Dru Melvin humble about second trip to Wrangler National Finals

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Growing up on a ranch outside of Tryon, Nebraska, riding horses and working cattle was not an unusual activity for Dru Melvin. But mom and dad don’t often write checks to their kids in the 5 figures for a day’s work.

The PRCA steer wrestler hopes that in the next few days he’ll be cashing some big day wages for riding his horse and working some steers.

He’ll technically have to get off his horse and manhandle the steers but it will be worth the time since he’ll be competing for almost $800,000 in his event.

Melvin and the other Wrangler National Finals Rodeo competitors will vie for a chance at over $61,000 each night in their own events. The man or woman that takes first place in each event each night will cash a $19,002.40 check.

While he isn’t a newcomer to the bright lights of Las Vegas, he isn’t an old hand at the WNFR either. Melvin competed in the finals rodeo just once before, in 2006.

“It should be a little more laid back this time, having my family with me. It will be fun and I think I’ll enjoy it more.”

Melvin said he was fresh out of college the other time he qualified for the national finals and was confident.

“I didn’t think there would be another poor day but it took me eight years to get back. It’s humbling. You can be on top of the world one day and at the bottom the next,” he said. “That’s what I love about this sport.”

Melvin bought a new horse this year, and he confirms that Sambo played a big role in his success this past year.

“He gives me a chance to win every time. He’s a good, solid honest horse,” he said. The double bred Doc Bar horse, purchased from one of his traveling buddies, Bray Armes, Gruver, Texas, is particularly good on longer scores like those in Cheyenne, Salinas and Pendleton. “He looks like a Doc Bar horse, he’s big, stout. More cow bred than running bred,” Melvin said.

While Melvin’s other traveling partners, Casey Martin, Sulphur, Louisiana and Sean Mulligan, Coleman Oklahoma, rode Sambo in Pendleton and a couple of other rodeos, Melvin is usually the only guy to ride him.

“He’s good in the box. He just you a chance, doesn’t matter if it is a short start or a long score, you can blow the barrier out every time.

Mulligan, “the best hazer in the business,” according to Melvin, regularly hazes for the other steer wrestlers in the pickup. The four men usually haul two hazing horses and three bulldogging horses down the road.

The steer wrestling event is wide open this year, Melvin said, and he is pleased with his seventh place slot. “I’m right in the middle of the pack, its perfect.”

The steers to be thrown at the WNFR are ones Melvin and the other bulldoggers have competed on before. The cowboys even had the chance to help weed some out in preparation for the big event.

“The Thomas and Mack Center is such a fast start you want steers that leave, you don’t want steers that let off. It makes it hard to get a good start. We went through and picked out a bunch that will be a nice set

The opportunity to earn those big ol’ checks wasn’t without some sacrifice on the part of Melvin and his wife Brittany and their 15 month-old-son Jaxson.

“We try to go no more than four weeks without seeing each other,” said the traveling cowboy, explaining that Brittany is very committed to her job. They were both thankful she was able to take the time off necessary to join him for the WNFR.

While Melvin’s family sold their ranch a few years back after they lost his dad, he works with his father in law Greg Wiedel on his farm and ranch near Hebron.

“I’m usually home part of calving season. I try to stay home most of April and then help get fence ready so we can put cattle out around the 15th of May,” he said. “Then I try to be home in the fall to help with most of the weaning.”

The second week in June Melvin shows up again. He and his three siblings last year hosted the eighth annual bulldogging jackpot in honor of two great men who lost their lives to cancer within a year of each other. Melvin said the jackpot is a fun family event he looks forward to. It was organized to honor Wayne Melvin and his best friend Swede Swanson. Proceeds from the jackpot help sponsor one or two young bulldoggers at local schools put on by big names in the business.

Scholarships to a clinics hosted by Dean Gorsuch and another by Todd Suhn and Paul Cleveland were given out this year.

Melvin misses some rodeos because of his ranch commitments but it works out fine for him.

“I go to mostly circuit (local) rodeos the first part of June,” he said.