DILLON — It had been nearly six months since the Montana Western rodeo competed when the Bulldogs opened their spring season on April 8 in Bozeman at the Montana State Spring Rodeo.
Western rodeo coach Kody Lahaye wasn't entirely sure what to expect from his team after such a lengthy pause but knew that there were "a lot of points up for grabs."
The Bulldogs came away with plenty.
Faced with back-to-back two-day rodeos -- and an early-spring snowstorm -- the Western men took first place in the second rodeo while the women's team grabbed second.
"I was very proud of our kids," Lahaye said. "They stepped up."
One of the brightest stars on Western's team is fifth-year senior Brody Smith. A native of Oakley, Idaho -- a town of less than 1,000 about 20 miles southeast of Twin Falls -- Smith won the bareback buckle at both rodeos with winning scores of 74 and 140 points.
"I felt really good coming back from the fall and into the spring," Smith said at La Cense Ranch in Dillon where the Western rodeo team trains. "Was able to go down to Idaho the week before and break the ice a little bit. Going to Bozeman I felt pretty confident about my riding and went out and did what I had to."
Said Lahaye: "He's been a leader on the team, one of our main point guys, keeping our team strong. I think he's going to be able to help mold the next generation coming up behind him."
Smith followed that performance with another bareback win and all-around at the Miles Community College Rodeo last weekend to help the men's team take second.
Granted an extra year after COVID-19 wiped out the 2019-2020 season, Smith is eyeing another go at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming, where he took 15th place in bareback in 2019.
With his college career coming to a close, he plans on heading home where he hopes to "continue rodeoing and take it to the next level" by earning his PRCA card to get on the pro circuit.
Smith has been riding broncs for about as long as he can remember and he's directly following in the footsteps of his father, Cameron, who was a bareback rider in high school and college.
"It's awesome to follow the same path as my dad and maybe even do a little better than him," Smith said with a grin.
It certainly takes nerves of steel to climb aboard a bucking animal that weighs as much as an entire offensive line. For Smith, there's still the occasional flutter of fear, but it's a matter of having a good attitude, and envisioning a positive outcome on every ride.
"It definitely can get a little scary sometimes," Smith said. "But it goes back to your mentality. If you go into it thinking, 'I'm going to go in and not get hurt,' or if have the mentality that, 'I might get hurt or something might happen,' then chances are it could happen. So just have a good, clean mind and be tough."