate that category in the recent Ram Badlands Circuit Finals in Minot.
South Dakotan Ryan Elshere of Elm Springs (northwest of Wall) hung on to win the year-end championship in saddle bronc riding. In rodeo, you go by total earnings. Elshere won $177 more than second-place Clay Schaeffer of Dickinson.
His younger brother, J.J. Elshere, won the year-end title in 2007 and 2008, and cousin Cole Elshere followed in 2009 and 2010. This was Ryan's breakthrough win after eight years of making it to the circuit finals, according to the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association.
I've finished second three times, the 35-year-old Elshere told the PRCA. So it's a relief to finally get one. It's fun competing against family. We have a good relationship. We're always joking around and helping each other. It wouldn't hurt my feelings at all if I followed their example and won it again next year. That would be all right. I'm still holding together, still in one piece. I've got a few more years in me. We'll see.
Another emotional ride during the rodeo was taken by steer wrestling champion Clay Cowan of Highmore. He was riding the circuit's steer wrestling horse of the year, Cruiser, who belonged to his late friend and fellow steer wrestler competitor Levi Wisness, who died of cancer in 2008.
I used to rodeo with Levi, Cowan told the PRCA. It means a lot to ride Cruiser, especially with Wisness' parents, Milo and Julie, in the stands.
Cowan was also the rodeo's all-around champion with earnings of $4,929.
In addition to Cowan, the other average champions at the rodeo were (all towns not with a state are in South Dakota):
Bareback riding: Mac Erickson of Sundance, Wyo.
Team roping: Header Brady Williams of Hammond, Mont., and heeler Ryan Zurcher of Torrington, Wyo.
Tie-down roping: Justin Scofield of St. Lawrence.
Bull riding: Shawn Coleman of Springfield.
Barrel racing: Lisa Lockhart of Oelrichs.
Saddle bronc riding: Ty Manke of Rapid City.
In addition to Elshere, the Badlands Circuit year-end championships went to:
Bareback riding: Joe Gunderson of Agar.
Steer wrestling: Seth Murphy of South Heart, N.D.
Team roping: Header Preston Billadeau of Parshall, N.D., and heeler Jared Bilby of Bridgeport, Neb.
Tie-down roping: Scofield.