RED LODGE – As rodeo continues to steal the show this Fourth of July week, three big ones are under way across southern Montana and northern Wyoming.
Red Lodge, Livingston and Cody are hosting annual Cowboy Christmas events, as contestants crisscross the country chasing fat paychecks.
Elko, Nevada, steer wrestler Dakota Eldridge was in Red Lodge on Monday for opening night of the Home of Champions Rodeo. His 4.4 seconds of work didn’t turn out as planned after judges hit him with a 10-second penalty for breaking the barrier. No money in Red Lodge, but all isn’t lost.
Eldridge stormed into this Wild West week ranked No. 12 in steer wrestling’s world standings. The top 15 qualify for December’s Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
As of Tuesday, Eldridge was in the money at the Cody Stampede – known as rodeo’s richest one-head stop – with a time of 4.1 seconds. He’s hoping that holds while he and his travel partners hit a barrage of events in a matter of hours.
It may be rodeo’s richest week of the regular season, but the NFR veteran admits it’ll also stop his heart for a variety of reasons.
“It’s exciting, stressful and tiring all at once,” Eldridge told MTN Sports with a wry smile before Monday’s go-round in Red Lodge.
But he admits that’s part of the deal.
“You’ve got to think about how blessed we are to be doing it,” he said. “We could be doing a lot worse things, like having a full-time job sitting behind a desk. To be out here on the road seeing different parts of the country, you know, Montana’s the most beautiful state I’ve ever been in, so it’s awesome to come up here and have so many great rodeos over the Fourth of July.”
Eldridge said he’s looking forward to a good meal after this high-volume week — and to hopefully “counting a lot money.”